May 30, 2024
Funds

Solano Land Trust return funds to California Forever – The Vacaville Reporter


Sheep graze in a plot of land east of CA 113 in Rio Vista owned by the government that California Forever hopes to exchange for a section of Jepson Prairie. (Chris Riley/The Reporter)

The executive director of the Solano County Land Trust described the organization as “deeply upset” to be listed as a grantee in California Forever’s community grant program.

In a statement released Saturday morning, Executive Director Nicole Braddock said California Forever CEO Jan Sramek and his wife made an anonymous donation to the organization at their Sunday Supper event on Oct. 8 in support of the land trust’s Child on the Land Program.

However, the Solano Land Trust made clear that the donation was a private donation from Sramek and his wife, and was not characterized as a grant in any way.

“That characterization is self-serving and grossly misleading,” the statement reads. “Solano Land Trust did not solicit this funding, apply for a grant, or agree to any grant provisions that would imply that the anonymous donation from Mr. and Mrs. Sramek was a grant from California Forever or the Flannery Group.”

Braddock indicated that the funds donated by Sramek and his wife have been returned to them, and that they have demanded their name be removed from the California Forever site. As of 9:55 a.m.  Saturday, Solano Land Trust was still noted as a grantee on California Forever’s website.

“When donations are made anonymously, we honor the request that the donor remain anonymous,” Braddock’s statement reads. “However, we do not, under any circumstances, accept donations from an individual or entity, anonymous or not, that requires our endorsement, support, favors, influence, or any quid pro quo for the donation. That wasn’t part of our acceptance of this donation or any other.”

California Forever announced at its final town hall of 2023 in Dixon last week that it would be holding a $500,000 initial grant program for local nonprofits. The company pledged to spend that money between now and June, and it has created an application process for nonprofits to request funding between now and then.

Opportunity House, Travis Community Champions for Wings Over Solano, SafeQuest Solano, VEST Solano and Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association were also noted on the website as initial grantees. The website indicates that about $100,000 total has already been spent by California Forever with these nonprofits. The site does not note personal donations by Sramek.

California Forever’s site  notes a major funding gap between Solano County and other Bay Area counties in non-profit spending.

“We believe that our project will help over time narrow that funding gap – by attracting major employers to Solano County, and through creation of community benefit programs,” the site reads. “However, while we can make a much bigger difference once our project attracts major employers and starts generating revenue, we know that there are many important causes in Solano County that urgently need funding now,”

But the statement from Solano Land Trust makes clear that at this time the organization does not wish not be listed as a grantee. Braddock told The Reporter that the term grant implies that there was an agreement with California Forever before money was donated. The total donated and subsequently returned was $20,000, given as part of an auction item at a dinner, she said.

“Our mission is to inspire a love of the land and preserve it for people, food, and the natural environment,” Braddock’s statement read. “We are strong supporters of Solano County’s current General Plan and city-centered growth model, which we believe has helped us keep agriculture viable in our county and protect important natural resources. When California Forever’s project details are released in January, we will learn if the project will be consistent with our county’s guiding principles.”

California Forever could not respond to comment before press time.



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