Friday, March 24, 2017

[San Joaquin County] Grunder: Importance of grand jury work

Blog note: this is a comprehensive statement about what grand juries do.
An envelope arrived the other day inviting the lady of the house to the county courthouse for possible jury duty. OK, such letters are not invitations. They're commands, as in "we can send the sheriff out, you know."
Nobody likes jury duty. Nobody sits by the mailbox in eager anticipation of a summons. But people need to show up. A jury of your peers requires peers.
I've served on two juries over the years: a criminal jury and two year-long terms on the civil grand jury. Great experiences both.
The criminal case was a pretty straight forward DUI case, but it was remarkable in my mind for the work the jurors put in. I cynically expected jurors to march into the jury room, take a quick vote and hit the door for lunch. Two days later we still were going over evidence and arguing. It may have been only a DUI case but to a person jurors understood a conviction would unpleasantly alter the defendant's life. Jurors also understood the seriousness of someone climbing behind the wheel while intoxicated.
Likewise, serving on the civil grand jury wasn't easy. The pay was crummy, the hours often long and disagreements among jurors sometimes sharp. But the work was important, what I learned was intoxicating and the experience was immensely satisfying.
Just to be clear, this county's civil grand jury does not investigate crime. It does not indict people. The civil grand jury is not a gotcha outfit. Jurors try to find ways to make government agencies more efficient, productive and responsive. Jurors do work closely with the county prosecutor's office — the assistant district attorney is the jury's liaison to that office — but if the jury does stumble across possible criminal activity, the matter is referred to prosecutors. Likewise, jurors also work with the county counsel and with the advice of the superior court judge who oversees the jury. And this county's jury also enjoys the considerable expertise and experience of a judicial clerk who literally sits beside the jury foreperson.
There are only two basic requirements the civil grand jury must fulfill: each prison and jail in the county must be inspected and a report must be issued on at least one public agency within the county. That's it.
Of course, that's not it at all. Every civil grand jury does much more. During the terms I served reports were issued on Manteca Unified, Stockton's utilities department, homelessness, south Stockton, private donation bins, Stockton Unified bus purchases, public defender fees, the registrar of voters and rural fire district consolidation.
The jury also followed up on the work of previous grand juries to see if agencies that were the subject of earlier reports responded as required to the findings and recommendations.
We toured prisons and jails, sewer and water plants, and the port. Some members rode along with police officers and firefighters. Members attended countless meetings of boards and commissions. Dozens and dozens of witnesses were called to help jurors understand how things work and what was going on when they didn't.
All of the report work was done in secret. You can't go out and blab about what witness X said about subject Y (witnesses are under the same requirement, but, well, people are people). Secrecy protects witnesses, but it also obligates the jury to verify information with multiple sources.
The learning curve was steep, but also exhilarating. It's fun to know stuff, to learn things. I can't think of a day I attended to jury business that I didn't learn something interesting.
There is a saying in newspapers that sunshine is a great disinfectant. That's an acknowledgment that a newspaper can't force anyone to do anything. It can only shine a light on a problem and hope someone takes action. It's the same with a civil grand jury. Jurors can't force an agency to do anything. They can only point things out — through findings — and suggest possible remedies — through recommendations. The real power of the grand jury (and the media) is focusing attention and sometimes in framing the public conversation.
None of this can happen without citizens willing to do the work, to serve. Consider this column a plea for county residents to get involved. Applications for the 2017-2018 civil grand jury are due by March 31. To apply, complete the application questionnaire on line at http://www.sjcourts.org/general-info/civil-grand-jury or call (209) 992-5290.
The process is pretty simple. Applicants usually are interviewed by the superior court judge who oversees the jury. The names of successful applicants chosen are randomly drawn from the pool during an open court session. Those picked are sworn in. The jury consists of 19 members and perhaps four to six alternates who serve if a regular member drops out during the July-to-June term.
Jurors receive an ID badge — no more removing your belt to clear courthouse security — a parking pass — no more paying for downtown parking — and the code that unlocks the door to the jury room where the magic occurs. Oh, and, of course, there's the $15 a day each juror gets for his or her efforts.
Early on there are two days of training, a tsunami of information and early organizational jury meetings to form committees and name officers (the foreperson is named by the judge and generally is a holdover juror). There also is an optional but helpful day-long report writing session given each fall in Sacramento by the state grand jury association and optional training offered by the local grand jury association made up of former jurors. All this is a way of saying you're not in this alone.
The grand jury — like a trial jury or a criminal grand jury — should reflect the population it serves, in our case a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-generational county. Such diversity brings a rich chest of ideas to the effort. But it takes peers willing to do the work. So apply. You won't regret it.
March 16, 2017
Stockton Record
By Eric Grunder: Special to the Record


[Santa Barbara County] Marian Planning to Add 26 Psych Beds

Medical Center Additions Would Go Long Way in Filling Pressing County Need

Blog note: this article references grand jury reports.
As many as 26 new lockdown psychiatric beds are on the drawing boards for North County’s Marian Regional Medical Center. Spokesperson Kathy Sullivan confirmed that Marian is working in partnership with the County of Santa Barbara to revamp Santa Maria’s former Valley Hospital, purchased by Marina in the early 2000s and now used largely for offices, into a behavioral wellness complex. Sullivan noted that finished plans and designs have not yet been submitted to state medical regulators for review. At the soonest, she said, it would be at least two years before the new facility could open its doors. Even so, the prospect of so many new mental health beds ranks as big news.
Santa Barbara County has suffered a dramatic shortage of acute care beds for decades now, eliciting numerous grand jury reports. Currently, Santa Barbara County has only 16 lockdown psychiatric beds, which theoretically are allotted to those so mentally ill they pose a threat to themselves or others. Based on formulations by mental health professionals, a county Santa Barbara’s size should have between 40 and 60 such beds.
Making matters worse, the county’s limited number of beds are often occupied by patients facing misdemeanor criminal prosecution and deemed unfit to stand trial. As a result, mental health administrators find themselves increasingly forced to transport Santa Barbara’s mentally ill to out-of-county facilities. The volume of such referrals has been a chronic budget buster. This year, the Department of Behavioral Wellness is already $5 million over budget because of the issue.
Also on the drawing boards for the same Santa Maria mental health complex — though considerably further down the road — are plans for a 40-bed Institute for Mental Disease (IMD). IMDs are long-term care facilities for those with chronic and debilitating mental challenges. Santa Barbara has never had such a facility and the provision of 40 IMD beds would likewise fill a major gap in services.
March 15, 2017
Santa Barbara Independent
By Nick Welsh

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

[San Luis Obispo County] Grand jury sees progress in Cambria on fire, emergency services

The county’s current grand jury has determined that actions agreed to by its 2014-15 predecessor and the agencies it investigated “have been or are in the process of being carried out.”
That follow-up or “continuity” report, released March 9 by the 2016-17 grand jury, included updates on two North Coast situations: “In a State of Emergency: Assessing Fire Risk in Cambria,” and “Making the Case for Efficiency: Maximizing Emergency Services in Cambria.”
In the Fire Risk report, the jury asked the district to confirm the status of a $498,000 grant that would pay toward reducing fire risk in the community. The Cambria Community Services District reported that the money had been awarded to the county’s Fire Safe Council, which submitted to the jury a detailed grant allocation document. The grant-funded work has been ongoing.
For instance, project manager Jim Neumann reported to the Cambria FireSafe Focus Group on March 8 that during that week, a 14-person crew from Northern California was removing (by hand and “weed wrench”) lots of invasive French broom from various Cambria locations spanning from Bridge Street toward the Camp Yeager area. The broom is a fire risk because the weed can grow tall, spread rapidly and burn hot when dry.
In the Emergency Services Report, the jury wanted CCSD to submit a multiyear plan to address fire management. The jury also wanted the CSD and Cambria Community Healthcare District to begin establishing reserves to update or replace fire and emergency equipment, and to determine how best to combine firefighters and emergency medical services personnel “within a common management organization.” 
The district replied that preparation of the plan was delayed by the one-year trial period in which Cal Fire handled management of the Cambria Fire Department. Now that the CSD has opted to keep and manage the independent department, the multiyear plan can be addressed, according to the district reply.
The district has purchased a new fire engine. The CSD also hired three more full-time firefighters, funded initially by a two-year grant. 
The health care district responded that it is developing a reserve/asset replacement policy for updating/replacing emergency equipment, including ambulances.
However, no joint agency has been formed, according to the CSD, because legal restrictions remain. The health care district said more study is required.
March 15, 2017
The Cambrian
By Kathe Tanner


Grand jury takes a look at Stanislaus County library

The 2016-17 Stanislaus County civil grand jury issued a report on the county library system.
According to the report, issued last week, the grand jury decided to take a look at the library because a grand jury hadn’t done so for more about 15 years.
The report is generally favorable, finding that the library provides “numerous high-quality, professional services and programs to an ever-changing county.”
Jurors had some concerns that the library is dependent on a special tax that goes before voters regularly, and encouraged officials to find a more stable stream of revenue. The report also suggested that the library need a technology update and should look for ways to donate discarded materials.
March 13, 2017
The Modesto Bee
Modesto Bee Staff


[State of Georgia] Grand juries could pick school boards under new proposal

Blog note: this blog focuses mainly on media coverage of civil grand juries and their reports in California. There are occasional exceptions because the news might be of interest to people who follow California grand juries. This is one of those exceptions: the Georgia State Legislature is considering a constitutional amendment to allow grand juries to pick school board members, returning to a previous practice in the state. This is anecdotal information only.
A proposal to amend the Georgia constitution so communities can return to an older way of picking school leaders took a step through the General Assembly Monday.
Senate Resolution 192 would let voters in school districts across Georgia hold a referendum to decide whether they want their school district leader to be a popularly elected politician rather than a professional hire, as is the practice now.
Since the constitution was changed in 1992, school board members have been elected and the boards have hired superintendents. SR 192 would change that so superintendents are elected while school boards would be appointed by grand juries, as was the practice a quarter century ago.
The author, Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, said he is reacting to a growing turnover rate, with superintendents holding office less than three years under the current system versus eight years under the old one. He said appointed superintendents also can cost more, citing one school board that hired a superintendent for a quarter million dollar salary then decided to cancel the contract after a year, paying the superintendent a half million dollars to leave.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will again have Georgia’s largest team covering the Legislature. Get complete daily coverage during the legislative session at myAJC.com/georgialegislature.
“Ten teachers could have been hired with that money,” Wilkinson said. He said it could make sense in some communities to have the grand jury pick school board members. The panel of randomly-selected citizens is entrusted with deciding whether to bring indictments in criminal investigations and had a process for taking applications and doing interviews before the practice was abolished.
“It’s not like they just picked random people out of the phone book,” Wilkinson said.
The resolution was approved 5-2 in a subcommittee of the House of Representatives’ Education Committee Monday. It must now get through the full education committee and then get two-thirds support in a floor vote in the full House.
It passed the Senate 40-12 on March 3. A two-thirds majority followed by a voter referendum is required for constitutional amendments.
March 13, 2017
Atlanta Constitution
By Ty Tagami


Grand Jury Finds No Signs of Major Voter Fraud in Orange County

Amid accusations by President Donald Trump of widespread voter fraud in California, Orange County’s civil grand jury says it conducted a thorough review of the local voting system – and found no signs of significant fraud in the recent election.
In a new report Monday titled “No Voter Fraud Here: The Transparent Election Process,” grand jurors said their evaluation left them highly confident in the integrity of the county’s voting system.
“The Grand Jury was impressed with the commitment of all employees, volunteers and poll workers to maintain ballot box security and vote integrity, over and above Federal and State laws,” jurors wrote.
“The Grand Jury found no evidence of widespread or organized voter fraud or vote interference in Orange County election processes in this year’s General Election.”
Actual attempts at voter fraud are small and infrequent, the grand jury found, adding that a strong system of safeguards is in place to prevent and catch fraud.
“In the rare case that attempted fraud is detected, the [county Registrar of Voters] refers the case to the District Attorney” for potential prosecution, the report states.
“Attempts at voter fraud are so minimal that election results are not impacted and the Grand Jury is confident that election results in Orange County are valid.”
In a rare move, the panel had no recommendations for changing or improving the fraud detection system.
Grand jurors said they conducted a “comprehensive evaluation of the voting process in Orange County” that involved examining “all areas of election operations and management.”
This included a review, they said, of “voter registration, control and use of the voter registration roster, ballot creation and production, ballot integrity and security, electronic voting systems performance, provisional ballot handling, use of pre- and post-election automation, vote-by-mail controls, handling of out-of-county voters, and voting service centers operations.”
“The Grand Jury interviewed [county Registrar of Voters] administrative personnel and employees, heard a presentation from the ROV on historical voting habits in Orange County, and attended the three and one-half hour training course given to all poll workers. Members of the Grand Jury observed Logic and Accuracy Testing and, prior to Election Day, teams of Grand Jurors conducted site surveys of three pilot Voting Service Centers. On Election Day, the Grand Jury conducted polling site surveys and observed 39 polling sites representing 57 precincts in 15 cities in Orange County,” the report states.
“Grand Jury members also observed the start of the vote tally process the evening of November 8, the 1% audit manual count of the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail ballot, a parallel printout of the electronic e-slate ballot on November 18, and attended the ROV post-election debriefing session in January.”
Not only were there no signs of widespread fraud, grand jurors said local election workers inspired confidence by continually improving the voting system.
“By taking a proactive position, looking for ways to improve the process, and ensuring the integrity of the voting process, the [Registrar of Voters] promotes public confidence in the election process.”
The grand jury also gave a thumbs-up to California’s new push to consolidate in-person voting into a smaller number of large “vote centers,” which Orange County election chief Neal Kelley has helped spearhead across the state and nation. The vote centers and mail-in ballots would generally replace home garages, schools and other neighborhood polling places.
“It is believed that Voting Service Centers…which are to be located at strategic sites throughout the County, will promote voter turnout, provide longer timeframes for ballot casting, maintain the security of the voting process, and preserve election integrity in the years ahead,” the grand jury wrote.
After winning the presidency in November, Trump claimed that millions of people voted illegally, including in California, and promised a “major investigation” into it.
He won the Electoral College by a wide margin (306 to 232), but according to official results lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.86 million votes.
Trump’s claim has been widely disputed by state election officials across the country, including many Republicans who oversee elections in their states. The claim was also rejected by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, as well as Republican U.S. Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“There is no evidence that [voter fraud] occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election,” McConnell said last month.
Trump had planned to sign an executive order launching the voting fraud probe, but has yet to do so. In early February he said he’ll be establishing a federal commission to investigate the issue, led by Vice President Mike Pence, who has yet to set it up.
Over 1.2 million Orange County voters cast ballots in the November election, out of 14.6 million voters statewide, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.
Orange County cast more votes in the presidential election than 19 individual states, including Kansas, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico.
March 13, 2017
Voice of OC
By Nick Gerda


[ Santa Cruz County] SLV water manager joins the fray

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
When Brian Lee was hired in January 2015 as manager of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, his new bosses included three newly elected directors. The district was off to a fresh start, after a controversial rate increase, an unflattering Grand Jury report and the firing of its district manager.
His arrival also followed by barely two months the filing of a lawsuit against the water district board and one of its former members, Terry Vierra, alleging a conflict of interest in connection with the purchase of some property nearly four years earlier.
Vierra lost that lawsuit in December, and was ordered to repay a real estate commission and possibly $70,000 in legal fees incurred by the man who filed that lawsuit, Bruce Holloway.
Vierra hasn’t repaid the commission, because four of the current water district directors believe they are obligated to pay all of his fines and fees, and also agreed to seek to overturn the court ruling. The decision to appeal virtually guaranteed that Vierra’s legal fees, borne by the district’s ratepayers, will surpass six figures.
The controversy over that decision by the current board – which directed its attorneys to continue to continue to represent the former director – has already resurrected the powerful ratepayers’ group, San Lorenzo Valley Watchdogs.
Lee’s aggressive advocacy of this board stance – in emails to ratepayers, public comments and court filings – now places him squarely in the middle of the controversy.
All of this is coming at a time when he and the board are beginning to build a case for yet another round of rate increase for the approximately 8,000 customers in the sprawling mountain district.
Lee’s most recent action was to send an email this week, presumably on his own initiative, to all five directors giving them “a gentle reminder” that only “Chair Ratcliffe” (board president Gene Ratcliffe) could speak to the news media.
He said he was referring to the most email request sent to all directors by the Press Banner asking if the directors had authorized  or directed Lee to speak on their behalf, specifically about the Vierra appeal.  Ratcliffe and three other board members – Margaret Bruce, Chuck Baughmann and Erik Hammer – continued to ignore this most recent request to clarify their position with regard to Lee’s advocacy on their behalf.
Lee’s email this week was the last straw for newly elected member Bill Smallman, who had cast the lone dissenting vote against the continued legal appeal of the conflict-of-interest ruling, and who had kept silent publicly. Wednesday he broke that silence, in an email to the Press Banner.
“I can't talk about what specifically took place in closed meetings,” he wrote in an email Wednesday. “If I discuss this issue publicly, I was told that all it would do would worsen my relationship with the other directors, but I don't care.  They are childishly trying to keep me out of this.”
“My position has not changed.  Vierra violated conflict-of-interest, it is that simple,” Smallman wrote . “This Board and Brian are completely out of touch and their reasoning is absurd in my opinion.  They think it is all going to roll over, and people will let it go.”
He called on the Valley Women’s Club, the most powerful political organization in the San Lorenzo Valley communities, to “put a stop to it.”
“As far as my relationship with the board and Brian, I'm up against a fight, and I don't think it is going to end until the next election – if we get some fiscally responsible candidates that respect and understand conflict-of-interests laws,” he wrote.
The water district attorneys will be back in court on March 17, asking Superior Court Judge John Gallagher to admit he made mistakes in the original trial of the Vierra case, reverse his decision and order a new trial.
March 11, 2017
Press Banner
By Barry Holtzclaw

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Humboldt County Grand Jury Wants You (to Serve)

Blog note: we don’t normally post published articles on grand jury recruitment, since they tend to more or less be the same, and our main focus is on the media's treatment of grand jury reports. We are breaking our rule with this article, since it references specific Humboldt County grand jury reports.
The Humboldt Chapter of the California Grand Jury Association is currently seeking applicants for the next year of service.
The county Grand Jury does lengthy investigations of different issues related to local government. Reports on these investigations, which usually come out in May or June, are archived on the county’s website under dry titles like “Best Practices in Purchasing/Procurement” or “Americans With Disabilities Act,” but if you actually read the reports you’ll find sometimes blistering prose that would be at home on the front page of any newspaper, such as “Humboldt County Leadership and a Trail of Broken Promises,” and tales of fiscal mismanagement that could curl any taxpayer’s lips.
Without the deep digging of the grand jury, who would have known, for example, that there was little-to-no oversight of some third party contractors hired by the county to make sure the money spent actually correlated to services performed? Other past reports have found that the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office had “evaded” its responsibilities by not informing indigent detainees of their right to transportation after serving jail time (2015), and that the Humboldt County Planning Department had lousy customer service (2012).
The jury — which is composed entirely of volunteers — requires at least six hours a week of service, time in which the participants will be actively in the jury room discussing and researching the subjects they have decided to take on. Jurors are expected to be objective, non-partisan, reliable and of high integrity. The time commitment does limit who is able to serve, however, according to Sam Giannandrea, president of the Humboldt chapter.
“People who are working full time really don’t have time to be on grand jury,” she told the Journal, adding that she had seen jurors do it, but it was unusual and difficult. “It takes a significant amount of time.”
By the end of the year, the work, which includes writing and rewriting reports, can require up to 15 hours a week of the volunteers’ time. But it’s time well spent, says Giannandrea.
“It’s so challenging, so interesting,” she said, adding that the jurists get to decide what they’re going to investigate, and are given a wide variety of resources to conduct their investigation, including the power to subpoena witnesses. Once a report has been filed, the entities in question have a duty to respond in writing and discuss how, or if they will address the problems identified by the Grand Jury. These responses can be as illuminating as the original reports. For example, in 2015 Sheriff Mike Downey responded to the jury’s investigation of their indigent release program by saying that neither the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office nor “many counties throughout the state” were aware of the penal code that required them to provide transportation assistance to indigent detainees. Downey decided to post signs in the booking and housing units of the jail that would inform released prisoners of their rights. He denied that the HCSO had deliberately refused to tell people they had the right to transportation assistance, but said he believed the signs honored the spirit of the recommendation.
Giannandrea admits that the ultimate impact of a grand jury’s work can be hard to quantify. “Another thing I’ll tell my juries, sometimes it takes up to three years before something will happen,” she said, adding that it’s not unusual for a county department or board of supervisors to say they don’t have enough money to implement a program, then revisit the idea years later.
“Suddenly they’ll say, ‘You know what, they’re right,’” she says, laughing. Giannandrea served on the jury for three years before becoming president.
The deadline for applications is May 31. Those interested in applying should call 269-1200 to find out more.
March 11, 2017
North Coast Journal (blog)
By Linda Stansberry


SLO [San Luis Obispo] County grand jury releases annual report, asks for applications

County law enforcement agencies said a series of San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury recommendations related to requesting bail increases were either unnecessary or inappropriate, according the grand jury’s 2016-17 continuity report released Thursday.
The grand jury is composed of 19 civilian volunteers who typically serve a one-year term and whose role is to provide citizen oversight of local governmental agencies. Under California law, local agencies must issue a response to the grand jury’s recommendations regardless of whether those recommendations will be used.
The grand jury’s most recent annual report addressed just two issues: the question of whether scheduled bail was too low and an inquiry into the process of issuing a minor use permit.
Under the first category, the grand jury report “was conducted to determine if local law enforcement agencies are utilizing their option to request enhanced bail for arrestees when indicated to preserve public safety and increase the chances that the offender will appear in court.”
The grand jury report made four recommendations to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and all seven county police departments:
  The District Attorney’s Office should coordinate the development of a uniform written policy for local law enforcement agencies to request an increase in a suspect’s scheduled bail.
Both the DA’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office said such policy already is in place, as did most of the county’s police departments.
  The DA’s Office should coordinate a formal training program to assist local law enforcement agencies in seeking higher bail amounts.
On this the DA and sheriff disagreed, “both stating that the training of law enforcement professionals remains the responsibility of the local law enforcement agency,” according to the grand jury report.
Most of the police departments said this policy already is in place, while the Paso Robles Police Department said it is unnecessary.
  Local law enforcement agencies should work with the DA’s Office to develop department-specific programs related to higher bail requests.
Again, most county law enforcement agencies said this policy already is in place. The DA’s Office and Paso Robles Police Department disagreed with the recommendation.
  Local law enforcement agencies “should rely only on California state law when considering whether a bail increase is appropriate.”
Agencies responded by saying they already abide by this recommendation.
The second report, titled, “Minor Use Permits: An Oxymoron?” was based on a citizen complaint regarding the notification process used when the county issues a minor use permit. As with the first report, the grand jury issued several recommendations to the county Planning and Building Department, County Administrative Officer and the Board of Supervisors.
The Planning and Building Department responded to the five recommendations, and that response was shared by the other agencies.
The department’s response was that most of the recommendations were “not warranted and not reasonable,” with the exception of recommendations that already are in place.
The Thursday release of the annual report coincided with a call for applications for the next one-year grand jury term, which begins July 1.
Jury foreman pro tem Dennis Frahmann said applicants are reviewed by a committee as well as by the county presiding judge, and the names that pass that process are then placed into a drawing.
“Typically, the pool (of applicants) is much larger than the number of positions,” Frahmann said.
Grand jury applications can be found at www.slocourts.net/grand_jury/application_forms.
March 10, 2017
The Tribune
By Andrew Sheeler


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

[Santa Cruz County] Mental Health Advisory Board gets a makeover

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — Following a slew of harsh criticism in two consecutive Grand Jury reports, the Mental Health Advisory Board (MHAB) has reported massive internal reorganization and improvement.
Calling the report a catalyst and a scare, MHAB Chairperson Kate Avraham said they were hindered by a lack of training and support. Now she said the board has made a 180-degree turn.
"In the past, we were not accommodating to the public, it was not functioning as a vital board and certainly not functioning as the law prescribed," Avraham said. "It's like a whole new board and a whole new story." 
Essentially, she said they worked off the recommendations in the report like a checklist. Avraham is the second person to lead as chairperson following the report.
In the 2015-2016 report, the Grand Jury found lapses in communication with the Board of Supervisors, vacancies that prevented MHAB from operating effectively, failing to meet requirements of the Mental Health Services Act, and failing to investigate or act on issues raised during the meetings, among other things. The Board of Supervisors was also reprimanded in the report for "providing little or no direction, goals, objectives and no comprehensive training on how to be an effective advisory board."
Since then Supervisor Greg Caput began serving as their advisor, a training was held, and a process was put in place to conduct meetings according to County Code Chapter 2.104. 
"We are involved in the community with site visits, going to Supervisor meetings, really being visible and interacting, and that is only going to increase," Avraham said. "Now that we have the training and we know what we are empowered to do, I think we are becoming a more up-to-date, more visible, more proactive board."
This progress has followed a year of hard work, according to Avraham, and has seen many of the issues resolved. Now they are looking to the future. 
"Everything has been revitalized and it took a lot of people to help with that," Avraham said. "We are making contact with the public to educate them so they know we are there and we are trying to normalize and give a different voice to de-stigmatizing mental illness."
Part of that begins with having a full board for the first time in many years, Avraham said, and that number will get larger under a change currently being considered that would allow for 15 members instead of 11. 
"We are functioning as we should, gradually we will get more effective in all the areas," Avraham said. "We got to keep people passionate and fresh."
February 20, 2017
Register-Pajaronian
By Bek Sebedra