Thursday, February 26, 2009

Grand jury pokes into regional trash agency's contract selection process

By Shaun Bishop

Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 02/25/2009 12:20:59 AM PST

Eight members of a trash collection agency in San Mateo County are set to start negotiating a new 10-year garbage contract with Norcal Waste Systems, even though a civil grand jury is investigating the agency's contract selection processes.

The South Bayside Waste Management Authority, which manages trash service for 10 Peninsula cities, the county and a sanitary district, has spent the last year seeking and evaluating bids for two major trash contracts.

San Francisco-based Norcal won one of those contracts last August, when the authority's board selected it over three other competitors, including current contractor Allied Waste, to take over curbside pick-up service beginning in 2011.

The second contract, for managing the authority's disposal and recycling facility in San Carlos, has not yet been awarded.

Each of the agency's members holds a separate contract with the trash pick-up provider that may differ slightly, so each has to ratify Norcal's selection.

On Monday, the West Bay Sanitary District became the eighth agency to give Norcal its approval, joining East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, Foster City and Burlingame.

Authority officials now believe they have enough support to start finalizing Norcal's contract, worth an estimated $46 million in annual revenue. Staff from the authority will open negotiations next month on behalf of its members, said authority Executive Director Kevin McCarthy.

But looming over the upcoming talks with Norcal is the grand jury probe, which began late last year after then- Supervisor Jerry Hill questioned the transparency and fairness of those contract selection processes and asked the grand jury to look into them.

Hill, now a state Assemblyman, sent a letter to the grand jury foreman in November saying he was concerned that McCarthy's actions suggested the process was "biased and subject to manipulation."

Hill cited a letter McCarthy sent in August to elected officials containing "negative remarks" about Allied Waste. He also cited an e-mail from Louie Pellegrini, a partner in a company that was not selected, who said McCarthy angrily confronted him outside an authority meeting and threatened to end a business deal.

Since then, Hill and at least three other people have been called to testify before the grand jury, though the exact scope of the grand jury's work or when it will be complete has been kept secret.

"Honestly, none of us will know what the impact is until we see the report," McCarthy said.

"We're just going about doing what we're normally doing and trying to keep moving forward on the rollout of the new service."

McCarthy said he regrets the incidents Hill mentioned but said they happened in August, well after the authority's selection committees had made their recommendations in June and July.

"I think what Mr. Hill and others haven't spent the time to figure out is there were mistakes made by me sort of in the political fight that erupted several months after the (request for proposals) evaluation and selection work was done," McCarthy said.

Still, at least one city — Burlingame — plans to wait until after the grand jury report is released to make a decision on the Norcal contract.

"I think that's an important piece of information to have," said Jesus Nava, Burlingame's finance director. "The last thing I want to do is propose something to the council and then have the report come out and make us look like we didn't know what's going on.

"It's just safer," Nava said.

Hill said Tuesday he is more concerned about the facility contract than the collection contract, but believes the grand jury is "looking at everything."

The grand jury is a fact-finding body and has little power to enforce any recommendations it makes, but Hill said it is important for the 90,000 ratepayers in the authority's jurisdiction to have confidence in the authority's picks.

Virginia Chang Kiraly, the forewoman for the grand jury, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

E-mail Shaun Bishop at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Orange County Grand jury dings supervisors for stance on concealed weapons

Report tells county supervisors and activists to back off.
The Orange County Register
Comments 119 | Recommend 3

The Orange County grand jury has a message for county supervisors, gun rights advocates and everyone else who disagrees with Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' plan to reduce concealed weapons permits: "Let the sheriff do her job."

That's the title of the grand jury report to be released today, according to a confidential copy obtained by The Orange County Register.

Hutchens has spent months arguing with local lawmakers and gun advocates over her plan to make it tougher to get gun permits.

Critics have said that Hutchens, a former division chief for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, is mistakenly bringing an L.A. standard to a staunchly Republican county. Hutchens argues she is just enforcing state law and refuses to use the permit issue to advance policy beliefs on gun rights.

"An orderly society is the goal. Public safety is the paramount consideration," concludes the grand jury report. "The fact that public clamor has reached the ears of politicians is irrelevant."

Hutchens was muted in her reaction to the report, thanking the grand jury through a spokesman for "looking at this issue from a factual and dispassionate basis."

Under California law, sheriffs and police chiefs have wide discretion in deciding what residents have a "good cause" that would enable them to carry a concealed gun in public. Former Sheriff Mike Carona established a policy that greatly expanded the number of permits during his tenure.

But there were also questions whether political supporters were being handed the gun permits in exchange for contributions. Indeed, a Register investigation into the permits found 95 instances where contributors were granted one. And federal prosecutors mentioned Carona's generosity with permits in their indictment against him. Carona was later found guilty of a single charge of witness tampering.

Hutchens – who was appointed to finish out Carona's term this summer – almost immediately announced the gun permit revision. Since she announced it in August, she has endured three controversial public hearings explaining the policy.

Meanwhile, supervisors have adopted resolutions suggesting she be more gun-friendly, with Supervisor Chris Norby even terming her revisions a "jihad."

Yet the grand jury also concluded that Hutchens is on the right track in developing a written policy regarding the granting of concealed weapons permits, alleging that a written policy didn't exist under Carona.

Hutchens utilized the services of an Aliso Viejo think tank called Lexipol to develop the department's new concealed weapons policy. That company has worked with 400 public safety departments throughout the state on concealed weapons issues.

Supervisors were surprised by the grand jury's conclusions.

"My board colleagues and I have never questioned the authority of the sheriff to establish a (concealed weapons) policy and carry it out as she sees fit," said board Chairwoman Pat Bates. "I have, however, expressed my disagreement with the sheriff's policy, in particular the revocation of existing permits and the mischaracterization that most of those permits were given as 'political favors' by the previous sheriff."

Norby questioned the effectiveness of the grand jury analysis noting, "the 'us versus them' attitude has come from the department, not from the board."

CORRECTED: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Sandra Hutchens' previous department.

Contact the writer: 714-796-2221 or

Grand jury credits San Diego mayor for Brown Field cleanup plan

Grand jury credits mayor for Brown Field cleanup plan
Non-aviation tenants are getting evicted
By Jeff McDonald
Union-Tribune Staff Writer

2:00 a.m. February 24, 2009

OTAY MESA — The city of San Diego has not fully complied with federal rules since acquiring Brown Field, but after years of neglect, the current mayor has done a good job putting the airport back on track, according to a county grand jury report released yesterday.

The municipal airport just north of the U.S.-Mexico border was granted to the city almost 50 years ago on the promise that it remain an airport, with only aviation-related uses.

Since the early 1990s, the city has allowed a spate of wrecking yards and other non-aviation businesses on various parts of the airfield – largely because it needs the rental income.

In recent months, the city allowed three such businesses to remain three more years, but handed eviction notices to 14 others, the grand jury said, and is pushing a major renovation at the site.

“Under the city's current political and operational leadership, significant progress is being made to remove the non-aeronautical-use tenants,” the grand jury wrote.

The non-aviation sites can be costly, the grand jury noted. Cleaning up the site of a former recycling and compost business has so far cost $300,000 and could take as much as $500,000, the jury said.

In a formal recommendation, the grand jury said the mayor should require current tenants to pay into a fund that would finance future cleanup costs.

“The cleanup will either be paid for by the (airport) enterprise fund or a state grant,” said Darren Pudgil, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders. “We're not going to touch the general fund.”

The Federal Aviation Administration, which has warned San Diego for years that the businesses have to move, said it is satisfied with the pace of evictions, but the city must keep at it.

“We expect to see that progress continue, and we're working closely with the city on planning and logistical issues related to their Brown Field development agreement,” FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in prepared remarks.

Sanders, who pledged to clean up Brown Field during his 2005 mayoral campaign, is moving forward on a plan to build a new terminal, a hotel and conference center, condos, and retail and office space.

But some smaller, flying-related tenants have complained they have not been allowed to extend leases that would enhance the airport.

Jeff McDonald: (619) 542-4585;

County morgue needs to be a higher priority

County morgue needs to be a higher priority
Posted: 02/24/2009 12:04:40 AM PST

IT IS A TOUGH TIME to justify spending several million dollars to create a county morgue. The county has made do without a properly equipped facility for decades.

The need for a modern county morgue has been apparent for years.

Ten years ago, the Marin civil grand jury looked into the issue and concluded - without reservation - that the county needed a central morgue.

The current grand jury took another look and reached the same conclusion.

"Establishment of an up-to-date forensics facility and morgue is long overdue in Marin," the report states. "The problem today is more acute."

Last year, a pathology firm canceled its contract with the county to handle crime-related cases. According to the grand jury report, because of the substandard conditions at the mortuaries, the pathologist "would be unable to testify in court that any autopsy had been properly conducted."

Since then, the county has been using Napa's county morgue for several sensitive cases, but for most autopsies, it contracts with three Marin mortuaries at $225 per case.

A central morgue has many obvious advantages, including more efficient response in homicide cases and safer and more professional conditions for coroner personnel and their investigations. It would also offer tighter safeguards to protect autopsies from security breaches that could compromise findings and raise legal questions about investigations.

Officials have been reluctant to include space for a morgue in the public
safety building the county plans to build across from the Marin Civic Center. Finding room for a central morgue in that building or in Civic Center space that will be available when the new building opens makes sense. But that would be, at best, several years away.

Officials also want to avoid a repeat of the political skirmish that erupted over the county's plan to move the morgue to the Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery in San Rafael. Neighbors of the cemetery worried that the morgue would increase traffic on Fifth Avenue.

With an average of 222 autopsies per year, the traffic generated by a morgue wouldn't even be noticed at the bustling county government complex.

The county is now considering renting 12,000 square feet of space on East Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael with an option to buy. An estimated $1.75 million already set aside for a morgue could be used to remodel the site and buy equipment.

That is an encouraging development. The site could be a long-term home for a morgue, although security and convenience might be better at the Civic Center.

We strongly agree with the latest grand jury report.

A modern, centrally located morgue needs to be a top priority at the Civic Center. This is a public safety issue that has been ignored for far too long.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Plea delayed in release of Grand Jury documents

By TERRY VAU DELL - Staff Writer
Posted: 02/21/2009 12:00:00 AM PST

OROVILLE -- While it may have taken months to get a state budget passed, a court arraignment for a former Butte County grand juror charged with leaking confidential documents was done Friday before the court calendar was even called.

The attorney for Georgie Szendrey said a prosecutor from the California Attorney General's Office agreed to delay a plea in the case until April to allow the defense time to fully examine some 150 pages of investigative documents.

State prosecutors have declined to comment on the case, which is believed to stem from information Szendrey allegedly provided to a defense attorney and the Enterprise-Record surrounding a Grand Jury investigation she conducted in 2007 into an excessive force complaint against two Paradise police officers.

Szendrey was charged by the state attorney general earlier this month with a misdemeanor count of improper disclosure of Grand Jury information, which could carry up to one year in jail.

On Friday, attorneys in the case appeared at a "clerk's arraignment" — an informal proceeding outside the presence of a judge, 15 minutes before the scheduled 8:30 a.m. hearing.

Szendrey's attorney, Michael Harvey of Oroville, said that because she is charged with only a misdemeanor, he appeared in her absence.

Harvey said Deputy Attorney General Barton Bowers had also arrived early at the court Friday morning and agreed to continue the arraignment until April 9.

According to Harvey, the criminal complaint alleges improper disclosure of Grand Jury information between Feb. 7 and March 6 of 2008.

However, he said he won't know the basis for the allegations until he examines the inch-thick sheaf of investigative reports the prosecutor turned over to him Friday.

The case came to light in the spring of 2008, when a Chico attorney included a copy of confidential Grand Jury documents in a motion seeking to unseal the personnel file of veteran Paradise police officer Robert Pickering on behalf of Max Justin Schumacher, 30, who at the time was accused of threatening the officer and resisting arrest on a public intoxication charge.

At his trial, Schumacher claimed the officer stopped his vehicle on a dark road near the county jail, pulled him from the back seat and threw him to the pavement while he was still handcuffed.

Pickering testified that after threatening to kill him and members of his family, the intoxicated man had tried to shoulder past him when he stopped the patrol car to see if Schumacher had injured himself banging his head inside the patrol car.

In the pretrial motion seeking the names of people who had filed excessive force complaints against the arresting officer, Schumacher's attorney, Kevin Sears, included written findings by the ex-grand juror and transcripts from a videotape of a violent arrest of an underage drunken driving suspect, Justin Baltierra, by Pickering and a second ridge officer, Timothy Cooper, in December 2006.

In her unpublished written opinion, which Szendrey said she turned over to Baltierra's attorney Denny Forland after her term on the grand jury ended, she determined that the two ridge officers had failed to inform the drunken driver he was under arrest before tackling him to the pavement, as a neighbor videotaped the arrest.

After reviewing the officer's personnel file in chambers, Butte County Superior Court Judge Sandra McLean ordered the names of three people who had brought excessive force complaints against Pickering in the last two years to be turned over to Schumacher's lawyer, over objections by the town's attorney.

Schumacher's jury was shown the Baltierra arrest tape prior to acquitting him of all charges.

Last year, the FBI in Sacramento reportedly cleared both Pickering and Cooper of excessive force complaints lodged against them by Baltierra, Schumacher and a third man, Harold Funk, 51, also of Paradise.

Funk, who claimed his elbow was dislocated by the same two officers after they pursued him into a public lavatory in February 2007, was acquitted last month by a separate jury of a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge.

The case against the former grand juror was referred to the state Attorney General's Office because Szendrey's husband, Ed Szendrey, is a retired chief investigator for the Butte County District Attorney's Office.

Outside of court Friday, he said that given the recent acquittals in the resisting arrest cases, "my own confusion is why all this effort is being made to prosecute my wife, when nothing has been done about the officers and their conduct."

Ex-members of grand jury forming informational group

Former members of the Sacramento County grand jury are creating an association of grand jurors to increase the effectiveness of such panels and bolster citizen awareness of how the jury and court systems work.

The Sacramento County Chapter of the California Grand Jurors' Association was certified in December by the state association and is seeking members.

In a written statement, the current foreman of the county grand jury, Donald Prange, said the new group will be a "positive step in helping to reach the public's interest of local agency transparency and accountability."

"We need more informed citizens to become active in grand jury matters," he said.

More information can be obtained by contacting the Sacramento Grand Jury Association at P.O. Box 605, Carmichael, CA 95609; by fax at (916) 979-9443; or by e-mail at

– Sam Stanton

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Former grand juror faces prosecution

By TERRY VAU DELL - Staff Writer
Posted: 02/19/2009 12:03:12 AM PST

OROVILLE -- A former Butte County grand juror faces criminal charges over the alleged disclosure of information she received while serving on the public watchdog group.

Although state prosecutors refused to comment on the case Tuesday, the misdemeanor charge is believed to have stemmed from a 2007 grand jury probe of an excessive force complaint involving two Paradise police officers.

Information from the secret Grand Jury proceedings were subsequently used in court by the attorney for a resisting arrest suspect to unseal one of the arresting officer's personnel files.

Georgie Szendrey maintained at the time she felt she did nothing wrong because her service on the 2006-07 county Grand Jury had expired before she turned over information on her investigation to an attorney.

The unauthorized release of confidential grand jury information is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

Because Szendrey's husband, Ed Szendrey, is a former chief investigator in the Butte County District Attorney's Office, the case was referred to the California Attorney General for investigation.

Calling his wife "a courageous woman who loves truth and justice," the now-retired investigator stated in an e-mail he stands by her actions.

"She has always demonstrated that she is a friend of law enforcement and the community. We believe in the end she will be exonerated," he wrote.

Georgie Szendrey's attorney, Michael Harvey of Oroville, said Monday that since
he has not yet seen any investigative reports, he is unaware what the specific allegations are.

A spokesperson for the attorney general Tuesday declined to comment on the case, other than to confirm that a misdemeanor complaint was filed in Butte County Superior Court charging the Chico woman with "improperly disclosing Grand Jury information."

The charges are believed to relate to an excessive force complaint lodged with the county Grand Jury in 2007 by the family of Justin Baltierra, who was reportedly videotaped by a neighbor being tackled to the pavement and handcuffed by Paradise police officers Robert Pickering and Timothy Cooper, after being arrested for drunken driving in December 2006.

In her written findings as a member of the Grand Jury group assigned to oversee law enforcement matters, Szendrey concluded the officers had neither provided clear commands nor informed the intoxicated driver he was under arrest, "used vulgar language in their attempts to get the subject to comply, resulting in an unnecessary take down" and also prevented his girlfriend from calling 9-1-1 to summon other officers to the scene.

When she was unable to get the necessary votes among her fellow grand jurors to include the incident in its end-of the-year report, after her term expired in June 2007, Szendrey turned over her written findings, along with a transcript of the arrest tape, to Baltierra's lawyer, Denny Forland.

After Baltierra entered into a plea bargain resolving his case, Forland said he furnished a copy of the Grand Jury information to Chico attorney Kevin Sears, who used it in support of a court motion to examine Pickering's personnel file on behalf of another ridge man, Justin Schumacher, who at the time was accused of resisting and threatening the ridge officer following a public intoxication arrest.

The town's attorney, Dwight Moore, had argued there were insufficient grounds to allow the defense lawyer to examine the officer's file, and openly questioned how the unpublished Grand Jury documents had been leaked.

Schumacher was subsequently acquitted of the felony charges at trial.

A separate jury last month acquitted a third man, Harold Funk, 51, also of Paradise, of similar charges involving the same two Paradise police officers.

Funk claimed on the witness stand the officers dislocated one of his elbows after pursuing him into a public lavatory while investigating an after-hours vandalism complaint outside a Paradise market.

Following a separate investigation into excessive force complaints lodged by the families of Schumacher, Baltierra and Funk, the FBI in Sacramento last year reportedly cleared the two ridge police officers of any criminal wrongdoing.

The California Penal Code 924.1 states that except when ordered to do so in court, every grand juror who "willfully discloses any evidence adduced before the grand jury, or anything ... said, or in what manner grand jurors voted, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

In a letter referring the matter to the state Attorney General's Office, District Attorney Mike Ramsey said he did so to "preserve the integrity of the grand jury system and it's secrecy provisions."

According to the Butte County Superior Court Web site, a notice to appear for arraignment Friday on the misdemeanor charge was sent to Szendrey's lawyer.

Harvey said Monday he is "awaiting discovery in the case to see what exactly they are basing their allegations on."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Grand jury backs need for central morgue in Marin

Nels Johnson
Posted: 02/15/2009 05:52:06 PM PST

A central morgue and forensics facility should be established in Marin, the county grand jury says.

The jury reported that $1.75 million already set aside for a morgue is enough to lease, renovate and equip space for a modern facility, and urged the county to proceed.

County supervisors last week agreed to do just that, informally endorsing a staff plan to negotiate a lease with an option to buy a 12,000-square-foot building on East Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael. An estimated $1.75 million remodeling and equipment tab is about half of what officials expected to pay, and the money already has been tucked into the budget.

The jury's recommendation "is consistent with the direction we're heading," noted County Administrator Matthew Hymel.

A grand jury investigation under way for several months noted that the grand jury almost a decade ago called for a central morgue, but that several attempts to provide one have been fruitless. A plan for a morgue at the Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery was scuttled by neighborhood opposition several years ago.

As it stands, the coroner's office contract with three mortuaries for space in which to conduct autopsies at $225 per case. "The space available at each facility for coroner autopsies is small and cramped, with inadequate lighting and ventilation," the jury noted.

Coroner Ken Holmes, who operates on a $1.2 million annual budget, welcomed the jury's latest report. "I'm very happy they are so supportive, as was the grand jury in 2001," he said.

Holmes has been hounding county supervisors about a central morgue for years, often introducing himself as "Ken 'I-still-don't-have-a-central-facility' Holmes."

Holmes said that while there was some initial thought about including a morgue in a $104 million public safety building planned at the Civic Center, he "opted out" of becoming part of the program, saying "it will be an awfully long time before that building gets built, if it gets built." In addition, including a morgue in the plan would further incite Santa Venetia neighbors who want no part of the public safety structure, he said.

The jury also recommended the coroner's office "not be consolidated" with the sheriff's department, in light of quality and efficiency concerns, as well as cost issues, because sheriff's pay scales are higher than those in the coroner's office.

But Hymel said officials could not rule out a merger of the coroner's and sheriff's offices at some point in light of a move to restructure and consolidate county operations. "We need to take a look at it," he said.

Both Holmes and Sheriff Bob Doyle are elected officials, but a procedure exists in which the offices could be merged. The jury noted that 47 of the state's 58 counties allow the sheriff to assume duties of the coroner.

The jury observed that because security is insufficient at local morgue facilities, most crime-related coroner cases are taken to Napa's new $18 million public safety building that includes a modern morgue. Napa charges Marin up to $1,450 per case.

While the coroner's office has maintained a staff of seven for three decades, its workload can be substantial.

"In 2008, the coroner received reports of 874 deaths and investigated 647 cases, with autopsies required in 209 of them," the jury reported. "There were 50 coroner cases not requiring autopsy. Of the coroner cases, 110 were deemed natural deaths, 56 were suicides, 10 were homicides (including four vehicular homicides), two were industrial accidents, five were traffic accidents, 43 were other accidents and eight cases are still pending."

In addition, "there were 25 cases in which manner of death could not be determined, generally in drug overdose deaths that could be either accidental or suicide."

Of the suicides, 20 were Golden Gate Bridge jumpers. "Because of these suicides and an average of two or three suicides per year at San Quentin, Marin County has the highest per capita suicide rate in the country," the jury reported.

Contact Nels Johnson via e-mail at

Conservator Melodie Jo Scott under investigation

A state agency denies a license for the former president of the industry group that represents professional guardians and says she made false claims on her application. She denies lying.

By Jack Leonard and Evelyn Larrubia
February 15, 2009

One of California's most prominent professional conservators has been denied a license by the state and is the focus of a grand jury investigation.

The decision to deny Melodie Jo Scott a license marks a significant shift in the oversight of professional conservators, who answered only to probate judges until a 2005 Times series highlighted abuse in the field and prompted a licensing requirement that took effect in January.

Until this year, conservators, who control the healthcare and finances of adults deemed in Probate Court to be incapable of looking after themselves, were less regulated than hairdressers and guide-dog trainers. The Times series described how some were able to gain control over the lives and finances of elderly adults without their knowledge or consent, neglect their wards, isolate them from relatives, run up fees and in some cases steal from their clients.

The state's Department of Consumer Affairs alleges that Scott, a former president of the state industry group that represents professional guardians, falsely claimed on her license application she had never stepped down from any case -- or settled a dispute -- after a complaint had been filed against her in court. In denying Scott's application, the agency cited three cases it said she should have disclosed.

Two of those cases were among dozens reported by The Times that examined allegations of abuse by professional conservators. The articles prompted lawmakers to enact sweeping reforms of the state's conservatorship system and to create the licensing board that denied Scott's application.

In an interview, Scott denied lying on her application. She accused state officials of singling her out for political reasons in the wake of the newspaper's reports.

Scott, whose business is based in Redlands, has appealed the denial but said she will have to halt work temporarily. Riverside County's Probate Court has scheduled hearings next month to determine whether she should be removed from several cases because she lacks a license.

"I'm done. I'm out," Scott said. "When I get my license back, I can start again. But, hey, I'm 50."

Scott's licensing problems come as the San Bernardino County grand jury is examining many of her cases as well as others handled by a former associate, Lawrence A. Dean II.

Records show that Probate Court officials began delivering case files involving both conservators to the grand jury in October. They provided more files as recently as last month.

Scott said one of her clients was called to testify before the panel. She said that the probe is the second investigation by a grand jury into her work and that she expects the panel will find she has acted properly.

"Let the grand jury do their investigation," Scott said. "There's nothing to find."

Dean, who is licensed by the state, did not return calls seeking comment.

Among the cases the state cited in refusing to license Scott was that of Helen Jones, a Yucaipa widow who fought to get out from under Scott's control. Jones' case became a symbol of the system's flaws during debates in Sacramento on the need for reform.

Nearly deaf and having a rare nervous-system disorder that limited her mobility, Jones insisted that she had not understood what she was signing when she agreed to allow Scott to become her conservator in 2002.

Scott spent about $200,000 of her client's life savings on new appliances and caretakers, items Jones said she did not want nor need.

Jones sought to end the conservatorship, complaining in court papers about Scott's spending and treatment of her. In 2006, Scott resigned when Jones' step-grandson, Mike Tomazin, agreed to replace her.

Jones died two years ago of pneumonia and other complications. Tomazin said Jones would have been happy to learn that Scott's license was denied as a result of her fight.

"I guess what goes around comes around," Tomazin said.

Scott said that she did nothing wrong in Jones' case and that she was simply caring for someone unable to manage her own affairs. She said she was unfairly portrayed in the dispute and stopped taking new cases after the Times articles.

"I did what I should have done," Scott said. "When it got uncomfortable and she was uncomfortable with me, I resigned."

In another of the cases cited by the state, Scott was accused of allowing another professional conservator, Sarah Kerley, to live rent-free in a mentally ill client's Glendale house for months. Kerley was married to Scott's brother at the time.

The client's daughter complained about the arrangement in court filings. As a result, Scott settled the case, agreeing to resign as conservator in favor of the daughter.

State officials said the third case cited in their denial was a San Bernardino County conservatorship that also involved the settlement of a legal complaint.

Scott said she did not believe the legal objections in the three cases would be counted as complaints when she filled out her license application in March 2008. In addition, she accused the state of allowing other conservators who filled out the application form in a similar fashion to make amendments.

The state's Professional Fiduciaries Bureau, which licenses professional conservators and guardians, added a precise definition of what constitutes a complaint to its application form after Scott filed hers.

But state officials said they told conservators on their website two weeks before Scott signed her application that legal objections should be counted as complaints.

Even before then, they said, applicants should have been aware of what would constitute a complaint.

"It's pretty clear," said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the bureau.

"The law said complaint, which is pretty darn broad. So any complaint of any sort would have qualified," he said.

Heimerich said no applicants were given the opportunity to amend their forms if they wrote that they had not resigned or settled a case.,0,5045218.story

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Grand jury foreman challenges county

By CONNIE KORBEL Of The Mendocino Beacon -
Updated: 02/12/2009 08:12:15 AM PST

"There is a philosophical difference between our office and the grand jury about how much money should be made available to them for their resources," said Mendocino County CEO Tom Mitchell. "We are limited in how much money we can provide. We gave them the same treatment as all other departments — we did not grant them full funding.

"Historically, they have spent more than budgeted. It is an ongoing problem and will continue to be until we have a resolution on the funding issue."

Mitchell reported that county counsel had had discussions with Superior Court Presiding Judge Cindee F. Mayfield.

Mitchell was addressing the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 27 regarding the ordinance amendment to the county code with regards to the grand jury. Compliance with Penal Code 914.5, that any expenditure exceeding the authorized budget must be approved in advance by the presiding judge of the Superior Court, was among the revisions being discussed.

The California Constitution requires that every county impanel a grand jury every year to ensure the interests of citizens are being served. Grand juries have broad powers to, among other things, investigate and report upon the conduct of local government at the county level and lower. The grand jury is the watchdog of local government.

On Jan. 27, Grand Jury Foreman Finley Williams read a prepared opening statement that explained his position on the grand jury budget, particularly in regards to mileage.

Williams projected needing three times the $15,000 budget for travel. Last year's mileage expense, factored in before gas prices escalated, was $31,958.

The revised ordinance states that grand jurors are reimbursed $25 for each full panel meeting; $10 for each committee meeting. The ordinance also states grand jurors who live more than 30 miles from the county seat who choose to stay in Ukiah overnight, can be reimbursed for lodging and food at the same rate as county employees.

The board approved the ordinance with a 3-2 vote, with Third District Supervisor Chairman John Pinches and Fifth District Supervisor David Colfax dissenting.

Williams' position was the budget needs to reflect and be determined by the miles traveled by the 19 jurors (the required number for this county), some of whom commute from remote sections of the county to Ukiah for meetings.

The make-up of jurors changes every year, which significantly alters the number of miles needed to be compensated from year to year. The 2008-09 jury has five members from the coast who travel the greatest distance.

Williams told the board the grand jury had advised the CEO's office several times before the budget was passed in September that the budget was inadequate. The budget process takes place before the jury is seated.

"It is illogical to think it would cost less with the same number of jurors. Some of our cost-saving strategies have worked well; some have not," said Williams. "The fundamental fact remains that travel costs are directly proportional to the success of the court in recruiting a representative panel of jurors."

Williams did the mileage math for five coast jurors, three from Willits and the remaining from the Ukiah area, restating that more money would be needed to complete this year's work and the county should bear these facts in mind in the future.

"This [budget] was doomed for failure before it started," said Williams.

Williams referred to Penal Code Section, Title 4, Grand Jury Proceedings, Section 914.5 and 931*, explaining it places the authority for grand jury spending in the hands of the presiding judge. This frustrated staff and supervisors responsible for an insufficient budget.

Chairman Pinches took the opportunity to chastise the grand jury for criticizing him for his mileage, which resulted in him returning about $3,500 to the county coffers last year. Pinches was still upset with the grand jury.

"There's a disconnect between conveying your concerns about the funds and having the funds materialize in the manner you're requesting," said Fourth District Supervisor Kendall Smith. "Every piece of paper that comes across my desk now, in one way or another, addresses an inadequacy of either staffing or funding. It is a challenge to absolutely digest all of it.

"The disconnect is that we've been asking department heads for years to do more with less. That is the constant mantra the board has given them. It's at a very excruciating painful level that we're asking everybody to do that."

Board members shared ideas they felt the grand jury could incorporate to get the job done with less money, approaching problems differently, ranging from fewer and/or longer meetings to fewer investigations.

"You have to adjust your workload or sphere of discussion to meet the constraints of the budget," said Supervisor Smith.

Williams pointed out that the all-volunteer jury has functioned with the same static level for 21 years and challenged them to identify any other department that had done the same. The county eliminated a quarter-time clerical position, the only paid staff support, assigned to the grand jury in the 2007-08 fiscal year. Members assumed the clerical duties as a new volunteer responsibility.

Until last year, the grand jury had spent less money than in 2004-05 budget year, although always exceeding their approved budget. In 2004-05 they were budgeted $85,893 and spent $107,070.

The next year they were budgeted $87,180 and spent $91,419. In 2006-07 they were budgeted $91,582 and spent $101,603.

In 2007-08, at an all-time high, they exceeded the $92,720 budget by spending $130,153.

This year's budget is $99,084.

"The grand jury is a state-mandated watchdog. To limit the grand jury's operations by use of the budget is something the state Legislature, in its wisdom, has said should not happen," said Williams. "It says the power of the purse will essentially not stop the grand jury from operating."

First District Supervisor John McCowen essentially paraphrased Supervisor Smith's concerns. Supervisor McCowen disclosed he is a former grand juror, having served about 20 years ago.

"I don't really get that you understand the budget situation at the county. We are in a very serious budget situation," said McCowen. "I object to the characterization that the efforts of the executive office to look for budget savings is in any way an effort to constrain the grand jury or limit its ability to investigate. That's not the point at all."

Mitchell was frustrated and he took exception to Williams labeling the grand jury as a "watchdog," a term that commonly appears on grand jury Websites up and down the state.

"We only have so much money to allocate to everybody; next year's budget is worse than this year," said Mitchell. "A watchdog infers we're doing something wrong. I'd like to get away from that kind of dialog. It's a negative term [which] in today's environment we should avoid.

"If they're granted additional money, it means one more county employee has the potential to be laid off or take MTO [mandatory time off]. You simply can't ignore the fact that there are not enough funds to support all levels of county government regardless of the needs. We are all having to operate in a different environment than we're used to," Mitchell said.

"I cannot have the attitude that people are just going to exceed their budgets. That is not appropriate; it causes me great consternation. We do not have sufficient funds to keep this [grand jury] budget going the way the grand jury would like to fund it," he said.

Williams stayed the course.

"I would be hesitant to put controls on what the grand jury can investigate and how many investigations should be done a year," Williams said. "The end result of putting fiscal restraints of the kind you're talking [about], on the grand jury, translates to potential control over the topics the grand jury looks at.

"I want the grand jury to be able to investigate anything it deems appropriate when it finds issues to investigate. Having an inadequate budget in travel means that topics that should be wouldn't be investigated.

"This is the use of the purse to control the outcome of an investigation. It starts with the control of the purse," Williams said.

* The 914.5 of the state penal code reads, verbatim: "The grand jury shall not spend money or incur obligations in excess of the amount budgeted for its investigative activities pursuant to this chapter by the county board of supervisors unless the proposed expenditure is approved in advance by the presiding judge of the superior court after the board of supervisors has been advised of the request."

Section 931 reads, "All expenses of the grand jurors incurred under this article shall be paid by the treasurer of the county out of the general fund upon warrants drawn by the county auditor upon the written order of the judge of the superior court of the county."

Grand Juries: Service to the Public

Advocate Staff
Updated: 02/12/2009 08:12:16 AM PST

The grand jury system, in existence in California since 1879, is governed by Title 4 of the California Penal Code, mandated by the California Constitution as part of the judicial branch and is an arm of the superior court judicial system.

A grand jury is an investigative body to detect and correct flaws in government; it is not a police agency or political group.

Grand juries monitor local finances to determine if the public's money is being handled judiciously, and that all accounts are properly audited. In general, they help assure honest, efficient government in the best interest of the people. A grand jury is not accountable to elected officials or government employees.

Members of the grand jury are collectively granted special powers and privileges to aid them in carrying out their duties. In an official capacity, they are permitted, with limited exceptions, access to and the right to inspect government facilities, and to review official books and records which other citizens are denied access. They may issue subpoenas when necessary.

While it is a part of the judicial system, a grand jury is an entirely independent body. The presiding judge of the Superior Court, the district attorney, county counsel, and the state attorney general all act as advisors, but cannot prevent the actions of the jury except on issues of legality.

The grand jury is an investigatory body empanelled for the protection of society with the authority and responsibility to act as a civil watchdog to conduct investigations on county, city, schools and special district government institutions. Almost any entity that receives public money can be examined.

The grand jury also has the power to accuse public officials of improper actions in the performance of official duties. If evidence warrants, the jury files formal charges.

Certain activities of the grand jury are mandated. The California Penal Code requires the grand jury to inspect the conditions and management of public prisons, jails and juvenile detention facilities within the county and to review county financial accounts and records.

The grand jury serves as an ombudsman for county citizens. They are free to select any areas of interest and government agencies they wish to study, as well as follow-up on private citizen complaints, which are kept strictly confidential. Many citizen complaint investigations are received through letters, phone calls and personal contact with jury members.

Most county grand juries in California do not consider criminal matters, although, by law, they are able to. The decision of whether or not to present criminal cases to the grand jury is made by the district attorney.

The grand jury is empowered to investigate situations wherever agencies or officers have acted improperly, but not cases where someone disagrees with an agency's or officer's actions or decisions. The grand jury may not investigate a private organization or company.

Jurors are sworn to not disclose the source of evidence obtained through any investigation. All grand jury business is conducted in secret — in closed session — and all information and discussions are considered highly confidential. The minutes of its meetings may not be inspected by anyone, nor can its records be subpoenaed.

Their work is kept strictly confidential except for the required final reports of their findings and recommendations at which time the final reports become public record and are available for public review.

The protection of whistleblowers is one of the primary reasons for the confidential nature of their work.

Other reasons are to protect the accused innocent who is exonerated from disclosure of the fact that he has been under investigation and from the expense of standing trial when there was probably no guilt, to ensure the utmost freedom to the jury in its deliberations, to prevent subordination of perjury or tampering with witnesses, to encourage free and untrammeled disclosures by persons who have information with respect to the commission of a crime, and to prevent the escape of those whose indictment may be contemplated.

The prime objective of the grand jury is to help improve the overall functioning of governmental entities. County government procedures, methods and systems are reviewed and evaluated to determine if more efficient (are the right things being done?), effective (are they getting results?), and economical (are they doing it in a cost-effective manner?) programs might be employed.

To accomplish this, jurors review the day-to-day operational aspects of a program, organization, or entity and report on their findings.

If a jury wishes to examine a subject a prior jury was looking at, it must initiate its own investigation and independently verify all information. It may use information obtained from the prior jury but the information must be verified before it can be used by the current jury. Upon completing its investigation, the jury may, but is not required, to issue a report detailing its findings and recommendations.

The grand jury is required to publish a minimum of one report containing a minimum of one finding and one recommendation. The published reports are the only public record of the grand jury's work. Each published report includes a list of those public entities required or requested to respond. The format of the responses is dictated by California Penal Code Section 933.05, as is the time span in which they must respond.

Citizens volunteer to serve on the grand jury. From the pool of applications, 19 are selected by the Superior Court judge to make up a grand jury and act as an arm of the court. Jurors serve for a period of one year. The California Penal Code, Sections 888 to 940, governs jurors. Every county in California has at least one grand jury, and in some cases, larger counties have more.

Authority for the grand jury system is found in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and in Article 1, Section 23 of the California Constitution, which state: Article 1, Section 23 "... One or more grand juries shall be drawn and summoned once a year in each county."

Grand jurors generally serve for one year and are usually empanelled in the first week of the fiscal or calendar year to coincide with the county's budget year. Up to 10 jurors may be held over for a second term.

Statutory requirements

Legal references related to grand jury budgets and expenditures include:

Penal Code Section 914.5:

"The grand jury shall not spend money or incur obligations in excess of the amount budgeted for its investigative activities by the Board of Supervisors unless the proposed expenditure is approved in advance by the presiding judge of the superior court after the Board of Supervisors has been advised of the request."

Penal Code Section 925:

"The grand jury shall investigate and report on the operations, accounts and records of officers, departments or functions of the county including those operations, accounts, and records of any special legislative district or other district in the county created pursuant to state law for which the officers of the county are serving in their ex officio capacity as officers of the districts.

"The investigations may be conducted on some selective basis each year, but the grand jury shall not duplicate any examination of financial statements which has been performed by or for the Board of Supervisors pursuant to Government Code Section 25250. This provision shall not be construed to limit the power of the grand jury to investigate and report on the operations, accounts, and records of the officers, departments, or functions of the county. The grand jury may enter into a joint contract with the Board of Supervisors to employ the services of an expert as provided in Section 926."

Government Code 25250:

"At least biennially, the Board of Supervisors shall examine and audit or cause to be audited the financial accounts and records of all officers having responsibility for the care, management, collection, or disbursement of money belonging to the county or money received or disbursed by them under authority of law. The audit shall encompass the immediately preceding two-year period, or any portion thereof not included in a prior audit ...."

Penal Code Section 926:

"... The grand jury may employ one or more experts, at an agreed compensation, to be first approved by the court," for the purposes of its investigation under sections 925 (county accounts and operations), 925a (books, records and operations of city and joint powers agency), 928 (needs of county officers), 933.1 (books, records and operations of redevelopment agency, housing authority, joint powers agency), and 933.5 (books, records and operations of special purpose assessing or taxing district, i.e. special district or commission).

The expenditures for investigations under Penal Code Section 933.5 shall not exceed $30,000 annually, unless approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Penal Code Section 926:

"Any contract entered into by a grand jury pursuant to this section may include services to be performed after the discharge of the grand jury, but in no event may a jury contract for services be performed later than 6 months after the end of the fiscal year during which the jury was impaneled.

"Any contract entered into by a grand jury pursuant to this section shall stipulate that the product of the contract shall be delivered on or before a time certain to the then current grand jury ... for such use as that jury finds appropriate to its adopted objectives."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SLO Grand Jury Commends DA's Office

By TPR Staff

The 2008-09 San Luis Obispo County grand jury recently released its first report of the year, commending changes made at the District Attorney’s Office after a 2002 fatal traffic accident in Grover Beach.

In 2002, Ken Freitas, the son of Frank Freitas, county tax collector, hit a 17-year-old Grover Beach girl with his SUV as she was crossing West Grand Avenue in a crosswalk. The girl later died of her injuries.

After investigating the accident, Grover police forwarded the case to the District Attorney’s Office to consider charging Freitas with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

The case sat at the District Attorney’s Office for seven months and was then sent to the Attorney General’s Office because of a potential conflict of interest. The attorney general declined to prosecute and the case was sent back to San Luis Obispo.

Freitas was charged by the District Attorney’s Office with vehicular manslaughter for the teen’s death two days before the statute of limitations for prosecuting the case expired.

In August 2003, the newly formed 2003-04 grand jury received 704 requests to investigate the district attorney’s handling of the Freitas case.

As a result of the grand jury’s investigation, District Attorney Gerald Shea developed a case management tool called “Pending Cases Report,” which is reviewed monthly by the chief deputy and assistant district attorneys to determine the status of all pending cases.

Shea also issued new protocols and procedures for vehicular manslaughter cases and other cases involving a fatality, as well as cases that may have potential conflicts of interest.

In its report, the 2008-09 grand jury “applauds the district attorney for not only recognizing a problem and acting on it but for also continuing to implement the remedies he developed.

“The district attorney took immediate steps to enhance case-tracking systems already in place and create new procedures.”

No responses to the report are required.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Supervisors heed Grand Jury's report

For the Times-Standard
Posted: 02/06/2009 01:27:16 AM PST

One indispensable element of good government is holding elected and appointed officials accountable for their job performance. In the case of elected officials, the voters have the opportunity to evaluate each official's performance and hold him or her accountable when up for re-election. But for appointed officials, this must be done by those in charge of government operations.

In its 2008 year-end report, the Grand Jury of Humboldt County found that the Board of Supervisors had no policy for conducting regular and timely job performance evaluations of appointed county department heads. Based on this and related information, the Grand Jury made three specific recommendations to remedy this situation. (The full report can be found at

These recommendation affect the following positions: Agricultural commissioner and sealer of weights and measures, chief probation officer, child support services director, community development services director, conflict counsel, cooperative extension director, county administrative officer, county counsel, health and human services director, library services director, personnel director, public defender, and, public works director.

Prior to the Grand Jury's report, the only time most appointed official's were “evaluated” was at a time of crisis when an individual was called before the Board of Supervisors and reprimanded in closed session, or when one was given a commendation in open session for commendable service. With no formal mechanism in place for regular and timely evaluations, there are missed opportunities to build trust, establish common goals, make necessary course corrections along the way, and commend and encourage department leaders. One time-tested way to provide this opportunity is with the use of formal, annual written evaluations, as contained in the Grand Jury's recommendations.

It is pleasing to note that when this situation was brought to the Board of Supervisors for response, as required by state law, board members took the matter seriously and responded positively. They agreed with all three of findings of the Grand Jury and stated their intentions to establish the necessary policies and procedures to accomplish the Grand Jury's recommendations. This Grand Jury report and its consequences will be a benefit to all parties concerned, the board, the appointed officials, and the citizens of this county as it serves to improve county government in the years to come.


Phil Minor, past president -- California Grand Jurors Association -- Humboldt County Chapter, and a three term member of the Humboldt County Grand Jury, resides in Eureka.

Deputy in jail death case leaves OC sheriff's

The Associated Press
Posted: 02/06/2009 08:36:06 PM PST

ORANGE, Calif.—The veteran sheriff's deputy on duty when an inmate was stomped to death by other prisoners at an Orange County jail has left the Sheriff's Department.

After 10 months on paid leave, Deputy Kevin Taylor's last day was Wednesday. The department's disciplinary records are private so it was not clear if he resigned or was fired.

Taylor is the eighth sheriff's employee to leave the department amid a grand jury investigation into the 2006 death.

A grand jury investigation found that John Derek Chamberlain, 41, was beaten to death while Taylor watched television nearby. Taylor was not charged.

Suspects in the killing told investigators that Taylor and another deputy ordered them to attack Chamberlain because the deputies labeled him a child molester. Chamberlain was awaiting trial on possessing child pornography.


Information from: The Orange County Register,

Grand Jury Indicts Ten Defendants in Widespread Home Foreclosure Rescue Scam

Grand Jury Indicts Ten Defendants in Widespread Home Foreclosure Rescue Scam

Ten people have been indicted by the Grand Jury on a huge real estate fraud scheme that stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from victims. The scam was discovered last summer after the suspects victimized some 400 homeowners

The defendants preyed on mostly non-English speaking, Hispanic homeowners who were in foreclosure, claiming to offer assistance through a land grant. The defendants used the business names of Federal Land Grant Company; Land Grant Services; and KBS Resources.

Arraigned in Superior Court today on charges of conspiracy, grand theft, and deceitful practices as foreclosure consultants were William Hutchings, Xiaoke Li, both of San Diego; Edgar Martinez, Diego Gil, Shawna Landis, of Sorrento Valley, Octavio Escatel, Joel E. Garcia, Stephen P. Mauer, Rose M. Napoli, and Alex Olmos, 39. If convicted, the defendants face from three to 25 or more years in prison.

Two methods were used for inducing owners of residences in foreclosure to participate in a so-called land grant program. One method required homeowners to pay a one-time fee of up to $10,000 to put their property in a land grant. The second method was a lease back scheme. In both scenarios, the homeowner was typically evicted from their property at the completion of foreclosure proceedings and retained no legally recognized title to their property.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Grand Jury Report: County Jail populations declining

By Jennifer Squires
Posted: 02/04/2009 01:30:54 AM PST

SANTA CRUZ -- While jail and prison populations balloon statewide and across the nation, county jail facilities have reduced overcrowding in the past few years, according to the county's annual grand jury report.

The report, which takes a look at jail facilities each year, applauded efforts by the Sheriff's Office and its partners in the criminal justice system for making adjustments in how inmates are screened, housed and supervised to reduce overcrowding at county incarceration centers.

The average monthly population at County Jail on Water Street in Santa Cruz fell 15 percent between 2004 and 2007, according to the report. Current statistics indicate that number continues to decline.

Sheriff-Coroner Steve Robbins, whose agency administers the local jail system, said the population reduction at County Jail -- regularly the most-crowded of the five inmate holding areas in the county -- has been a deliberate effort for the past half-decade so the county could avoid federally decreed population caps.

"The great thing is we're making strides to stay ahead of the curve," Robbins said.

The report lists figures from the first six months of 2007, when the average monthly population there was 358 inmates, a significant decline from 2004 when the average population was 408 and a far cry from the 450-plus inmates that were housed in the facility a decade ago.

According to County Jail statistics Tuesday, the population was 299 inmates, below the state-rated capacity of 311.

To keep a handle on jail population, the Sheriff's Office established a Jail Overcrowding Committee that meets quarterly to discuss concerns. The committee -- comprised of representatives from law enforcement, the judiciary, the District Attorney's Office, the Probation Department, the Public Defenders Office, the county Board of Supervisors and other agencies -- developed a set of strategies to reduce overcrowding.

Among those was implementation of a new classification system that screens inmates to determine whom might be better-suited for a work release or GPS monitoring program.

"Obviously, we want to keep the more violent people incarcerated," Robbins said.

The focus on reducing overcrowding is two-fold, Robbins said. Overcrowding strains jail staff and resources, making it more difficult to manage the facility and administer programs, such as counseling, medical care and educational opportunities. Also, in the long term, habitual overcrowding issues can led to government-imposed population caps -- meaning some inmates would have to be released if the jail population hit a set figure.

Robbins said county jail facilities have managed to avoid that fate, though other counties in California have not.

"For those communities, it's a public safety concern for them," Robbins said.

Jail population

Go online to find out how many people are incarcerated in county jail facilities at any time:
Visit and click on 'Corrections.' Then select 'Jail Population Report."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Grand jury praises SLO D.A.’s actions in 2002 fatal Grover Beach case involving Freitas

Gerald Shea and his office changed procedures in response to delay in prosecution of 2002 case
Bob Cuddy -

The county civil grand jury has applauded District Attorney Gerald Shea’s office for instituting changes after Kenneth Freitas struck and killed Sarah Scruggs in Grover Beach in 2002.

As part of its activities, the citizen panel reviews how well recommendations of previous years’ grand juries have been handled. In this case, it was looking into suggestions the 2003-04 grand jury made in the wake of the tragic traffic death.

Freitas was convicted of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for fatally striking 17-year-old Scruggs at the intersection of West Grand Avenue and Fifth Street.

But the trial and conviction took close to a year to get under way. Some charged that was because employees of the county District Attorney’s Office were professionally close to Frank Freitas, the county treasurer-tax collector and Kenneth Freitas’ father.

The grand jury conducted its inquiry after more than 700 people, including Scruggs’ family, demanded an investigation of the District Attorney’s Office handling of the case.

It was not until the investigation began that the District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Freitas.

At the time, Freitas had 24 prior traffic citations — 13 for speeding — and two reckless driving convictions.

Following the incident, Shea’s office instituted a system of requiring monthly status reviews of all pending cases.

It shares this information — called the Pending Cases Report — with the county’s victim witness division.

Shea’s office also has developed new ways to keep track of vehicular manslaughter cases and other cases involving a fatality, grand jurors wrote in their report.

They also praised Shea’s office for issuing a memo that would help deputy district attorneys identify potential conflicts of interest early in a case.

“The communication between the district attorney, the victim witness division, and victims’ families has been improved,” the grand jury wrote.