The following comes from a series run on Dec. 16, 17 and 18 on KCRA-TV in Sacramento.
City Council member Angelique Ashby is among the most fiscally conservative of her colleagues, when it comes to spending her discretionary funds.
Compared to other City Council members, last year Ashby spent the least — about $35,000 on community service programs and local events.
But that included giving tax dollars to Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.
When we asked Ashby about that expenditure, it led to the end of our interview.
“I donated to a scholarship. The money that I gave only could go to a scholarship fund for young single moms already selected to go to college,” Ashby said. “At one point in my life, sir, that was me. So I hope that in doing so, that some of those young women grow up, love their city enough to come back, run for City Council and be the next Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Sacramento.”
Ashby wasn’t the only one.
Since 2012, every City Council member gave some of their discretionary funds to Planned Parenthood, a total of $11,000.
Sacramento resident and mother of four, Christina Marotti, said she doesn’t want her tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood programs — period.
“I don’t think they as elected officials should have the ability just to spend where they please,” Marotti said. “It almost seems like it’s kind of hidden. If it’s not voted on, it’s not announced. (KCRA 3) found it, but I never knew about it before.”
Most of the city funds went to a scholarship and a program that provided support groups for teenage mothers.
Planned Parenthood says the teen success program costs $50,000 a year to help 12 single mothers.
Liz Figueroa, vice president of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said they get a great deal of funding from tax dollars and education reduces a lot of taxpayers costs.
But Mariotti takes issue with the fact the contributions were never voted on in a public forum.
“I think if people were aware of it, you would have an overwhelming amount of people showing up at a City Council meeting complaining. I think you would have calls to their offices. I think you would have long lines if there was an open forum for people to discuss. I think it would be a big issue,” Mariotti said.
Council member Steve Cohn defended his use of City Council discretionary funds for the programs.
Cohn said in an email, “I believe that is a undeniably worthy community purpose. These funds do not go to abortions or other controversial programming.”
Planned Parenthood officials said it is their policy to keep funding for educational programs separate from other services.
Sacramento State professor Charles Gossett said City Council members aren’t going to be able to make everyone happy when deciding how to spend tax dollars.
“That’s always a problem in a democracy. Sometimes the city will purchase things from a vendor that some people don’t think you should be buying from that vendor but it may have been the best vendor,” Gossett said.
Gossett said there are ways to alleviate concerns about giving tax dollars to organizations that some might find controversial by establishing clear policies or even citizen commissions to make those decisions.
Two groups, Eye on Sacramento and the League of Women Voters, are trying to get the city to enact several reform measures, including an ethics code and citizen commission as well as new sunshine laws to improve transparency in city government.
To read the original story and view a video of the reporting, click here.