Blog note: this letter to the editor of a newspaper in Pennsylvania from a California resident suggests that the California civil grand jury system might be able to solve problems in a Pennsylvania county.
I have been gone from the Wyoming Valley for 60 years, but it remains my hometown and I read the Times Leader from time to time.
The recent articles regarding the school bus issue in Mountain Top, as well as a number of similar occurrences throughout the area over the years, leads me to believe a solution might be found by adopting a county “civil grand jury” program such as exists in California.
The jury members are non-officeholders chosen to represent various areas of the county. The jury accepts suggestions from citizens regarding actions by public entities that might warrant investigation. After preliminary study, the appropriate committee reports on the matter, and the jury as a whole decides whether the matter merits in-depth study. Matters being pursued by the courts are not investigated by the civil grand jury. If, during its investigations, the jury discovers illegal activity, that is immediately referred to the proper authority.
The civil grand jury has subpoena power, and its meetings and procedures are not public. The civil grand jury sits for approximately six months; however, that could be subject to change. At the end of the term, the jury publishes it findings, and the public entity – school board, sheriff’s department, etc. – has 60 days to reply. Generally, the matters are corrected by changes in practices and/or procedures, while on occasion more drastic corrective action is necessary.
In any event, the civil grand jury and its findings cannot be ignored and can serve to correct some improprieties before they become serious problems or breaches of law.
August 29, 2016
Letter by Clifford Nagle, Riverbank CA