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As a longtime San Diego County supervisor, Republican Ron Roberts is used to being generous with other people’s money. Now he’s perfected his giving style by making so-called cash and in-kind behests, paid for by special interests, to local charities.

In the words of the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, “behested payments are contributions to charity by individuals and corporations” on behalf of elected officials. “These payments are not considered campaign contributions or gifts, but are payments made at the ‘behest’ of elected officials to be used for legislative, governmental or charitable purposes.” The law places no limits on the amount of the behests, but if they total more than $5000 in a single calendar year, they must be reported.

Thanks to Roberts, this year’s Golden Achievement Awards Program of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego was the beneficiary of $7500 each from the Sycuan Casino and Resort and Solar Turbines, according to a July 11 filing.

Another Roberts behest, one valued at $24,000, was made by HomeAid San Diego, a nonprofit organization that bills itself as being “dedicated to building multi-unit housing for San Diego’s temporarily homeless men, women and children.” HomeAid, which, according to its website, “is supported by an alliance of local building and real estate industry organizations,” partnered up three years ago with developer Pardee Homes to build what they called the Padres Playhouse at Petco Park. Inside the small, promotional playhouse on exhibit at the ballpark was “a flat screen television, baseball-themed and ‘gym locker’ furniture, a radio/CD player and a small study/seating nook with baseball accessories.”

A 2008 news release said the playhouse would be auctioned for charity at the end of the season, but earlier this year, HomeAid donated the structure to the San Diego Center for Children in honor of Roberts, complete with a televised June media event at which the county supervisor was present to be hailed for his generosity. “We are humbled that Supervisor Ron Roberts has selected the San Diego Center for Children as the home for this wonderful Padres Playhouse,” Dave McCaslin, the center’s chief executive officer, was quoted as saying. “It’s often a dream of a child to have a playhouse, and Supervisor Roberts’ gift will surely make our children feel special.” Besides McCaslin, among others paying tribute to Roberts was Rana Sampson, an ex-cop who now is the children center’s vice president for development and marketing and wife of San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders.

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