Thursday, July 9, 2020

[Lake County] Grand Jury concerned over potential of simultaneous emergencies

LAKE COUNTY— Placing a lot of the blame on Pacific Gas and Electric for responses surrounding last October’s prolonged power shut-offs, the Grand Jury in its 2019-2020 final report found that communication from the embattled utility was “spotty” and “made appropriate responses from Lake County difficult,” among other findings.

The Grand Jury recommended the county establish a public information officer within the Office of Emergency Services, and concluded that “even more detailed planning from the cities and the county is needed to coordinate responses to simultaneous emergency situations.”

Entitled “Five Days in October,” the segment of the report addressed the first power shut-off in 2019, a multi-county event that lasted from October 9 through October 12, turning off electricity to the county’s 65,000 residents and the subsequent shut down on October 23 which began at the same time as the Kincaid Fire in Sonoma County. As the report noted, this event overlapped the entire five-day power shutoff, with simultaneous crises and resources diverted to the fire which took priority over the blackout response.

“While much has been made of PG&E’s fumbling and failures, county civil grand juries do not investigate private companies. We have focused instead on the ways in which Lake County leaders, departments, and residents persevered, interacted, adapted, and communicated during this man-made emergency, and to succeed at maintaining all essential services,” the Grand Jury wrote.

After a detailed summary of the events from last fall, the Grand Jury enumerated the effects the blackouts had on rural areas like Lake County including farmers’ inability to irrigate crops and orchards, or to provide water to livestock as a result of the power being turned off, and effects to the county’s Public Health and other departments including its Social Services department.

“The loss of pump power can cause serious sewage and septic issues. Many of our residents found themselves unable to bathe or flush the toilet,” the Grand Jury wrote in reference to the effects suffered by rural parts of the state including Lake County.

Significant effects to county schools were also detailed in the report which noted that repeated emergencies have forced many temporary school closures over the past five years.  Since the 2015 Rocky Fire, Lake County students have lost a cumulative 174 school days, and that is before the massive disruption of COVID-19. “Our children have lost instruction, food, and attention to their socio-emotional needs that schools provide. Teachers and staff have lost time for planning, professional development, and Individual Education Plans,” the Grand Jury observed.

A central theme in the discussion is the new complication which emerged as a result of the current health crisis. The report noted that the Shelter In Place (SIP) order has made a potential PG&E blackout event a real crisis, especially if coupled with an evacuation from a wildfire incident. The Grand Jury found that “neighborhoods and the general public were not adequately prepared for PSPS events,” and that with the emergence of the COVID19 pandemic, “the threat of a triple emergency- wildfire evacuation, shelter in place and PSPS- could unfold making effective official responses extremely difficult.”

Among its recommendations, the Grandy Jury stated “lost school time could be partially remediated by putting inclement weather days back into district calendars to add emergency flexibility. Districts and unions should negotiate mutually acceptable terms for schools to adapt to PSPS impacts.” Additionally, they noted that “A PIO could assist neighborhoods, Home Owner’s Associations (HOAs), service organizations, and the general public to prepare for blackouts and other emergency events through regular meetings and workshops.”

Pursuant to Penal Code sections 933 and 933.05, the Board of Supervisors are legally required to respond within 90 days from the Grand Jury issuing their report. Other agencies such as the city of Lakeport and City of Clearlake have a similar time frame, whereas other agencies including the Lake County Sheriff’s Office have 60 days to respond.

Lake County Record-Bee
By ARIEL CARMONA
July 8, 2020


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Humboldt County’s 'Cannabis Planning Program' Lacks Fiscal Transparency, [Humboldt County] Grand Jury Reports


Four years after recreational cannabis was legalized in California, the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury has a released report entitled "A Growing Concern." The report focuses on the Planning and Building Department's record keeping and cash handling procedures for the cannabis industry.

"There is a notable lack of in-depth reporting of revenues and expenditures that would accurately show the citizens of Humboldt County the effectiveness and the operational and fiscal efficiency of the Cannabis Planning program," the report states.

Part of the problem, according to the report, is that cannabis remains a Schedule 1 substance under federal law, meaning banks will not allow cannabis cultivators to open accounts or establish lines of credit. As a result, permit fees and abatement fines collected by the county are often paid in cash.

"The Planning and Building Department assumes the risk inherent in the storage and handling of large sums of cash," the report states, requiring "a highly transparent, very accurate system of accounting."

The report concludes with the recommendation that the Planning and Building Department take the following actions: Update the website to reflect changes in regulations and offer relevant information regarding permit applications; undergo an audit by the Auditor/Controller of all incoming receipts, and make the results public; hire a qualified accountant to organize and maintain financial records; and direct customers who pay in cash through the Treasurer-Tax Collector's office.

North Coast Journal
BY ASHLEY HARRELL,
JULY 6, 2020


Santa Barbara County Grand Jury blasts supervisors over marijuana laws

In a scathing report on Santa Barbara County’s cannabis regulations, the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury lambasts county officials for behaving unethically, and creating rules that cost the county financially and compromise quality of life.

“Santa Barbara County has been in turmoil since the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2016,” according to the 26-page report released last week. “There has been public protest over cannabis odor, controversy between the cannabis industry and traditional agriculture, the appearance of financial irregularities and accusations of undue influence.”

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors created an ad hoc committee comprised of supervisors Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino in 2017, to review the industry and create regulations for marijuana cultivation. Meetings of the committee were not subject to the Brown Act or opened to the public, two of the jury’s concerns.

“A more sobering realization for the jury was that the governance in this matter took the form of some supervisors aggressively pushing through their own agendas while other supervisors meekly followed or resigned themselves to the inevitable,” according to the report.

The Grand Jury also blasted the board over cozy relationships between two county supervisors and marijuana industry lobbyists. These relationships appear to have favored marijuana cultivators over residents.

“While the jury understands that sending emails to advocate positions favorable to the interests of their client is part of the job of a lobbyist, it was unnerving to the jury to see both the tone and timing of these emails,” according to the report.

One of the most egregious allegations is over a supervisor asking a lobbyist for advice on an issue as he sat on the dais. During a March 20, 2018 Board of Supervisors meeting, a board member sent an email to a cannabis lobbyist asking if they agreed with county planning department staff’s recommendation. The Grand Jury report does not name the supervisor.

The jury also noted concerns over county employees leaving their government jobs to work as cannabis consultants and lobbyists.

“This effort was amplified by some of the cannabis industry lobbyists having recently left the employment of Santa Barbara County,” according to the report. “It was described to the Jury that some of these cannabis industry lobbyists could be regularly seen roaming the halls of the board’s offices.”

As part of the early approval process, marijuana cultivators were required to provide an affidavit stating they had been growing on or before Jan. 19, 2016. But the county required no proof, and offered no oversight.

“The major and obvious flaw of this affidavit system was the lack of any required verification as to the veracity of whether the applicant had indeed been growing cannabis as of Jan. 19, 2016,” according to the report. “This concern was noted by the planning commission that recommended a process that included a public hearing wherein the applicant could prove their affidavit was truthful.”

The grand jury was also concerned with the large amount of cannabis cultivated in the county. While the yearly statewide consumption of marijuana is estimated to be between 1.6 and 2.5 million pounds, last year California cannabis cultivators produced approximately 13.5 million pounds. It is illegal to sell marijuana grown in California out of state.

“Santa Barbara is just one of 58 counties in California, but with almost 500 registrants seeking as many as 1,365 separate cultivation permits, the county’s growers could potentially produce over 3.7 million pounds of cannabis per year, which is more than double the legal amount of cannabis consumed by the entire state,” according to the report.

When cultivators smuggle portions of their crops to states where it remains illegal, tax revenue is rarely collected.

Both Williams and Lavagnino’s focus appeared to be on a robust cannabis industry and the tax revenue it could bring the county.

“I’m trying to generate what could be $20 [million] to $40 million a year for the county,” Lavagnino said at a board meeting in Feb. 2019.

But Williams and Lavagnino pushed through a tax system that appears to help growers avoid paying taxes on crops sold on the black market. Most California counties collect cannabis tax based on the square footage of cultivation, while Santa Barbara County collects taxes based on gross receipts.

Initially, Santa Barbara County predicted cannabis tax revenues as high as $25 million. However, in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, with 217 acres of permitted marijuana cultivation, Santa Barbara County collected only $6.8 million.

In comparison, with only 62 acres of permitted cannabis cultivation, Monterey County received cannabis tax revenues of $15.4 million for the 2018/2019 fiscal year.

“The answer the jury received was that the gross receipts method had the potential to be much more lucrative than the square footage method,” according to the report. “To date, the belief that using the gross receipts method would result in more taxes has not proven to be true.”

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has 90 days to respond to the Grand Jury report with either an agreement to implement the recommendations, reasons why the county will not implement the recommendations, or with a request for more time to analyze the report.

The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations:

Finding 1: The impact of cannabis production on the health and welfare of Santa Barbara County residents was inadequately weighed and considered by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

Recommendations: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors direct the county Planning and Development Department director to prepare environmental impact reports addressing each region of county after holding public hearings to evaluate public concerns.

That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors direct the county Planning and Development Department director to develop project objectives for the environmental impact reports that reflect a balance between cannabis, traditional agriculture, and county residents.

Finding 2: The creation of a non-Brown Act Ad Hoc Sub Committee that was not open to the public led to a lack of transparency and distrust by county residents.

Recommendation: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors require all future Ad Hoc Sub Committees be open to the public and subject to the Brown Act.

Finding 3: The Board of Supervisors granted nearly unfettered access to cannabis growers and industry lobbyists that was undisclosed to the public during the creation of the cannabis ordinances.

Recommendation: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors develop standards that require board members to publicly disclose all access granted to lobbying individuals or groups, especially while a matter involving these individuals or groups is before the Board of Supervisors.

Finding 4: The conflict between cannabis production and traditional agriculture is a major concern for the continued existence of certain segments of traditional agriculture in Santa Barbara County.

Recommendations: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors amend the Land Use and Development Code and Article II, the Coastal Zoning Ordinance to require all pending cannabis land use permit applications be subject to a conditional use permit review.

That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors amend the County’s Uniform Rules for Agricultural Preserves and Farmland Security Zones to declare that cannabis cultivation and related facilities are compatible uses on contracted land instead of as an agricultural use.

Finding 5: The amount of cannabis production allowed under the current cannabis ordinances is excessive and has led to over-concentration in some portions of Santa Barbara County.

Recommendations: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors require all applicants with cannabis use and development permit applications and licenses pending, who claim legal non conforming status, to prove their claimed status before the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission.

That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors direct the county Planning and Development Department director, in conjunction with the sheriff’s office, to eradicate all cannabis grown on acreage claimed under legal non-conforming status when the cannabis operator fails to demonstrate to the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission that the planting of cannabis occurred prior to Jan. 19, 2016.

That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors direct the county Planning and Development Department director to deny permits for the growth of cannabis on acreage claimed under legal non-conforming status when the cannabis operator fails to demonstrate to the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission that the planting of cannabis occurred prior to Jan. 19, 2016.

Finding 6: The approval by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors of an unverified affidavit system does not require proof of prior cannabis operations to establish eligibility to continue to grow cannabis as a legal non-conforming use.

Recommendation: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors require all applicants with cannabis use and development permit applications and licenses pending, who claim legal non conforming status, to prove their claimed status before the county Planning Commission.

Finding 7: The affidavit system does not require proof of prior scope of the cannabis acreage.

Recommendations: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors direct the county Planning and Development Department director, in conjunction with the sheriff’s office, to eradicate all cannabis grown on acreage claimed under legal non-conforming status when the cannabis operator fails to demonstrate to the county Planning Commission that the planting of cannabis occurred prior to Jan. 19, 2016.

That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors direct the county Planning and Development Department director to deny permits for the growth of cannabis on acreage claimed under legal non-conforming status when the cannabis operator fails to demonstrate to the county Planning Commission that the planting of cannabis occurred prior to Jan. 19, 2016.

Finding 8: The option taken by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to tax cannabis cultivation using a gross receipts method was less reliable than the square footage method used by the vast majority of California counties.

Recommendation: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors amend Ordinance 5026 to tax cannabis cultivation using the square footage method.

Finding 9: The Santa Barbara County Treasurer-Tax Collector was not included in the creation of the tax portions of the cannabis ordinance.

Recommendation: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors require that all future ordinances that involve taxation require the county Treasurer-Tax Collector be involved in the creation of the ordinance.

Finding 10: Members of the Santa Barbara County Chief Executive Officer’s office and county staff, unduly and without apparent board knowledge, successfully sought changes to the April 26, 2019 Cannabis Advisory from the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, an independent agency, eliminating a one mile buffer recommendation.

Finding 11: There has not been effective odor control at the boundary of cannabis cultivation and related activities, resulting in significant public outcry about odor, quality of life and health concerns.

Recommendation: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors suspend all county unpermitted cannabis operations until proof of odor control at the boundary of their operation is accepted by the county Planning Commission.

Finding 12: The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors does not have a written code of ethics to formalize its ethical standards and guide its decision-making processes.

Recommendations: That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors establish, staff and empower an independent ethics commission with oversight over the board and its staff members.

That the independent ethics commission develop a code of ethics, review board activities on a periodic and as-needed basis for compliance, and share its findings with the public.

That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors require all its members to publicly disclose receipt of campaign contributions from donors who have matters pending a decision by the board.

That the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors require those members receiving campaign contributions from donors with matters pending a decision, to recuse themselves from those matters or return the campaign contributions.

Calcoastnews.com
By KAREN VELIE
July 6, 2020


Monday, July 6, 2020

[San Luis Obispo County] Grand jury finds county public safety uninhibited by activities at Oceano Dunes

In a recently released analysis of safety conditions at the Oceano Dunes, a SLO County grand jury found that emergency response times to SLO County residents aren’t negatively impacted by emergencies at the state park. Costs, however, are a slightly different story.

In a report released on June 16, a SLO County grand jury found that emergency response times to SLO County residents aren’t negatively impacted by emergencies at the state park.

The 20-page report, which was submitted by the grand jury on June 16, examines the various state and county agencies that provide public safety services at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) and time and money they typically spend there. It’s an attempt, according to the report, to quantify what’s required to maintain safety in the dunes.

“If the SVRA was closed to off-road vehicles there is no indication that there would be a significant reduction in services provided by Cal Fire, sheriff’s department, or San Luis Ambulance,” the report concludes. “Changes could include reduction of some personnel or overtime, and some specialty equipment may be reassigned. There is no evidence that an SVRA closure would impact response time to South County residents.”

The Oceano Dunes SVRA was a major focal point for SLO County residents in 2019, and was the center of debates over conservation, public health, and land use. Last year also saw an increase in the number of serious incidents occurring at the dunes, including six off-roading fatalities and a shooting during a concert in May 2019, which led to some calls for increased safety awareness and the total elimination of vehicle riding areas.

But in its report, the grand jury chalked 2019 up to an outlier in terms of serious incidents, and blames mostly speed and inexperience among some drivers in the dunes for 2019’s death rates.

About 70 California State Park rangers oversee public safety at the Oceano Dunes, and during a normal year, they respond to about 5,800 calls for service in the park, most of which involve minor violations like speeding and off-leash dogs. While park rangers made only about 47 arrests at the SVRA in 2016, that shot up to 89 arrests in 2017, followed by 82 in 2018. Despite the few major incidents at the Oceano Dunes in 2019, its arrest rate held close to years prior at 84 arrests.

“Compared to the number of visitors at the dunes, the arrest rate is very low,” the grand jury report reads, “but does appear to be trending upward.”

However, the report shows that the county is spending significant time and money at the dunes, and not always on SLO County residents.

The SLO County Sheriff’s Office dedicated an estimated 26 hours of staff time and $2,215 responding to issues at the dunes in 2019. That doesn’t include the attempted murder investigation, which took an extra 237 hours and $19,559.

Cal Fire spent about $358,000 on 260 calls for service to the dunes in 2019, which made up about 21 percent of its total calls and operating budget. San Luis Ambulance responded to 265 calls to the dunes in 2019 and transported 145 patients to the hospital, 92.8 percent of whom were not SLO County residents.

SLO County incurred even more costs while prosecuting arrests made at the dunes and booking the suspects into county jail.

Although the report noted that visitors to the Oceano Dunes are expected to pump about $243 million into SLO County’s economy through direct, indirect, and induced spending, the grand jury recommended that the county explore “cost recovery for county services.”

“The nature of off-road activities on the Oceano Dunes/SVRA require a unique level of county support,” the report reads.

It also recommends increased promotion of safety strategies while using vehicles in the dunes. ∆

New Times
Kasey Bubnash
July 1, 2020

Sunday, July 5, 2020

[Santa Barbara County] Grand Jury: Supervisors “failed Santa Barbara County” over cannabis decisions

A recently released Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report condemned the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors regarding the implementation of the cannabis industry in the county.

According to the report, the Grand Jury accuses the board of ignoring public outcry regarding the odor, allowing an excessive amount of licenses and production, as well as ignoring environmental impacts. In addition, the group alleges county officials showed poor ethics and created an unverified affidavit system, among other issues.

“Instead of a balanced approach carefully evaluating how the cannabis industry would be compatible, both as to amount of acreage and location, the board simply opened the floodgates. These ordinances must be amended,” the report said.

The report added that due to these actions, life in Santa Barbara County has been altered even “perhaps forever.”

The major objection the report found with the county’s handling of this situation was from the ad hoc committee, created in 2017, which was meant to review and create regulations for adult use and cannabis cultivation in the county.

According to the report, the meetings were not open to the public and therefore in violation of the Brown Act.

“The creation of a non-Brown Act Ad Hoc Sub Committee that was not open to the public led to a lack of transparency and distrust by Santa Barbara County residents,” the report found.

Additionally, the committee’s number one objective was to “develop a robust and economically viable legal cannabis industry to ensure production and availability of high quality cannabis products to help meet local demands, and, as a public benefit, improve the County’s tax base,” the report found, leading to excessive grants of business licenses despite outcry from the public.

The Grand Jury also stated in the report that the number one complaint they received from citizens was the “skunky smell” that is produced by cannabis operations.

The Grand Jury received two letters from the Carpinteria School Board reporting “ill effects, such as headaches from the nauseating odor” at Carpinteria High in late afternoons due to the cannabis stench.

Additional complaints came from the Santa Ynez Valley including Buellton, the Santa Rita Hills AVA wine tasting rooms, Cebada Canyon and Los Alamos residents.

The Grand Jury alleges that the committee’s goal to develop a robust cannabis industry overrode the many concerns regarding the smell.

The report also cited that by allowing cannabis operations to be so close to traditional agriculture has led to “disastrous results.”

One example given was the Santa Rita Hills AVA wineries and vineyards. The strong odor released from the cannabis locations makes it so that the two types of operations could never coexist.

For one, tasting rooms rely on pleasant smells to not upset customers. Additionally, when strong odors are introduced to customers it ruins their perceptions as to what they are tasting.

“The heavy skunky odor, of even just a few cannabis plants, can elicit a strong response from people nearby,” the report read.

The affidavit system was also heavily critiqued, saying that “The Board’s disregard for potential abuse is incomprehensible.”

Finally, another major critique the Grand Jury called into question was the board’s ethics.

During ad hoc meetings, notes and minutes were not prepared in order to avoid any Public Records Act requests for those documents.

“The lack of a paper trail does not fit with the concept of open government which seeks input from all interests. This unchecked process led to an imbalanced perspective,” the report read.

The report also noted a number of emails found between cannabis lobbyists or growers and board members were “unnerving.”

“The tone of these emails appeared at times as if to direct specific actions to the board members and gave the perception of an attempt to command instead of recommend,” the report said.

Ultimately, the jury believes the board, “failed the people of Santa Barbara County.”

“Now they must amend the cannabis ordinances to regain the people’s trust.”

The jury recommended a number of things to the board. A few of them are:

Directing the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department Director to prepare Environmental Impact Reports addressing each region of Santa Barbara County after holding public hearings to evaluate public concerns.

Directing the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department Director to develop Project Objectives for the Environmental Impact Reports that reflect a balance between cannabis, traditional agriculture, and the residents of Santa Barbara County.

Requiring all future ad hoc committees be open to the public and subject to the Brown Act.

Developing standards that require Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors members to publicly disclose all access granted to lobbying individuals or groups, especially while a matter involving these individuals or groups is before the Board of Supervisors.

Amending the Land Use and Development Code and Article II, the Coastal Zoning Ordinance to require all pending cannabis land use permit applications be subject to a Conditional Use Permit review.

Requiring all applicants with cannabis use and development permit applications and licenses pending, who claim legal non-conforming status, to prove their claimed status before the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission.

The board has 90 days to respond to the report. A full copy can be found at: http://www.sbcgj.org/2020/Cannabis.pdf.

Santa Barbara News-Press
Jorge Merecado jmercado@newspress.com
July 4, 2020


[Santa Barbara] Grand Jury Investigates 4 Santa Barbara County Jail Deaths, Finds Sheriff’s Policies Not Followed

The Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury investigated four recent deaths of Main Jail inmates and found that Sheriff’s Department custody personnel did not follow procedures in three of the cases.

Those cases included two suicides and a man with potentially life-threatening medical issues who, according to department policy, should never have been booked. 

“The Sheriff’s Department needs to upgrade training and review policies with staff and Wellpath to avoid serious errors,” the jurors concluded, referencing the company contracted for in-jail medical and mental-health services. “The sheriff needs to insist on more adequate psychiatric responses from Wellpath.”

The Sheriff’s Department is required to officially respond to the report’s findings and recommendations within 90 days. Spokeswoman Raquel Zick said the department will respond as required and has no comment.

Joseph Frederick Rose, 47, was booked April 10, 2018, and was in custody at the Main Jail for 14 months while his second-degree burglary case was continued 25 times, according to the Grand Jury report.

Rose, identified as C1 in the report, had a “decades-long history of prior arrests, detention, and mental-health issues with suicidal ideations.”

A jail mental health psychiatrist from Wellpath diagnosed him with schizophrenia and prescribed medications in August 2018, and there was no follow-up when Rose stopped taking the medications, according to the report.

He was assaulted and injured in jail in January 2019, and on June 25, 2019, he was taken to a temporary cell after arguments with other inmates, the report said.

Rose reportedly requested his own cell, and told a mental health clinician that he would kill himself if he did not get a cell alone.

The mental health professional determined that Rose was not a danger to himself, according to the report, about 45 minutes before his suicide. That person did not tell a supervisor or custody staff about the suicidal statement.

Soon after, Rose was seen on video taking off his T-shirt and “experimenting by tying it at varying heights on the bars of his cell.”

A custody deputy walked by the cell while the shirt was tied to the bars, and Rose was standing in the cell, but apparently did not notice.

Rose hanged himself and was discovered by a custody deputy 12 minutes later, according to the report.

No pulse or vital signs were detected, and jail staff performed CPR. An automated external defibrillator (AED) “indicated no shock was needed, as a pulse was detected.”

An American Medical Response ambulance transported Rose to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where he was removed from life support five days later.

“C1’s threats of suicide were inadequately addressed despite the fact he had previously been seriously assaulted at the jail. All threats of suicide must be taken seriously,” the report said.

Inmates threatening suicide should be housed in a safety cell and monitored more frequently, jail staff need to be alert to items hanging from bars and take action, and psychiatric services need to be provided to mentally ill inmates, the Grand Jury concluded.

Rose’s mental illness was not re-evaluated for 10 months before his suicide.

In the death of Isaiah Joey Johnson, the Grand Jury “concluded that many of the pertinent health rules, regulations and policies were not followed by the Sheriff’s Department and its medical provider, Wellpath.”

Lompoc police arrested Johnson, 23, on Oct. 19, 2019, on outstanding warrants and a probation violation, according to the Sheriff’s Department. 

When he was booked, he reported suffering from mood disorders, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and denied any drug or alcohol use, according to the Grand Jury report.

Noozhawk
By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor @magnoli
July 4, 2020


Saturday, July 4, 2020

Lake County Civil Grand Jury changes its tune


Jury aims for ‘cooperation and shared purpose’ with local government

LAKE COUNTY — The Lake County Civil Grand Jury’s 2019-2020 Final Report, released this week, begins with an explanation of the historically heated relationship between the jury and local government leaders.

“It is generally known that hard feelings have developed over the past several years regarding the work of the Civil Grand Jury,” the report’s opening section, entitled “Grand Jury Reboot: Resetting Relationships,” reads. “A palpable lack of trust and unfortunate misunderstandings have resulted in actions such as government officials publicly calling for non-cooperation with the Civil Grand Jury. As such, the goal of this project was to reduce – or even eliminate – any friction existing between entities, and return to a state of cooperation and shared purpose.”

In California, civil grand juries are constitutionally-required investigative bodies comprised of citizens who volunteer their time to “inquire into county matters of civil concern” in local governments. One jury is called annually in each of the state’s 58 counties for this purpose. The juries’ final reports detail findings and recommendations to which local government leaders must respond within set timeframes.

In recent years, the Lake County grand jury’s reports have often sharply criticized government actions, including the county’s response to the Valley Fire of 2015 and its management of commercial properties like Holiday Harbor in Nice and the Lucerne Hotel.

In turn, county leaders denied a proposed $5,000 grand jury budget increase last year and have lashed out publicly against the civilian jury. District 5 Supervisor Rob Brown in 2018 said he saw “no value” in the jury’s most recent report, and warned he would refuse to meet with future grand juries “unless I have a subpoena in my hand.”

Other supervisors have made similar remarks. County department heads have consistently disagreed with many of the jury’s findings and recommendations. US Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) called the jury’s 2017-2018 report largely inaccurate.

The 2019-2020 report appears to mark an intentional departure from the tone of previous reports.

In a letter preceding the report, grand jury foreman Russ Schroy highlights how some of the areas of “concern” investigated by this year’s jury have already “received a great deal of governmental actions as well as significant contributions from many non-governmental organizations” that have “helped to make Lake County a better place.”

The 16 members of the grand jury this year changed how they approach the agencies they are investigating, placing a “high value” on trust-building, according to the report. Informal introductory meetings with officials and county employees, which the report calls “casual visits,” were conducted, wherein jurors handed out informational pamphlets on the functions of a grand jury and discussed their work in general.

“Positive feedback has been received from several departments expressing appreciation for the Civil Grand Jury’s efforts to improve and repair relationships,” the jury writes.

The 2019-2020 report can be read online at http://www.lakecountyca.gov/Government/Boards/Grand_Jury/FinalReports.htm.

Its investigative work was focused on six primary areas, divided into sections within the report. These include the Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s “public safety power shutoffs” of 2019, Lake County Behavioral Health Services, the introduction last year of industrial hemp into Lake County, homelessness, tax-defaulted land sales, and post-conviction criminal justice.

Lake County Record-Bee
By Aidan Freeman
July 4, 2020


Santa Barbara grand jury blasts county supervisors over marijuana industry

The Santa Barbara County grand jury criticized county supervisors this week for allowing “unfettered access” to marijuana lobbyists as the board voted to let cannabis cultivation explode in the Santa Ynez Valley region and Carpinteria with little regulation and a flimsy tax regime that has deprived the county of millions of dollars.

The 26-page report released Tuesday cited emails showing the close relationship that developed between the industry and two supervisors, along with a lead member of the county executive staff. At times, the grand jury wrote, it seemed lobbyists were not only recommending how the supervisors should vote, but trying to “command” them.

Normally, land-use policy starts with large public meetings and county planning staff, who then make recommendations to the board. But in this case, the grand jury wrote, policy recommendations were hashed out by an ad hoc committee of two supervisors — Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino — which was not subject to open meeting laws. The committee then directed staff on how it wanted the industry to be regulated.

The supervisors met frequently with lobbyists and big growers, often just a day or two before critical board hearings on cannabis.

“The Board of Supervisors granted nearly unfettered access to cannabis growers and industry lobbyists that was undisclosed to the public during the creation of the cannabis ordinances,” the jury wrote.

“On March 20, 2018, the most extreme example was an email sent by a Board member to a lobbyist, during a Board meeting, asking the lobbyist if they agreed with a [planning and development] staff recommendation.”

Per its rules, the jury does not identify anyone by name, but since it focused on the two-person ad hoc committee, it was clear in many references that the individuals were Williams and Lavagnino.

The jury wrote that “the governance in this matter took the form of some Supervisors aggressively pushing through their own agendas while other Supervisors meekly followed or resigned themselves to the inevitable.”

Lavagnino suggested on Thursday that the jury was biased against marijuana legalization. “The demographics of the grand jury are not reflective of the county as a whole,” he said. “It is not at all surprising to me that a group of predominantly white senior citizens is uncomfortable accepting that cannabis is now mainstream. We will review their recommendations and answer them as required.”

Williams said the jury pursued only “one side of the story.”

The grand jury is composed of citizens tasked to serve as a watchdog for agencies within the county. The report’s findings largely echo those in a Los Angeles Times investigation published in June 2019.

At that point, Santa Barbara had licenses for 35% of all cannabis acreage in California, while Humboldt County, the historic hub of weed, had 22%.

While the supervisors deferred to the industry, the jury found, they ignored complaints from residents, schools and wine tasting rooms about the pungent odor of the crop, and concerns that vintners and avocado growers would be unable to use pesticides on their crops for fear of tainting $10-million marijuana fields downwind.

“The action taken by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to certify the development of a robust cannabis industry as the prime objective of the cannabis ordinances has altered the quality of life in Santa Barbara County, perhaps forever,” the jury wrote.

The supervisors started the land rush for marijuana in 2017 when, unlike any other county in the state, they decided not to limit the size of marijuana grows and opened a back door for anyone who wanted to get in the business before the county came up with a licensing and tax regime.

All you had to do was claim on an affidavit that you had been growing medical cannabis on your property in January 2016. The county would not check if your claim was true, or even that you had any connection to that property.

People from all over the state formed companies and filed affidavits saying they had been growing, when many clearly hadn’t. Residents in the Santa Ynez Valley watched as long tunnels of hoop greenhouses began popping up for the first time. One grower registered with the state as a limited liability company in Agoura Hills just three weeks after the supervisors voted to not have limits. By the end of the year, it had permits to grow on 60 acres.

“Without question, one of the most perplexing decisions made by the Board was the utilization of an unverified affidavit system. . ..” the jury wrote.

In Carpinteria, the old cut-flower greenhouses were soon releasing the skunky scent of marijuana all over town.

The Carpinteria School District sent two letters to the board saying the air quality at the high school “was being compromised by strong cannabis odors to the point that by afternoon the students and staff were reporting ill effects, such as headaches from the nauseating odor,” according to the report. The jury found no evidence that any board member contacted the district to discuss buffer zones between the schools and grows.

The jury questioned why the county ever thought the industry would be long term and viable, when its own hired expert warned there was a glut of cannabis in the state. California consumed between 1.5 million and 2.5 million pounds but was producing 13.5 million.

The consultant stated: “Santa Barbara is just one of 58 counties in California, but with almost 500 registrants seeking as many as 1,365 separate cultivation permits, the county’s growers potentially could produce . . . .more than double the legal amount of cannabis consumed by the entire state.”

State law prohibits transporting the crop out of state.

Williams and Lavagnino ignored such concerns and focused on the tax windfall they said the county would receive.

“I’m trying to generate what could be $20 [million] to $40 million a year for the county,” Lavagnino said at a board meeting in February 2019.

But he and Williams were pushing for a tax system that would make it easy for growers to avoid paying. Most counties collected taxes based on the square foot of permitted cultivation. It was a simple system that made cheating difficult. Santa Barbara voted to collect on gross receipts, but the county had no way of checking those revenues to see if growers were truthfully reporting. The jury noted that the county tax collector was not even brought into this discussion before the decision was made.

The results: Santa Barbara County collected $6.8 million in tax revenue in the 2018-2019 fiscal year from its 217 permitted acres, the jury found. In the same year, Monterey County collected $15.4 million, from 62 acres.

Per acre, Monterey was collecting eight times more than Santa Barbara.

“The Jury believes the Board of Supervisors, in their hubris, failed the people of Santa Barbara County,” the report says. “Now they must amend the cannabis ordinances to regain the people’s trust.

Los Angeles Times
By JOE MOZINGO
JULY 3, 2020

 


Friday, July 3, 2020

Ronald Julian Miguel

Blog note: We are posting this obituary to commemorate and honor Ron Miguel of San Francisco. Ron was one of original trainers of the CGJA training program that started about 30 years ago. He trained grand juries all over the state until failing health forced him to cut back. He remained a valuable force by continuing to mentor all of our trainers with his knowledge, presentation skills, leadership and commitment to the California civil grand jury system. Ron was also a friend. He will continue to inspire us.

Ronald Julian Miguel

August 5, 1931 - June 28, 2020

Ronald Julian Miguel passed away this past Saturday, June 28, 2020 at the age of 88 peacefully and surrounded by family. As the only child of Jerome & Mariette Miguel, he was a fourth-generation San Franciscan who cared deeply for his hometown and was engaged in nearly every facet of civic activity. He was molded by the rich art, culture and music of his birthplace and his 25 years in the flower business with his wife, Ruth Israel Miguel.

A longtime resident of San Francisco's Potrero Hill, Ron attended Lowell High School and University of San Francisco. Ron imbued his children with an appreciation for creative expression in all its forms and together with his wife, Ruth, taught them that family is precious even when it's not easy.

As President of the San Francisco Planning Commission and founding member of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, he worked to make the city an inclusive and affordable place. As foreman of the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury and later as a trainer, he advocated for safer conditions for young people in Juvenile Hall and supported community initiatives. More recently, as Chair of the Citizen's Working Group, he devoted his energy to making the city's neighborhoods more livable by supporting improvements to San Francisco's transportation infrastructure.

Experts across nearly every city agency would regularly seek his advice on decisions. He never cared for pageantry or fancy titles and engaged everyone with respect. Ron was always generous with his knowledge and his time. And if you asked for his opinion, you would be sure to get it.

Ron's historical perspective gave him an understanding of place and space that few others had. He was never restrained by conventional thinking and welcomed the certitude of change. As he was quoted in The Potrero View, "Nothing stays the same," he said. "Everything will change and be different. You can have a hand or a voice in bringing opinions together, so the changes that are made make sense for the future...". Ron's work and active engagement with San Francisco civic organizations will benefit his beloved city for generations.

We will miss his deep, hearty laugh and his easy smile. Ron is survived by his loving wife, Ruth, his three children, Barry Miguel, Melanie Miguel and Renée Miguel, as well as seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jul. 2 to Jul. 3, 2020.

[Shasta County] Grand Jury: Shasta County was left at higher risk for fire due to lack of fuel management

REDDING, Calif. — The things that make the Northstate and Shasta County so beautiful are the same things that can make it more prone to fire danger. A recent Shasta County Grand Jury investigation of the Carr Fire and the conditions that led to the fire becoming explosive and destructive focused on the need for local officials and citizens to shift their focus from suppression to prevention.

The Carr Fire burned 229,651 acres; destroyed 1,604 structures, including homes, while 277 others were damaged and eight people were killed. Over 38,000 people were evacuated for up to 10 days and some families are still waiting to rebuild their homes.

KCRC News
by Ashley Gardner
June 30th 2020