Monday, May 31, 2010

Santa Clara Grand Jury Calls for Employee Sacrifices

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KCBS) -- All 15 cities in Santa Clara County need to do a better job in reining in employee costs according to a new report issued by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.

The 13 recommendations include doing a better job of controlling employee costs, as well as requiring city employees to pay part of their own medical premiums.

”I agree with almost everything the Grand Jury had to say,” said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. “I hope that this becomes the basis for some reform measures that need to be taken by everybody.”

Jody Meacham with the South Bay Labor Council had a different take on the findings.

”We’re in favor of cities looking at ways to save money, but we’re not in favor of cities taking away the financial security of workers who have given their careers to providing services to city residents,” said Meacham.

The Labor Council also opposes a two-tier wage and benefits system recommended in the report.


San Mateo Fire consolidation could save costs, grand jury says

By Shaun Bishop

Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 05/26/2010 10:01:13 PM PDT
Updated: 05/27/2010 12:29:21 AM PDT

Cities in San Mateo County that still run their own fire departments should consider consolidating with neighboring jurisdictions or contracting with the state to reduce costs, according to a civil grand jury report released Wednesday.

The eight-page report found that spreading fire service over a larger population tends to reduce administrative costs and lower per capita expense.

"You can clearly consolidate without reducing the level of service to the residents of the cities and save quite a lot of money," said Bill Blodgett, the grand jury foreman. "The fact is, you don't need the same type of overhead structure in every community up and down San Mateo County."

The grand jury concluded that Peninsula agencies with their own fire service should complete a study by July 2011 exploring potential consolidations with nearby departments or contracting with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

Those include the cities of San Bruno, Millbrae, Foster City, San Mateo and Redwood City, and the Woodside and Colma fire protection districts.

The report was released at a time when consolidation of public safety services is a hot topic on the Peninsula.

San Carlos has particularly drawn attention as it considers outsourcing police and fire services and talks consolidation with other agencies, including Redwood City, San Mateo and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

In a nod to the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department's tussle over sharing costs between the cities, the grand jury said any consolidation agreement should come with a dispute resolution provision. San Carlos recently began the process of dissolving the joint department.

"It makes complete sense," agreed San Carlos Council Member Andy Klein, who sits on the fire board made up of two council members from each city. "We have a four-member board and there's a reason elected bodies are usually odd numbers. If one side doesn't feel like doing something, it doesn't get done."

The grand jury said consolidation can help reduce personnel costs, which it noted have been increasing and straining city budgets, in part due to labor contracts negotiated in better times that are "no longer sustainable in today's economic environment."

The Woodside Fire Protection District, which covers only 16,000 residents, had the highest per capita personnel cost at $796, according to the report. The lowest per capita cost was rung up by the Coastside Fire Protection District, which contracts with Cal Fire — $132.49 for each of the 40,000 residents served.

Contracting with Cal Fire could provide savings because the statewide organization tends to have lower salary, health insurance and pension costs, the grand jury said.

Redwood City City Council Member Barbara Pierce said she would be open to getting more information about a potential consolidation with a neighboring city, though she would want to get feedback from employees and the community on the idea.

"I think certainly it's in an environment like this that we start to look at doing business differently," Pierce said.

E-mail Shaun Bishop at

San Diego Uptown nonprofit spending at issue

Grand jury report cites high expenses


Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 12:05 a.m.

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council will have a grand jury report to consider this summer when it decides whether to renew a contract with the nonprofit that manages money from parking meters in the city’s Uptown area.

The county grand jury in a report released this week found Uptown Partnership had spent three times more on operating expenses, $3.2 million, than on projects, $1.1 million, since incorporating in 1999. The grand jury had been investigating an allegation of mismanagement by the nonprofit that serves Bankers Hill, Hillcrest, Mission Hills and surrounding communities.

Jury forewoman Victoria Stubblefield said the nonprofit has created only 20 new parking spaces. Carol Schultz, Uptown Partnership’s executive director, said it has produced twice that many and is planning to add as many as 90 more and make other improvements after extensive discussions with people in the neighborhoods it serves.

Schultz said past projects have been slowed by the process of getting the city involved.

“We don’t do projects independently,” Schultz said.

Also, Uptown Partnership submits monthly expenses to get reimbursed from the city “and there’s never been any issue of fiscal mismanagement,” she said.

Still, the grand jury is recommending the city review its contract with Uptown Partnership, consider directing Uptown parking district revenues to the city’s ailing general fund and determine whether to continue the parking district, one of six in the city.

Uptown receives 45 percent of the $1.9 million generated annually by parking meters in the area. The city takes the balance and uses it for parking and traffic programs.

The grand jury’s recommendations were met with mixed reaction, even from critics of Uptown Partnership.

Leo Wilson, chairman of Uptown Planners and Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association, said Uptown Partnership should “be abolished or reformed,” but he does not think money from meters should go to the city’s general fund.

“There’s still need for a parking district but only if its run by a voluntary board and all the money is used for hard projects,” Wilson said.

Since 1999, Uptown Partnership has received $8.6 million and spent $3.2 million on salaries and other overhead and $1.1 million on planning, consultants and projects.

Uptown Partnership is proposing to use its reserve funds, more than $4 million, on 31 projects next fiscal year. The City Council is to vote on its budget proposal in June or July.

The City Council and Mayor Jerry Sanders have until Aug. 23 to comment on the grand jury’s findings and recommendations. A spokesman for Sanders said he is reviewing the reports and recommendations.

Leonel Sanchez: (619) 542-4568;

Grand Jury report details problems at First 5 Contra Costa

The Contra Costa Grand Jury has released its report of the First 5 Contra Costa a local commission created by Rob Reiner’s Prop 10 the California Children and Families Initiative, which created First 5 California, a program of early childhood development services, funded by a tax on tobacco products. The report concludes the investigation of numerous complaints of alleged Board of Commissioners’ self-dealing, conflicts of interest, misappropriation of funds in the awarding of contracts, general dereliction of fiduciary duties, and unethical conduct.

In addition, complaints alleged illegal or inappropriate employment practices, including discrimination, manager bias and favoritism, sexual harassment and the cover-up of such behavior. Due to the number and nature of the complaints, the Grand Jury conducted an investigation.

The Grand Jury recommendations include:

1. The Board of Supervisors shall appoint commissioners not affiliated with agencies most likely to be awarded significant funding, thereby minimizing perceptions of impropriety.

2. First 5 Commissioners having financial interests in contracts before the Board of Commissioners shall recuse and physically remove themselves from meetings while the contracts are being considered.

3. First 5 Commission shall select a new independent auditor through a competitive bid process.

4. First 5 Commission shall provide annual training to all employees on Employee Handbook procedures and provisions.

5. The Board of Supervisors shall pursue inclusion of the First 5 Commission as a unit of County government.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mendocino Grand jury: Commercial pot grows an environmental danger

By The Willits News staff
Posted: 05/26/2010 11:03:56 AM PDT

Large-scale commercial marijuana growing isn't only a problem for law enforcement officials, according to the Mendocino County grand jury, but an environmental threat that can hit every county resident where it hurts most in their wallets especially during years of scant rainfall.

The grand jury became aware of the problem while looking into ways to improve the organization and management of county water resources following three years of below-average rainfall.

What jurors discovered was "significant illegal use, diversion, and pollution of the existing watershed at marijuana garden sites."

To reach those conclusions, grand jurors interviewed elected officials and employees of the county, the cities of Willits and Ukiah, and representatives of various water districts and jurisdictions. Jurors also "attended public hearings, committee meetings, and reviewed public reports, statistics and photographic evidence concerning the county and the Russian River watershed."

The investigation began after the grand jury learned water was being illegally diverted from irrigation canals in Potter Valley during the 2009 water shortage, to be transported and sold in other county areas. Citizens had notified the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office that tanker trucks were filling up at Potter Valley irrigation canals under cover of darkness.

The grand jury also obtained photographic evidence taken during the 2009 growing season that showed water being diverted from creeks to irrigate illegal marijuana garden sites.

Over the past two years the number of citizen reports/complaints to law enforcement regarding environmental issues related to illegal marijuana farming in the county has increased, the grand jury says.

During an October 2009 forum in Willits, a sheriff's office spokesperson reported the department had seized 362,000 during the year an estimated 10 percent of what was being grown illegally in the county that season. Using a conservative estimate of one gallon of water per plant per day, the grand jury placed illegal water consumption at 3.6 million gallons per day, or about 11 acre feet.

At the time of the investigation, the grand jury noted, many county residents were subject to "significant water rationing," and "water for both residential and agricultural use was at a critically low stage."

Water released from Coyote Dam at Lake Mendocino was being restricted during the summer to maintain sufficient flow to protect fall fish habitat.

Animal carcasses, human garbage, human waste, herbicides and animal poisons have been found at the diversion sites, the grand jury says, and photographic evidence shows river water being polluted by highly toxic compounds used as fertilizer and pesticides by growers, who dilute them by mixing them with water in dammed areas of streambeds. Possession and use of many of these chemicals are banned In the United States, the grand jury notes.

In some cases, streams have been diverted, others have carried toxins downstream to rivers and lakes, devastating bird and aquatic life, and posing a threat to human habitat.

The grand jury report also charges illegal marijuana growers have been responsible for clear-cutting and clearing vegetation, and terracing slopes, contributing to soil erosion that damages county watersheds.

Firearms and boobytraps have been found at illegal grow sites, the jury adds, and federal inspectors and law enforcement officers have been injured in the process of cleaning up the garden sites.

Federal employees told jurors "Illegal grows of marijuana have left portions of public land off-limits," and people have been shot and killed at these sites.

After police eradicate the crop, the materials used at remote sites are often left in place due to the difficulty and cost of removal, the grand jury report notes, and are often reused by new growers.

The Bureau of Land Management has used California Conservation Corps personnel to clean up illegal sites.

The report urges citizens to report any suspected illegal use of water to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office using the department's tip line: 467-9159. It also recommends the sheriff's office serve as the lead agency to coordinate investigations and responses of water-related crimes.

The report also recommends the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office "rigorously prosecute water-related crimes," and "charge growers, found in control of illegal sites, with the cost of site cleanup."

Asset forfeiture funds should be used to institute a program to clean up illegal sites, remove toxins, open the natural water flow, and dispose of material used at the site, such as plastic pipe, water storage containers, and plastic sheeting, the report recommends.

"Access and unregulated illegal use of water resources in Mendocino County impact all of us," the report concludes. "Illegal water diversion resulted in the conversion of approximately 3.6 million gallons of water per day for irrigation of illegal [marijuana] crops in the county, while legitimate water-users were being rationed to 50 percent of normal use."

The report also deplored the "irresponsible destruction of the environment," resulting in pollution, damage to the watershed, loss of water source, toxic chemicals being carried downstream to rivers and lakes, the destruction of bird and aquatic life, and the loss of land use by the public, resulting "in [the] long-term degradation of the natural environment."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

O.C. Grand Jury criticizes Santa Ana council over transportation contract

A report says the bulk of a $4.85-million consulting agreement for a streetcar project went to a firm that experts had rated the least qualified of all the bidders.
By Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times

May 25, 2010

The Orange County Grand Jury harshly criticized Santa Ana's City Council for awarding a transportation contract in a process that was "fraught with political and administrative inconsistencies," according to a report released Monday.

The contract with Cordoba Corp. was to help launch a streetcar project that would be the largest transportation endeavor in the city's history. According to the report, the bulk of a $4.85-million consulting agreement was awarded to a firm that experts had rated the least qualified of all the bidders.

According to the report, "elected officials set aside their own procedures, overruled the findings of an expert panel and ignored Santa Ana city staff recommendations regarding the best-qualified applicant."

In a statement, city officials strongly disputed the findings and said the grand jury report was "filled with inaccuracies."

"The reality is that this transit project is on schedule, under budget and successfully moving forward," City Manager David N. Ream said.

The project stems from a grant program created by the Orange County Transportation Authority to fund local transportation projects.

In 2008, Santa Ana called for proposals to study a streetcar project. Three consulting firms submitted proposals and a panel established by the city found that all three firms met the qualifications but rated Cordoba Corp. as the least qualified.

According to the report, before the city made its selection, two unnamed City Council members met with the chosen firm's president at a local restaurant to discuss the project.

Later, three council members, including Mayor Miguel Pulido, Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez and Councilman Vincent Sarmiento, held a meeting to evaluate the firms, but no minutes of the meeting were taken and no record of public discussion or input was made.

Pulido said the meeting was publicly noticed and that media were present. Minutes were not taken because no decisions were made, he said.

Ultimately, the council approved a $4.85-million contract for the project, with 75% of the contract going to Cordoba Corp. and its design partner URS Corp.

The grand jury recommended the city revise its guidelines and tighten procedures for awarding such contracts in the future and that the transportation authority provide stronger oversight for similar local transportation projects.

In the response issued by the city, City Atty. Joe Fletcher also criticized the report. "Despite innuendo to the contrary, the report contains no evidence of illegal or unethical conduct and often relies upon misstatements of legal standards and misinterpretation of applicable statutes," he said.,0,4885311.story

Monday, May 24, 2010

Orange County Grand Jury: Give crime lab back to sheriff

he Orange County Grand Jury today recommended that the crime lab revert back to the authority of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

Because of political infighting, the countywide crime lab was placed in October 2008 into the hands of Hutchens, District Attorney Tony Rackaukas and county chief Tom Mauk. The structure was to be reviewed in a year and, according to today’s grand jury report, was seen as temporary.

However, the report — entitled “DNA: Whose is it? Orange County Crime Lab’s or the District Attorney’s” — gave no reason why Hutchen’s office should again be given sole authority over the countywide lab.

Rackauckas’ office, in its own 22-page report issued this morning, said the cooperation between the agencies is what has put Orange County at the forefront of forensic crime fighting.

The grand jury was unable to obtain enough financial information to determine whether separate DNA operations run by the county lab and Rackauckas were cost efficient. But the panel found the two operations were not redundant.

The county lab processes crime scene, felony DNA that is then matched with state and federal databases. Rackauckas, by offering plea deals, collects DNA from low-level, first-time misdemeanor defendants for his own local database. These samples, processed through a private lab, are not eligible to be entered in the state or federal databases.

Rackauckas has collected at least 22,000 samples as of March, resulting in 3 hits. The grand jury recommended that an internal audit be done of the district attorney’s operation and how much it would cost to have the county crime lab take over processing efforts. An analysis should also look at the revenue generating aspect of Rackaukas’ local database, the grand jury concluded.

The Watchdog is trying to reach the sheriff’s office to get its view.

And we’re combing through the DA’s report for more details. Stay tuned.

Orange County Grand jury urges more anti-obesity funding

Orange County should spend more money to combat childhood obesity and do a better job involving parents, says a grand jury report released Monday.

"Unless the county acts expeditiously, little or no improvement can be expected in efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic," wrote the Orange County grand jury.

The report says the Health Care Agency's effort to address childhood obesity through $6.6 million in state, federal and private grants doesn't go far enough. The report recommends that the county give funds for obesity prevention to the agency.

"By depending almost entirely on grants (which are not guaranteed), Orange County in effect gives low priority to reducing childhood obesity," the report says.

Deanne Thompson, spokeswoman for the Health Care Agency, said officials are reviewing the report and will respond to the findings.

"The Health Care Agency is committed to reducing the incidence of childhood obesity in Orange County, and to that end we partner with the community to offer a variety of nutrition and education programs that aim to promote fruit and vegetable consumption as well as physical activity," Thompson wrote in an e-mail.

Grand jurors praised a parent workshop on nutrition and physical activity that was organized by the agency's family health division, but said more needs to be done to educate parents.

The report also says the county should do a better job coordinating efforts with schools, hospitals and other groups addressing childhood obesity. It recommends that the county develop a comprehensive plan for tackling the problem.

The report points out that obesity harms the region's economy. A 2009 study found Orange County ranked second in the state to Los Angeles in the economic costs of obesity, which amount to $3.3 billion a year in Orange County.

To read the report, visit

Contact the writer: 714-796-3686 or

Saturday, May 22, 2010

San Luis Obispo County Grand jury: Search and Rescue should be allowed to raise funds

The San Luis Obispo County grand jury has concluded that the county's Search and Rescue teams should be allowed to hold fundraisers to equip its volunteers if the county can't pay for the equipment.

In a report released last week, the grand jury said SAR members receive no payment for their services and also have to pay for their equipment, uniforms and the cost of the training. Because of the specialized nature of the various SAR teams, such as mountain bike, canine or medical teams, equipment can get expensive fast.

The SLO County Sheriff's Department, which organizes the SAR team, provides mileage reimbursement. The county's 2010 budget allots $35,277 to the sheriff's department to divide between SAR, the Dive Team and the Sheriff's Posse. But the Sheriff's Department does not allow fundraising unless a specific need has been identified and permission has been granted by management.

Further, the grand jury report states, management has said that SAR funding requests have been met by the sheriff's department and they are unaware of any unmet needs.

But in addition to SAR members having to buy their own uniforms, equipment and training, the unit currently has no four-wheel-drive vehicle for use by the Sheriff's liaison for off-road situations or towing equipment.

According to the report, the Sheriff's Department provides funds when available from special sources such as off-highway motor fines for the purchase of items such as all-terrain vehicles, radios, trucks and equipment trailers. Funding is approved based on priorities identified within the Sheriff's auxiliary units, but this funding is no longer assured due to recent budget cuts...

Sacramento County Grand Jury calls school district’s unpaid health benefits a ‘fiscal time bomb’

By Cody Kitaura - Citizen Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, May 13, 2010 5:02 PM PDT
The Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD) and most other districts in the Sacramento area lack funding to pay millions of dollars in retiree health benefit costs and aren’t setting aside money to do so, the Sacramento County Grand Jury claimed in a report issued this week.

The district owes $33 million in retiree health benefit costs and is paying on a year-to-year basis, while its retiree trust fund owes $214 million, the report states.

Grand Jury Foreperson Rosemary Kelley said many Sacramento County school districts signed retiree benefit contracts during better times and are now suffering.

“Unfortunately, most of the districts never actually set aside any money to pay these benefits, believing that their general funds each year would be sufficient to pay the obligations,” Kelley wrote in the May 10 report, which says the county’s 13 districts and office of education are largely ignoring the issue of how they will pay for these benefits in the future.

EGUSD is one of only three groups named in the report that provide lifetime benefits. It only pays direct health benefit costs for employees who retired before July 1, 2000 – a group of 412 retirees that will decrease over time, EGUSD spokesperson Elizabeth Graswich said.

The amount the district pays on that $33 million debt is “reviewed each year,” according to a district statement quoted in the report. The report goes on to criticize that approach.

“The problem with pay-as-you-go is that districts may not have sufficient funds to pay the current year’s retiree health benefits and also pay for necessary school programs,” the report states.

More recent EGUSD retirees’ health benefits are funded by the Elk Grove Benefit Employee Retirement Trust, a separate group with its own board of directors.

There are currently 755 retirees in that group, Graswich said, noting that both retiree groups receive identical benefits. She said the trust fund’s budget comes from employee contributions, and added that in July, retirees will start paying into the fund. Its current expenditures total about $7 million, she said.

EGUSD is far from the only district criticized by the report. The Sacramento City Unified School District has an annual budget of $366 million, and owes $560 million in retiree health benefits. Collectively, Sacramento County school districts have almost $1 billion in un-funded health benefit costs, which the report says could spell disaster.

“School districts have promised benefits that may not be paid or that can ultimately bankrupt the district, especially during the current economic climate,” the report states.

Among the recommendations in the report is to “reduce benefits or increase contributions.”

That topic will be part of the ongoing contract negotiations between Elk Grove’s teacher and education unions and the district.

The report also states many school board members are elected for short terms and aren’t knowledgeable on this issue – a claim Elk Grove school board president Jeanette Amavisca disputes.

“That probably holds true for a lot of boards, but not our board,” Amavisca said. “We’re very much aware of it.”

Amavisca, who has served 28 years on the board, said while she hadn’t had time to fully digest the Grand Jury report, the issue of funding retiree benefits has been discussed for “several years.”

EGUSD Superintendent Dr. Steven Ladd could not be reached by press time. The district is required by law to respond in writing to the report by Aug. 9.

San Francisco Grand Jury Everyone Hates Cyclists, Cyclists Hate Everyone

​On the eve of Bike to Work day, the city put out an analysis codifying what we already knew: Drivers hate cyclists; cyclists hate drivers; cops hate cyclists; and cyclists hate cops -- though they may be somewhat conflicted about how they feel regarding cops on bicycles.

Okay, not the last one. But the Civil Grand Jury's report on the city's implementation of its bicycle master plan reveals that the one thing motorists, authorities, and cyclists seem to be able to agree on is how much they detest each other. This, as you could imagine, is a hurdle toward implementing said plan.

From the report:

It appears from review of the literature and comments from interviews that the jury conducted, that motorists see cyclists as arrogant, dangerous, despised, erratic/unpredictable, inconvenient, irresponsible, and vulnerable. Cyclists are viewed by many non-cyclists as not paying their fair share. Cyclists see motorists as an impediment,selfish, materialistic, causing world havoc with financial systems and the environment.Cyclists embrace riding because it is good for the environment, the economy (including theirs) and the exercise. Cyclists love freedom and the lack of any fees or fines. Some police comment that the potential of complaints from cyclists makes them reluctant to cite cyclists for violations. Many bicycle community members view the police as biased against cyclists, and believe the police need to uphold the law fairly.

The methodology the civil grand jury used to come to those conclusions is both fascinating and -- in a first for any grand jury report we've seen -- laugh-out-loud funny.

In establishing a citywide tone of rancor and disrespect, the report cites a 2009 article by the New York Times' Scott James in which he documented cyclists self-righteously blowing stop signs and ignoring traffic laws -- and, in doing so, became Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of some bike-riders. "Just try to talk about obeying traffic laws, and suddenly the loveliest ecofriendly riders are instantly transformed into venom-spewing bike bullies. I was warned several times not to write about this or risk being publicly vilified as an enemy of the bike world," notes James' story.

The titles of anti-cyclist letters published in local papers grow hilarious when repeated one after the other (particularly in your best 1950s announcer voice). A few of our favorites: Don't Run Me Down; Out of Control; Bike Arrogance; I'm a Bike Victim; Bicycles are Dangerous; and Watch Out, Angry Cyclist.

Cyclists and cycling organizations, for their part, complain of apoplectic drivers and accuse the San Francisco Police Department of holding a "bias" against two-wheelers. The Grand Jury obtained all the complaints filed against cops with the Office of Citizens Complaints between 2008 and 2009 -- there were 42 of them. That's not an insignificant total.

Intriguingly, the cops were found to have acted improperly in only three of those cases -- only 7.1 percent. Cops interviewed for the report claimed that 1 percent of complaints made against them are from motorists; 20 to 30 percent emanate from cyclists. "Officers commented that the potential for complaints from cyclists makes them reluctant
to cite cyclists." Finally, for all the talk of bias, less than 1 percent of all moving violations recorded in San Francisco last year went to non-automobiles.

Your takeaway: Loathing- and complaint-based government is not the way to go.

In short, the city can never become a cycling utopia with this level of rancor and stereotyping out there. The grand jury follows with 30 pages worth of sober analysis and a bevy of recommendations that, if followed to the letter, would probably result in Mideast peace. Here are a few:

* Increased education outreach to cyclists; increased training for police;

* All users of the roadways must follow the law. Drivers and cyclists are encouraged to "self-enforce" (!);

* Since there is no "bicycle" box on the ticket form, many citations are dismissed due to technicalities -- a loophole the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is all to happy to inform its membership how to exploit. This loophole should be closed, and the SFBC should stop playing games;

* Traffic Court should establish a traffic school program specifically for bike-riders;

* The city should find a way to document and punish the transgressions of serial scofflaw cyclists

San Diego County Grand jury recommends services for foster kids

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.

NORTH COUNTY: More than one-quarter of the beds for foster children at the San Pasqual Academy are empty and county agencies need to do a better job sharing information and encouraging at-risk children to enroll at the center, according to a San Diego County grand jury report issued last week.

The academy, located in an agricultural preserve in Escondido, provides education and housing for foster children ages 12 to 18. The facility provides a “safe, effective environment,” the grand jury report states, but 50 of its 184 beds are typically vacant each month.

The grand jury recommended that the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, office of education and probation department establish policies and procedures to share information about at-risk youths and encourage them to volunteer for programs, including the San Pasqual Academy.

The recommendations came out of a report in which the grand jury studied the services available to young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are transitioning out of foster care or state custody. Once they turn 18, the teens no longer receive many forms of public assistance, which leads to higher levels of homelessness, poverty and unemployment, according to the report.

Eleanor Yang Su

Fresno Mental Health Board Called "Inadequate" In Grand Jury Report

Fresno County's Mental Health Board is under scrutiny in the latest report from the County Grand Jury.

The group is designed to work as a public advisory board for children and adults with mental health issues. But, according to the grand jury, the board is "inadequate" to address the needs of the county.

The report found there are 22 positions on the board; only seven positions on the board are filled. This "restricts the diversity of the membership," the report says.

The report blames the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, saying they failed to actively recruit new members for the advisory board, and lacked a recruitment strategy. It also criticizes board members for not personally participating in over half the meetings during a 30-month period.

The Grand Jury also found there were conflicts of interest found with members on the board—one even submitted a bid for services. The report says this could be due to a lack of training for board members on protocol.

To resolve these issues, the grand jury is recommending board members get trained on "conflict of interest" issues, that supervisors fill vacancies on the board and participate in the Mental Health Board. The Mental Health Board has 60 days to reply to the Fresno County Grand Jury Report.

Grand jury suggests plan on homeless

Report: Unite effort, keep shelters open


Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 12:05 a.m.

SAN DIEGO — A regional solution is needed to reduce the number of homeless on San Diego-area streets and plans should include year-round shelters, according to the latest San Diego County grand jury report on the issue.

When the 2009-10 jury started its term last July, members quickly decided that homelessness was an issue that needed to be addressed.

“When you start working downtown, the homeless (issue) hits you in the face,” said Victoria Stubblefield, jury forewoman. After exhaustive interviews and research, the jury issued its report, “Homeless in San Diego,” on Monday. It includes several recommendations for city and county leaders.

“There are many good-hearted souls working on the homeless problem, but (the efforts) are all disjointed and disconnected,” Stubblefield said. “Money is being spent piecemeal, so no one really has a handle on how much is being spent” to address homeless issues.

A survey of police, sheriff, fire and hospital agencies’ costs associated with chronic homelessness in the county was incomplete, but the financial cost is more than $22 million a year, the report said.

A regional homeless authority is needed to streamline planning and coordinate public and private social support services, according to the report. It recommends that the San Diego mayor, the City Council and the county Board of Supervisors “form a Joint Powers Authority and enlist the support of leaders in other cities in the county to develop a regional approach to manage and fund programs to moderate chronic homelessness.”

“We need to look at a regional solution, and we also need to look at a permanent shelter,” Stubblefield said. “We are expected to have good animal shelters, but what are we doing about human beings?”

The study found that cities from New York to Los Angeles reduced their costs when they provided housing and services. “Supportive housing was the least expensive solution in a majority of cities, as compared to other housing options such as jails, prisons, shelters, psychiatric and other hospital,” according to the report.

The report recommends improving the Neil Good Day Care Center downtown and expanding the use of its showers; installing more outdoor toilets downtown to reduce public health hazards; and increasing the cleaning and sanitizing of downtown sidewalks and streets.

Councilman Todd Gloria, chairman of the council’s Land Use and Housing Committee, said homelessness has been a focus of the council.

“The problem is certainly growing. More people are becoming vulnerable to homelessness because of the economy,” Gloria said.

He noted that San Diegans placed homelessness high on the list of priorities in a survey released last month.

Responses to the jury’s recommendations are required by Aug. 16 from the San Diego City Council, the San Diego Mayor’s Office, the Board of Supervisors and the San Diego Association of Governments.

Mendocino County Grand Jury: Willits needs initiative to help pay for parks, pools

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 05/22/2010 12:00:32 AM PDT

The city of Willits should create a recreation district to more evenly distribute the cost of providing parks, fields and pools among the users of those facilities, the Mendocino County grand jury reported this month.

According to the GJ, Willits offers use of baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, a skate park, swimming pool and the Recreation Grove and Bud Snyder parks to all, but only residents living within city limits (30 percent to 45 percent of users) contribute to the cost of providing these facilities.

The GJ notes that operating the swimming pool costs the city $35,278 a year, and park maintenance costs total $161,999 a year.

The city's current recreation budget includes: playground equipment, resurfacing the tennis courts, fencing, security, landscaping, irrigation, utilities, portable toilets, garbage collection, maintenance of tools and equipment, and vehicle usage.

The city's income for renting its building and grounds amounts to only $2,000, and the remaining costs for maintaining and improving the facilities are paid through the city's general fund.

To rectify this, the GJ recommends "a voter initiative to create a recreational district (to) allow the costs of operating the many facilities to be shared throughout the community."

The creation of the district would be a "collective effort by various agencies, including a recreational support group, to develop a recreation district with the direction of the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO).

At a minimum, the GJ envisions the district including Brooktrails, Willits and "their spheres of influence."

The GJ also recommends "the community support group ... be responsible for writing the initiative for the November 2010 election," and estimates that the cost of forming such a district would be $25,000 to $30,000.

The GJ notes that the aforementioned community support group "came before the Willits City Council to pursue Prop. 84 funds to rebuild the city pool and to add other facilities."

Marin grand jury gives San Rafael health campus a rave review

Nels Johnson
Posted: 05/21/2010 01:57:34 PM PDT

The county's new Health and Wellness Campus in San Rafael's Canal neighborhood is a stunning success, although several improvements can be made, according to the Marin civil grand jury.

The jury issued a glowing 17-page report calling the operation "an innovative commitment to health care," one of "Marin's best kept secrets" and "an innovative and successful approach to providing health and human services to the citizens of Marin County" that is "worthy of emulation by communities throughout the nation."

It was a far cry from another jury's dire warning in 2007 that unanswered questions about plans for the facility were so disturbing that the project should be shelved for further study.

But county supervisors pressed ahead anyway, spending $62 million - including $43 million in tobacco lawsuit settlement funds - to buy and rehabilitate a 6.5-acre, six-building complex formerly housing the Industrial Light & Magic operation of filmmaker George Lucas at the corner of Kerner and Bellam boulevards. The campus opened in fall 2008, housing county social and health staffers as well as community clinic and private service providers.

The 2009-10 grand jury couldn't be happier with the result.

"We believe the design and layout of the campus not only meets the needs of clients, but also provides them with a sense of dignity and respect," the jury said. "Having numerous health and social service programs housed in one location has proven advantageous to clients as well as providers."

Still, the panel concluded some improvements can be made, including mounting a better marketing campaign that publicizes the facility and its services. In addition, jurors said the county should launch a shuttle service from communities across Marin, enabling more clients to get to the facility easily.

The jury, noting it was difficult for some to find their way around the sprawling complex, also called for better signage, expansion of the role of a community advisory group, and development of "cooperative arrangements" with the Marin City Health and Wellness Center, especially because few Marin City residents use services at the San Rafael campus. Parking issues should be monitored, especially since a new grocery market has moved in nearby, the jury said.

Larry Meredith, head of the county Department of Health and Human Services, said he was "overwhelmed at how positive" the jury's report was.

"We're delighted they found that the campus is an important addition to Marin, and we've got many to thank, including the supervisors, the county administrator, the Department of Public Works" among them, he said.

The grand jury report "validates our planning and our investment in the health and welfare" of Marin residents, he said.

On related matters, the jury lauded a county plan to shift its gynecological services program to the Marin Community Clinic. "The realignment of GYN services will enable the county to save money without adversely affecting essential patient services," the panel said.

Kern County Supervisor McQuiston dinged for use of county purchasing card

BY JAMES BURGER, Californian staff writer | Friday, May 21 2010 12:18 PM

Last Updated Friday, May 21 2010 12:18 PM

A report released Friday by the Kern County Grand Jury sharply criticizes Supervisor Jon McQuiston for letting a county technician use his county credit card to pay for a technology work-around that let the supervisor and his staff access e-mail and calendars from mobile phones.

"The Committee was alarmed by the lack of awareness of policies, procedures and laws governing the use of taxpayer dollars when using a County purchasing card," wrote members of the grand jury's ad-hoc committee.

The staff time cost the county an estimated $8,200.

That contract, billed to McQuiston's card, cost the county $1,368.28 in 2009 alone, according to the grand jury.

McQuiston responded in an interview that the use of the money was a completely legitimate expenditure of public funds.

He said he asked information technology staff to help him in 2007 when the county's mobile communication system was incapable of integrating with his Blackberry.

He could receive e-mails but couldn't tell where they were from, McQuiston said. And, he said, the service was very unreliable.

McQuiston said remote communication was critical for him and his staff, who are trying to serve 2,538 square miles of mountain, valley and desert.

"We needed it for us to be effective in serving our constituents. We needed it then when I had a staff of four," McQuiston said. "I have a staff of two now."

The grand jury also criticized McQuiston for using his county-paid purchase card to fund the contract with

McQuiston said he has asked both Kern County Administrative Officer John Nilon and County Counsel Theresa Goldner to conduct independent investigations of whether he violated county purchasing card policies.

"If either of them come back and say it wasn't appropriate, I will remedy the situation immediately in accordance with their recommendations," he said.

McQuiston also said he will prepare a full, point-by-point response to the grand jury inquiry by the end of June.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Judge could quash Woodlake officers' subpoenas in grand jury inquiry

A Tulare County Superior Court judge will decide whether to quash subpoenas requiring Woodlake's police chief and some of his officers to testify in a grand jury investigation of an accidental shooting.

Judge Lloyd Hicks heard Thursday morning arguments from the lawyer representing Woodlake and city Police Chief John Zapalac and from the assistant district attorney representing the county's civil grand jury. Hicks said he'll issue a ruling in writing.

Woodlake's city attorney filed a motion claiming, among other things, that if the grand jury investigation is not delayed, its findings could affect the June 8 sheriff's election between Zapalac and Sheriff Bill Wittman.

The grand jury is investigating the Jan. 16, 2009, shooting of Leland Perryman while he and his wife, Judy, were walking their dogs in an orchard near their home east of Exeter. An investigation concluded that the .40-caliber bullet that hit Leland Perryman likely came from the Exeter Police Department's shooting range, where a group of Woodlake officers were training.

Woodlake police have not denied that the bullet likely was fired by one of the officers, and the city has reached a $350,000 financial settlement with the Perrymans. But the Perrymans, who attended Thursday's hearing, have criticized Zapalac and his officers and asked the grand jury in January to investigate the shooting.

Among other things, they claim that:

# The Woodlake officers should have known that stray bullets might fly out of the range, and the District Attorney's Office was wrong in determining that they weren't criminally negligent.

# Zapalac, after initially answering questions from Tulare County sheriff's deputies, ordered his officers to stop cooperating.

The Perrymans filed a motion with the court last week seeking to intervene in the case between Woodlake, Zapalac and the grand jury so they could help fight the city's motion to quash the subpoenas. They claimed that delaying the investigation would hobble the grand jury and violate their civil rights.

Hicks on Thursday ruled against the motion, saying the Perrymans exercised their rights by filing a complaint with the grand jury.

Hicks asked Thomas Watson, city counsel for Woodlake, what authority he had to delay a grand jury investigation. Watson said the judge can "make sure the grand jury stays within the authority of law."

Watson has asked that the subpoenas not be enforced until after a civil case involving Woodlake police Officer Michael Clark and the Tulare County Sheriff's Department is settled, or at least until the election. He argued that the court could modify when the subpoenas would be enforced without significantly affecting the grand jury investigation.

Deputy District Attorney Jill Icenhower, representing the grand jury, argued that there's no legal basis to stay the subpoenas. She asked Hicks to set a date next week to have Zapalac and his officers testify before the grand jury.

Icenhower said grand jury findings are confidential until their release. Such a release is unlikely to happen before the election, she said.

"Right now, it's one person trying to intervene with the grand jury for their own private purposes," Icenhower said.

Zapalac did not attend the hearing.

Mendocino County Grand jury urges greater use of inmate services

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 05/20/2010 10:47:29 AM PDT

Government entities should use inmates for a range of services, according to a recommendation the Mendocino County grand jury released Friday.

The grand jury report, titled "Doing Community Service!" says the services include fighting fires, road work, wood work, grounds maintenance and others, and are available at a nominal cost to any agency supported by taxes.

The county's two conservation camps are run by Conservation Camp Corps, and are an alternative to sending inmates to state prisons. They are located in the Jackson State Demonstration Forest, between Willits and Fort Bragg.

The report details how the conservation camps work.

Each camp can hold up to 110 inmates, housed in barracks-style buildings. Both camps have five fire crews, each containing 13 to 17 inmates and a Cal Fire captain. Another crew of three to five inmates staffs the brigade and helps with emergencies within nine miles of the camp.

They get fire training at the Susanville Prison and at camp.

When not fighting fires, the crews provide labor during floods, rescues and conservation projects.

Inmates who aren't on fire crews are assigned duties in camp, including mechanics, tool maintenance, cooking, laundry, carpentry, welding and sewing.

Inmates at both camps are paid $1.45 to $3.90 per day for working and $1 per hour when fighting fires. The income is put in a savings account and paid on release.

Inmates who were not convicted of violent or sexual crimes, or arson are eligible to live and work at the conservation camps.

The grand jury report notes it costs $46,000 annually to house an inmate in a state prison. The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation pays $14,000 annually to house an inmate at a conservation camp.

At the Parlin Forks Conservation Camp, inmates are supervised by a lieutenant, a sergeant and nine correctional officers from the DCR. Cal Fire staff includes a division chief, an administrative captain, an operation captain, seven fire captains, a water/sewer plant operator, a heavy equipment operator and mechanic, and an office technician who spends time at both camps.

Fruit and vegetables from an on-site garden supplement the inmates' meals.

Parlin Forks operates a saw mill, cutting, milling and drying the lumber, and making furniture and cabinetry out of it for government agencies.

At the Chamberlain Creek Conservation Camp, inmates are supervised by a lieutenant, two supervisors, a sergeant and eight correctional officers.

Cal Fire staff includes a division chief, an administrative captain, an operation captain, seven fire captains and a water treatment plant operator.

The soil is poor for gardening, but the camp recently brought in soil and planted a small garden.

Chamberlain Creek's kitchen crew cooks and serves a community Thanksgiving dinner at the Harrah Senior Center in Willits every year.

The grand jury's findings include the state's desire to build more conservation camps instead of maximum-security prisons, a recommendation to keep running them as they are, and a recommendation for government agencies to use the inmate crews as often as possible.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

San Diego County Grand Jury weighs in on Qualcomm Stadium


Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 9:57 a.m.

Calling Qualcomm Stadium a losing proposition, the San Diego County Grand Jury has released its recommendations for the current facility and any new stadium that may be developed by any partnership between the city of San Diego and the San Diego Chargers.

The reports cites the city for annual operating losses of about $17.1 million after crediting net rents paid by the Chargers and other income from non-Chargers events and indicated the Chargers can afford more to relieve taxpayers of the economic burden.

"This was a Grand Jury initiated complaint, not a citizen complaint," said Victoria Stubblefield jury foreman, adding that the focus of the jury this year has been on helping the city of San Diego and the taxpayers save money.

She said polls have shown the taxpayers do not think they should have to support a profitable sports team, which the Grand Jury projected to have made $41 million for the 2008 season, excluding revenue sharing.

"The bottom line is Qualcomm is going to cost taxpayers a whole lot of money and they don't want to foot the bill," she said.

In its prepared statement, the Grand Jury wrote:

"The 2009/2010 San Diego County Grand Jury recommends that the City demand a long term lease with fixed rents, no risk of operating losses and use of the stadium for other public events. If the City proceeds with a new publicly financed stadium, the City should negotiate materially tighter terms with the Chargers than are currently in place."

The complete report is available on the Grand Jury’s web site at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mendocino Grand Jury: Point Arena needs to hire city manager, raise wastewater rates

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 05/18/2010 12:00:47 AM PDT

Finding a lack of "authority, coordination and communication" in its operations, the Mendocino County Grand Jury City recommends that the City of Point Arena hire a city manager.

In its report released Sunday, the grand jury described the city as "weakened by the lack of a designated city (manager), which leads to inappropriate and overlapping responsibilities being placed on the city council members (and) inefficient organizational structure (with) no consistent coordination between the employees, departments and the council."

According to the report, the city clerk currently performs the work of a city manager "without the authority or compensation for that position, (and) there is no coordinated effort to efficiently manage city staff. "

Instead of reporting to a city manager, staff members report to their commissioner, who may not be available on a daily basis, and staff members set their own work schedule and time off.

If hired, a city manager would manage staff and their work schedules, providing notifications of time off and timecard verification. The manager would report directly to the city council on staff issues and concerns.

The type of management, the GJ finds, would allow "the elected council to provide political leadership and make policy while the city manager-administrator (would) direct city departments in carrying out policy."

In regard to its wastewater plant, the GJ found that the city's wastewater rates have been too low to properly maintain and/or upgrade its system, (and) the need for higher rates should be addressed at a public meeting.

According to the GJ, the California State Water Quality Control Board has mandated the city upgrade its wastewater plant, which is approximately 30 years old and has a "sludge pond that has never been dredged (and) is as much as 85 percent full."

To pay for the dredging and upgrades, the city is seeking a $3.77 million grant/loan from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and the "urgently needed dredging" is expected to cost $200,000.

The current monthly rate for wastewater service is $45, after rates were last raised on Nov. 11, 2008. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, (the last audit available), the GJ reports that the city's wastewater enterprise (which generates its own revenue from rate payers, impacts fees and grants and loans) had an operating loss of $19,737.

For 2009, the wastewater enterprise is "reported to be breaking even."

Other recommendations by the GJ include:

The council replace commissioners with working committees of two council members from each city department, and the appointments "shall be based on background, experience, knowledge and skill; not on favoritism or by punitive action. The appointments should last for at least one year."

The committee members should also meet and have their reports prepared before council meetings, as the GJ pointed out that "committee work is (currently) done at the monthly council meetings, making them unnecessarily long."

The city council conduct sessions to build teamwork and promote understanding of city departments.

The revolving loan fund manual, which the GJ described as "unclear and contradictory," should be "updated, corrected and posted on the city's website."

The city should monitor the financial status of the local pier - which operated at a loss of $88,863 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008 - and either "develop revenue and assure financial stability, or consider privatization to eliminate burden on the general fund."

Exeter-area ricochet bullet victim wants Tulare grand jury inquiry

An Exeter-area man hit by a stray bullet from a police shooting range has gone to court in an effort to expedite a Tulare County Grand Jury investigation of the incident.

The city of Woodlake and its police chief, Tulare County sheriff's candidate John Zapalac, are attempting to delay that investigation, shooting victim Leland Perryman argues.

Zapalac and some of his officers were subpoenaed to testify about the Jan. 16, 2009, incident, but Zapalac and city officials asked the Tulare County superior court to stay those subpoenas.

A "slap suit" motion filed by Perryman and his wife, Judy, asks the court to allow the couple to become participants in the case between Woodlake and the grand jury.

Their goal is to get Woodlake's stay request thrown out so the subpoenas can be enforced.

Judge Lloyd Hicks will hear arguments on the motion Thursday.

"It's my constitutional right to have [the grand jury] investigate," Judy Perryman said.

Judy Perryman said she and her husband are not looking for money. They've already reached a $350,000 settlement with Woodlake, she said.

"We strongly support the grand jury in its role of investigating apparent misconduct," reads the motion, which was filed Wednesday.

The Perrymans were walking their dogs in a plum orchard near their home east of Exeter when a bullet struck Leland Perryman in his upper back. The bullet missed his heart by an inch and ended up in his abdomen, Judy Perryman said.

A group of Woodlake police officers were doing live-fire training at the range that day. Tulare County Sheriff's Department investigators determined that their targets were set up in such a way that their bullets could have passed over a berm and into the orchard.

The Perrymans' motion claims that they have information that Zapalac fired his weapon at the range on the day of the incident and that he could have fired the shot that injured Perryman. Judy Perryman would not disclose the basis for that claim, and Woodlake City Attorney Thomas Watson said it's untrue.

A sheriff's reports states that after answering initial questions, Woodlake officers stopped cooperating with detectives investigating the shooting. Zapalac told the sheriff's department detectives that his officers would answer no more questions, according to the report.

The Perrymans asked for a grand jury investigation in January.

A city of Woodlake response to the grand jury's subpoena asks that the matter be delayed until after the June 8 election, in which Zapalac faces incumbent Sheriff Bill Wittman. Zapalac requested the delay, Woodlake City Attorney Thomas Watson said.

Calls to Zapalac Monday were not returned.

Judy Perryman said she and her husband do not wish to affect the election. But they do want answers.

"We are very concerned about the apparent refusal by sworn peace officers to cooperate with an official law enforcement investigation and believe this may constitute an obstruction of justice," the Perrymans' motion states.

There were reasons other than the election to seek a stay of the subpoenas, city officials said. In court documents Watson states that information sought by the grand jury also relates to a federal civil lawsuit filed by Woodlake Police Officer Michael Clark against the sheriff's department.

That lawsuit claims that the department disclosed personal information about Clark in a report of the shooting released to the media. Some people involved in that case agreed to keep certain information confidential, Watson said.

"The parties would have to modify their agreement if they were to provide documents to the grand jury," he said.

Watson said he expects Hicks to decide on the request for a stay at Thursday's hearing.

Watson said Woodlake officers acted on the advice of the city attorney in the aftermath of the shooting. He said he needed time to determine the police department's potential liability and consult with the city's insurers.

That doesn't satisfy the Perrymans.

"If Woodlake had stepped up to the plate and said, 'Yes, we screwed up,' we wouldn't have been nearly as angry," Judy Perryman said.

San Diego Grand jury wants county to fight eye gnats

Friday, May 14, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.

The San Diego County grand jury issued a report Thursday recommending that county officials take steps to eradicate the eye gnats that have been plaguing residents of Jacumba and North County.

The grand jury, which acts as a watchdog of county government, said the eye gnats should be declared a priority in the county’s program to eradicate pests. In the past, county officials have said they were not focusing attention on the gnats because the insects are considered only a nuisance, not a disease-carrying pest such as mosquitoes.

Residents of the East County community of Jacumba have been swatting at eye gnats for years. A study by the University of California found that millions of the gnats were coming from a 450-acre organic spinach and lettuce farm nearby.

Residents of Fallbrook, Rainbow, Oceanside and Escondido have also complained about the bugs, which are attracted to human and animal eyes.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob has been meeting with residents, farmer Alan Bornt and county officials to come up with a solution to the gnat problem. Under threat of a lawsuit by the county, Bornt has placed 2,000 traps and is spraying nonchemical pesticides on his fields.

The grand jury also recommended that any proposed facility that could create eye gnats should include a plan for eradicating the insects when submitting requests for approval from county government. County officials should also notify residents near a proposed facility of a potential eye gnat problem and inform them of the corrective measures to be taken, the report said.

County officials are required to respond to the grand jury’s recommendations by Aug. 11.

San Diego Grand jury recommends services for foster kids

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.

NORTH COUNTY: More than one-quarter of the beds for foster children at the San Pasqual Academy are empty and county agencies need to do a better job sharing information and encouraging at-risk children to enroll at the center, according to a San Diego County grand jury report issued last week.

The academy, located in an agricultural preserve in Escondido, provides education and housing for foster children ages 12 to 18. The facility provides a “safe, effective environment,” the grand jury report states, but 50 of its 184 beds are typically vacant each month.

The grand jury recommended that the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, office of education and probation department establish policies and procedures to share information about at-risk youths and encourage them to volunteer for programs, including the San Pasqual Academy.

The recommendations came out of a report in which the grand jury studied the services available to young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are transitioning out of foster care or state custody. Once they turn 18, the teens no longer receive many forms of public assistance, which leads to higher levels of homelessness, poverty and unemployment, according to the report.

Eleanor Yang Su

Report assails Fresno Co. mental health board

A Fresno County board does an inadequate job of addressing the needs of adults and children with mental-health issues, the Fresno County grand jury said in one of two reports released Monday.

The problems can be traced to the Board of Supervisors, which nominates and approves members to the mental health board, the report said.

Supervisors should do more innovative recruitment to ensure the mental health board represents the people they serve, the report said.

In addition, there are only seven members on a board that is supposed to have 22. "Having only seven members severely restricts the diversity of the membership," the report said.

In writing the report, the grand jury also investigated accusations of conflicts of interest with the mental health board, which led five members to resign last year.

Jurors also found that mental health board members do not work well together "and at times their personal conflicts get in the way of conducting business," the report said.

The report recommended that mental health board members receive training to learn what constitutes a conflict of interest and how to resolve the appearance of conflicts.

In a second report released Monday, the grand jury found the three-member board of the Orange Cove Fire Protection District has failed to provide leadership to support the volunteer fire department.

Inadequate resources also have affected the district's ability to provide proper firefighting training and record-keeping, the report said.

Read more:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meg Whitman proposes efficiency grand jury in Roseville

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is holding a town hall-style meeting at the Roseville Theatre in Roseville, where she's proposing putting together a statewide grand jury to look for "waste, fraud and abuse."

She proposes appointing an inspector general to look into the matter and report back to a grand jury with subpoena and indictment powers that can start criminal and civil prosecutions. She hasn't specified how the grand jury would use such powers to look for such waste, fraud and abuse.

She estimated the state loses $7.5 billion a year in fraud in in-home supportive services, Medi-Cal and welfare programs and told the audience of about 150 people tales of the state wasting millions of dollars on highway rest stops and education planning.

"This is not as difficult as the career-minded politicians in Sacramento make this out to be," Whitman said. "We will take back Sacramento and we will make sure we are spending your taxpayer dollars exactly as you would spend them if you were sitting in Sacramento."

Mendocino Grand jury: Juvenile hall repeaters a problem

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 05/17/2010 12:00:34 AM PDT

But found the place well-run

The Daily Journal

While the county's juvenile hall appears to be well run by caring staff, the Mendocino County Grand Jury, in its report issued Sunday, also said it found the 60 percent recidivism rate too high and was puzzled by a case where a young offender was kept in the hall for three years - two years longer than state law allows.

The grand jury - which has been releasing 2009-10 reports since Friday - is required each year to inspect the county's juvenile hall on Low Gap Road. It generally houses young criminal offenders under 18, although a young person can be kept there until the age of 19.

"The facility is managed and dedicated to providing a safe and secure environment. The administrators and staff have implemented several programs for educating and rehabilitating youth for re-entry into society," the report said.

"The GJ is concerned about staffing levels and cost, a 60 percent recidivism rate, limited mental health services, and the excessive length of incarceration for one youth who was held in excess of three years."

Other grand jury findings:

The 2009/2010 County budget provides funding for 30.8 positions which includes a three percent vacancy factor.

The staff consists of one Superintendent, five Supervising Correction Counselors, and 17 Correction Counselors, of which five positions are vacant; one licensed vocational nurse on site 32 hours per week, a mental health clinician, and four kitchen staff.
Three Correction Counselors are bilingual.

Adequate staffing is mandated by the State at a ratio of one Correction Counselor per 10 juveniles for days and evening shifts and one Supervising Correction Counselor per 30 juveniles for the night shift. One female Correction Counselor must be on the premises at all times.

Savings created by short staffing may be offset by an increase in overtime pay to meet mandated staffing levels.

Five vacant full time Correction Counselor positions are being supplanted by four part-time extra help Correction Counselors.

The staff works eight hour shifts, five days per week. Two of the five supervisors work four 10-hour shifts. The schedule provides time for staff to continue their education.

The Mendocino County Office of Education provides three full time teachers, one special educational resource aide, and one paraprofessional. Four substitute teachers are available. The maximum capacity of MCJH is 42 youth, however the facility is considered full at 40. On October 28, 2009, there were 21 youth: 15 males and six females.

A physician or physician's assistant is available on call 24/7.

Seventy percent of youth have substance abuse issues. Sixty percent of the youth are repeat offenders. Approximately 30 percent of the youth have behavioral problems and require 75 percent of staff time.

Mendocino Youth Project staff provides mental health services on site, 20 hours a week.

Video observation and electronic security are maintained for doors and common areas throughout the facility at all times. At the time of the GJ visit, there was one camera that would not rotate properly and did not cover its intended yard area.

The average length of stay is 15 days. The maximum sentence at MCJH is one year. The stay can be longer for un-sentenced youth.

One un-sentenced youth was recently incarcerated for over three years.

Parents/guardians are billed on a sliding scale, up to $18 per day, for the cost of incarcerating a youth in MCJH. The maximum bill for each stay is $900. Reimbursement is problematic.

There is zero tolerance for anything gang related.

MCJH does not receive asset forfeiture funds.

The grand jury recommends that:

State mandated staffing ratios be implemented and maintained at all times by hiring part-time, on call, employees to reduce the necessity for overtime pay.

MCJH provide full time mental health and substance-abuse counseling resources to incarcerated youth to prevent high recidivism rates.

MCJH repair the surveillance camera.

The District Attorney shall insure that timely disposition of each case will occur to guarantee that no youth is incarcerated for more than the statutory one year maximum at MCJH.

Improve the system of billing and collecting from parents/guardians to offset the daily cost of incarcerating the youth in the facility.

Anti-gang educational programs funded through asset forfeiture funds be utilized at MCJH.

Responses from various county agencies involved with juvenile hall will be required as usual.

Mendocino Grand jury: Illegal pot costs more than you think

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 05/17/2010 12:00:35 AM PDT

The Mendocino County Grand Jury believes the big hidden cost of illegal pot growing in this county is the amount of illegal water use and general environmental degradation illegal pot growers spread.

Among a series of its 2009-10 reports issued over the weekend, the grand jury's "Marijuana: It costs more than you think" report tackles a problem increasingly identified by authorities and citizens as just as serious as the crime illegal pot growing brings to town.

The grand jury's investigation took place in 2009, one of the worst drought years the county has seen in recent decades. While looking into the general topic of water management in the county, "the GJ became aware that there is significant illegal use, diversion, and pollution of the existing watershed at marijuana grow sites in the County. As a result of this illegal activity, precious water is being diverted and contaminated," the report said.

According to the report, "During the water shortage of 2009 the GJ was made aware of water being illegally diverted from irrigation canals in Potter Valley. This water was being transported and sold in other locations in the County ... There is a reasonable suspicion that much of this water was destined for the growing of illegal marijuana. The GJ found that over the past two years there has been an increase in citizen reports/complaints to law enforcement regarding environmental issues related to illegal marijuana farming in the County."

Using a law enforcement figure that the 362,000 illegal marijuana plants seized as of October, 2009 was about 10 percent of the total out there, and using what it believes is the "conservative estimate" of one gallon of water per plant per day, the grand jury concluded that illegal consumption of water would be 3.6 million gallons per day, or about 11 acre feet.

Meanwhile, local residents were under very serious water cutbacks and rationing.

The GJ also had photographs taken during the 2009 growing season showing them water being diverted from creeks for irrigation purposes at illegal marijuana growing sites plus, animal carcasses, human garbage, human waste, herbicides and animal poisons had been recently found at these sites.

The report also found that water was "being polluted by highly toxic compounds. These toxins are used as fertilizer and pesticides which are diluted by mixing them with water in dammed areas of the stream bed. Possession and use of many of these chemicals are banned In the United States."

The investigation also confirmed that illegal growers clear-cut trees, dam streams, terrace slopes which causes erosion and watershed pollution, and left local authorities to clean it all up.

The Grand Jury recommended that:

MCSO, Department of Fish and Game, United States Forest Service, and BLM mount a coordinated and concentrated effort to prevent environmental and watershed damage early in the growing season by initiating environmental inspections and cleanup programs for known sites.

The Mendocino County District Attorney, support the efforts of law enforcement agencies by prosecuting those who cause damage to water resources and the environment.

The DA charge growers, found in control of illegal sites, with the cost of site cleanup.

The appropriate law enforcement agency use asset forfeiture funds to institute a program to clean up illegal sites, remove toxins, open the natural water flow, and dispose of material used at the site; i.e. plastic pipe, water storage containers, and plastic sheeting.

Appropriate equipment and procedures be used to insure the safety of cleanup crews.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Riverside County grand jury recommends better tattoo, body piercing oversight

10:00 PM PDT on Friday, May 14, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

The department that oversees Riverside County's estimated 100 tattoo and body piercing parlors soon could propose a county ordinance that might strengthen regulation of such businesses.

Steve Van Stokum, director of the county Environmental Health Department, said he has postponed presenting an ordinance to county supervisors as he and other county health officers have waited for state lawmakers to enact tattoo and body piercing legislation that would supersede a local ordinance.

San Bernardino County environmental health officials also are waiting for passage of a state law, said Mike Farrell, who oversees regulation of the county's tattoo parlors.However, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last fall vetoed a statewide law, saying that counties had authority to pass their own rules.

Van Stokum's proposed ordinance comes after the recent release of a critical grand jury report. Grand jurors' recommendations included that the department:

Follow through on adoption of an ordinance that would better protect practitioners and clients.

Ensure that department employees are properly trained and enforce standards recommended by the California Conference of Local Health Officers in 1998.

Ensure annual inspections are conducted and that practitioners pay for them.

The grand jury submitted its report this month to the county's executive office. The report is on Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting agenda.

Van Stokum said his response to the report is to be submitted to the executive office within 30 days. The executive office then has 60 days to draft its report to the supervisors. The supervisors may accept or reject the findings of the grand jury, which has no enforcement authority.

Van Stokum said he believes the department could improve maintenance of its training documents and "tweak" the language used in its practitioner registration forms. Inspectors are properly trained and ensure that practitioners meet safety, sterilization and sanitation requirements, even though the county lacks an ordinance, he said.

"No one has been at risk of getting sick," Van Stokum said.

He also agreed with the grand jury's assessment that the department may have been lax in collecting an annual $105 inspection fee required by state law in January 1999. Practitioners started paying the fee in the past year, Van Stokum said.

Desiree Eisenbarth, owner of The Velvet Vault in Lake Elsinore, said county inspectors routinely check to make sure her business and employees are properly certified. She said she has spent more than $100,000 to operate a professional tattoo and body piercing shop.

"Nobody has a problem with the health department," she said, adding that tattooing and body piercing are invasive procedures, which require certification. "Regulations are just fine with us. I'm not going to run a shoddy operation."

Eisenbarth and body piercer Soda Santiago said they wish county inspectors had resources to go after uncertified people, known as scratchers, who break rules and endanger people. They tend to offer cut-rate services on Internet sites.

Reach Lora Hines at 951-368-9444 or

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The San Luis Obispo County civil grand jury said 60 employees were the focus of performance investigation

San Luis Obispo County workers on leave made $519,460

The county paid more than half a million dollars to 60 employees who were on leave while their work performances were being investigated over a nearly three-year period, according to a civil grand jury report.

The grand jury did not criticize the payouts, which were tucked into the body of a report that evaluated employee discipline procedures.

“Half a million dollars is a lot of money, but less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the county’s cost of operation during the period,” which ran from Jan. 1, 2007, to Oct. 31, 2009, the report said. The actual paid leave figure is $519,460.

The grand jury wrote that the average administrative leave lasted 31 workdays. Because of personnel confidentiality rules, it did not name people who were placed on leave.

However, in a case that became public in 2009, Assistant County Administrator Gail Wilcox was placed on paid administrative leave between May 7 and July 15, when she was fired. The dollar figure for her leave was not available.

Wilcox lost her job for an inappropriate relationship with a labor negotiator for a union with whom she was negotiating as the management representative.

Two Public Works Department employees, Randy Ghezzi and Max Keller, received more than $41,000 in salary while on leave for approximately three months over the summer.

Citing privacy laws, the county never revealed why the two men were on leave, although there was no shortage of unattributed rumors about it. Ghezzi later left the county, and Keller took a different job at lower pay.

The grand jury report was not about the cost of paid administrative leave, which grand jurors downplayed. Rather, it explored the county’s discipline system in general and found it “appropriate.”

It delineated a series of “progressive discipline steps up to and including being fired. During the 34-month period it examined, 42 employees were disciplined; of those, 19 resigned, retired or were fired.

In one of its few recommendations, the grand jury suggested that the county increase its training of managers.

Supervisors “occasionally fail either to notice or to document employee behavior that falls short,” the grand jury wrote.

It cited three cases in which employees were marked satisfactory, “when subsequent investigation revealed that the behavior had been unacceptable.”

Grand jurors said they did not know whether this was due to an oversight by the supervisor, a failure to document inadequacies, “the supervisor did not have the courage or the skill to provide the employee with honest feedback,” or some other reason.

Read more:

San Bernardino Grand jury answers call to probe Victorville's finances

May 11, 2010 3:18 PM

VICTORVILLE • Four months after Victorville City Council asked the grand jury for help conducting an independent investigation into the city’s finances, it appears the citizen watchdog group has stepped up to the plate.

In a rare move, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved paying $195,000 to Michael Kessler & Associates Ltd. to provide the 2009-10 grand jury with forensic accounting services.

In the past two decades, county spokesman David Wert said he can only recall two or three such requests by the grand jury. And he said it’s been at least five years since the grand jury requested additional funding for any purpose.

“I think it’s a positive sign that they’re moving forward on my request,” Victorville Councilman Ryan McEachron said.

McEachron said he’s not counting on getting the results of the forensic audit back before the current grand jury issues its annual report on June 30, with the investigation expected to take some time.

Instead McEachron said he imagines the current grand jury wanted to get funds in place and get the ball rolling before handing the reigns over to the next 19 jury members, who’ll take the helm July 1.

Brooke Edwards may be reached at (760) 955-5358 or at

Natasha Lindstrom may be reached at (760) 951-6232 or at

Grand jury releases statement on North San Joaquin Water Conservation District

By Ross Farrow
News-Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 12:29 PM PDT

The San Joaquin County Grand Jury today issued a statement including both vindication and recommendations for the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District.

The jury found that, contrary to allegations, the district conducts audits appropriately and provides adequate public access to documents. Further, the jury found that the district does not have to use a sealed bid process, as alleged. Among the grand jury recommendations:

# That North San Joaquin establish a minimum dollar value above which all projects will be bid.

# The district establish a policy and operational manual with job descriptions.
# That the North San Joaquin board be trained in the Brown Act, California's open-meeting law, and the in the fiduciary responsibilities of a board member.

For more on this story, return to or see Thursday's News-Sentinel.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

San Bernardino County Grand Jury Seeks expert help to study government books

Natasha Lindstrom

SAN BERNARDINO • The 2009-10 grand jury of San Bernardino County has requested outside legal counsel to help examine the books and records of local government agencies, according to Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors agenda.

This year’s grand jury has “determined that it is in need of expert assistance to carry out its duties,” and San Bernardino Superior Court’s presiding judge has approved the proposal, according to the board agenda.

Tuesday county supervisors are set to award a $ 195,000 contract to Michael Kessler & Associates Ltd. to provide the citizen watchdog group with forensic accounting services.

To read other items of interest on the county Board of Supervisors agenda, see the full story in Tuesday's Daily Press. To subscribe to the Daily Press in print or online, call (760) 241-7755, 1-800-553-2006 or click here.

Natasha Lindstrom may be reached at (760) 951-6232 or at

ID1 mum on Santa Barbara County grand jury criticism

By Dave Bemis / Managing Editor /

The water and sewer agencies in Santa Ynez have 60 days to respond to a report from the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury that suggests they should merge to avoid duplicate expenditures and save their ratepayers money.

Meanwhile, 3rd District county Supervisor Doreen Farr says she will be meeting with officials of both districts to gauge their reactions to the report before she and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors prepare their own formal response, which is due in 90 days.

In the report released Thursday, May 6, the grand jury also criticizes the ID1 water district for lack of public disclosure, wasteful spending and poor relationships with other agencies.

The civil grand jury has no power to enforce its findings and recommendations, although governments investigated must respond within 60 to 90 days.

According to this report, the 2009-10 grand jury decided to investigate ID1 after

receiving complaints from six people on 14 separate issues, including “its relationships with other governmental agencies, the development of proposed legislation, the powers of the district, district governance, finance and public transparency.”

The grand jury recommends that Farr convene a “blue ribbon commission” that would “review jurisdictional issues” and hold public meetings on whether to merge ID1, formally known as the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1, with the Santa Ynez Community Services District.

ID1 delivers water to about 8,300 residential, commercial and agricultural customers in its district, including Santa Ynez, Los Olivos and Ballard, and also has a contract to serve the city of Solvang as needed.

SYCSD provides sewer service to customers within ID1’s boundaries, primarily in the Santa Ynez township.

“It’s appropriate to raise the issue with them to see if there is interest there and do my best to explore those possibilities,” Farr said.

However, she added, “there are other recommendations that the full board (of supervisors) has to respond to officially .. in open session. I think that’s probably the time to bring the issue up, because obviously, even if I was able to form the group with the membership that the grand jury is recommending … you’re talking about costs … and that’s not something that I as an individual supervisor … can do in a vacuum.”

The grand jury suggests that Farr’s committee include members of the public and elected officials from the two special districts.

Two officials of ID1 did not return phone calls seeking comment on the report, and a CSD official declined to comment until the full board could decide on a response.

The jurisdictional issues to be settled are between ID1 and the Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, a state agency that believes it has authority over ID1 on matters such as boundary changes.

ID1 insists that LAFCO has no such authority, and tried in 2008 to get the state to adopt Assembly Bill 2686, which not only would have clarified the jurisdiction but also would changed ID1’s name and given it additional powers.

The grand jury report criticizes both ID1 and LAFCO for routinely publishing meeting agendas that contain only vague language — particularly during AB 2686 discussions — thus obscuring the true nature of topics being discussed and failing to keep the public informed about their actions.

AB 2686 grew out of a LAFCO recommendation in 2006 that ID1 and SYCSD should merge.

The grand jury also faults ID1 for spending at least $328,000 in ratepayers’ money from 2006 to 2008 on the LAFCO jurisdictional question and the AB 2686 effort, while both issues remain unresolved because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 2686.

It recommends that both bodies agree to collaborate with the other to settle the issue efficiently and inexpensively, and directs each to improve its agendas to provide full disclosure to the public.

In its final recommendation, the grand jury advises the Board of Supervisors to ratify legal opinions from the county counsel’s office in 2001 and 2006 stating that LAFCO does have jurisdiction over ID1.

On the issue of merging the two districts, which Farr was advised to lead, “all I can do is do my best to comply,” she said. “Clearly, the issues are important but ... they were not willing to merge in the past, and with ID1 saying they are not subject to LAFCO, that doesn’t give LAFCO the opportunity to talk about reorganization” of the two districts.

Even if both ID1 and SYCSD’s elected boards did want to combine their districts, Farr said, the merger would not be simple.

“Their service areas overlap but they’re not the same,” Farr noted. “That raises policy issues with the county because of the Santa Ynez Community Plan, which talks about infrastructure and how it’s going to be handled, including sewers.”

The community plan, which was adopted last year after 10 years of effort by

volunteers and county officials, has an overall goal of keeping the valley rural and agricultural. Any merger of the sewer district with the larger water district, she said, would increase pressure for extension of sewer services, and “that increases pressure for more intense development.”


The 12-page grand jury report, titled “Currents and Undercurrents in the Santa Ynez Valley,” is available at www or from the grand jury office in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse at 568-2291.

For more information:

— ID1: 3622 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez; 688-6015;

— SYCSD: 1070 Faraday St., Santa Ynez; 688-3008

— LAFCO: 105 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara; 568-3391;

May 11, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sacramento grand jury issues dire financial warning to school districts

By Diana Lambert
Published: Monday, May. 10, 2010 - 12:05 pm
Last Modified: Monday, May. 10, 2010 - 5:12 pm

Sacramento County school officials may be ignoring mounting debt that could bankrupt districts or leave retirees without health benefits, according to a grand jury report released today.

Twelve of the 13 districts in the county don't have enough money to pay the health benefits promised future retirees and are not setting aside any money to pay them, said the report.

Collectively, the county's school districts owe about $1 billion for retiree health benefits.

"Who is going to tell retired teachers that they have lost their health benefits or tell students and their families that there is no money for school programs?" stated Rosemary Kelley, jury foreperson in a letter accompanying the report.

Even more striking is that some school board members and administrators are unaware of the shortfalls, according to the report. Four districts reported there had been no discussions with their school boards about the unfunded liabilities within the last three years.

"These obligations are not going away, however, because they are ignored," warns the report.

Instead, these liabilities continue to grow, fueled by skyrocketing healthcare costs.

Only two districts - the County Office of Education and Elk Grove Unified - have interest-yielding funds that are used to pay retiree health benefits. But, despite the account, Elk Grove Unified is still underfunded by $244 million.

But most local school districts pay their annual retiree benefits on a pay-as-you-go basis, taking the money from their general funds. Seven county districts have developed plans to pay their unfunded liabilities, but six have put it off because of budget shortfalls caused by state cuts.

"The problem with pay-as-you-go is that districts may not have sufficient funds to pay the current year's retiree health benefits and also pay for necessary school programs," the report says.

Each school district should immediately reduce its unfunded liability for retiree health benefits, recommended the grand jury in the report. It is asking that districts include a funding plan and schedule of contributions as part of their 2011-12 budgets.

"All of those involved - administrators, school boards teachers and unions - have a responsibility to resolve this problem," said Kelley's letter. "Either that or they face dire financial consequences."

Sacramento City Unified officials told the grand jury it has $560 million in unfunded liability for retiree health benefits - more than its annual budget of $366 million. The board had voted to set aside $1 million to start funding this liability, although no funding stream has been identified, said the report.

San Juan Unified officials reported $74 million in unfunded liability. The district's board had decided to pay $2.8 million annually toward the debt, but voted in 2008 to delay that indefinitely because of state budget cuts.

The grand jury says the financial problem at county school districts is compounded by school board members with limited experience in finance and because of the influence unions have on local school boards.

Most school boards and superintendents are short-term, while unions have long histories in districts.

"School boards and school district superintendents can easily assume the unfunded liability costs will occur in the future, under someone else's leadership," said the report.

Read more:

Read more:

Humboldt County Grand Jury report calls for part-time supervisors, stronger administrator

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/08/2010 01:27:10 AM PDT

A recently released grand jury report is saying Humboldt County needs a stronger chief administrator and a part-time Board of Supervisors to be more efficient.

The grand jury of Humboldt County released a report late Wednesday that said the county's current management system is one that “leads to erratic accountability, ineffectual assignment of responsibility and a weak system of checks and balances.” The report goes on to recommend the county change from a County Administrative Officer system to a Chief Executive Officer system, which it said would give the CEO more executive power.

Clif Clendenen, Humboldt County 2nd District supervisor and board chair, said he doesn't think the idea is a suitable one for county operations and would actually be less efficient.

”That's a massive rework of government, and I don't think that will suit the residents of Humboldt County,” Clendenen said. “I don't think that's what we've evolved to, and I don't think that's what people want.”

According to a grand jury press release, testimony was taken from several current and former public officials and business executives. A call to grand jury forewoman Sue Hemmann was not returned by late afternoon Friday.

”Several counties and most cities have a manager system of government, in which department heads report to the manager -- a professional -- who reports to the elected board or council,” Hemmann said in the written release. “Humboldt County, instead, has a chief administrative officer who serves as a coordinator, but department heads report to the Board of Supervisors. This adds considerably to the work load of the board, whose primary mission is to set policy. The grand jury concluded that a CEO system would streamline management, reduce the work load on the board and increase department accountability.”

The grand jury made four recommendations: the Board of Supervisors should establish the position of CEO/manager to oversee day-to-day operations, including the authority to hire and terminate county department heads; the board should confine its efforts to setting county policy and other activities; the position of supervisor should be part-time and limited to the duties statutorily required and the setting of county policies; and all appointed department heads, except for legal counsel and independently elected officials, should report to the CEO/manager.

Currently, the supervisors earn about $72,000 a year, while the CAO earns about $164,000.

According to the office of County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes, Smith-Hanes will be commenting on the report in June through a formal response.

The board must formally respond to the report in 90 days.

Clendenen said Smith-Hanes already has many of the duties outlined in the report, and Smith-Hanes' work allows the supervisors to pay attention to their constituents, instead.

”I think Phil does a fantastic job, and Loretta (Nickolaus) before him, doing the day-to-day,” he said. “I'm not sure an executive officer system would be good for the county -- they won't be answerable in the same way to the electorate.”


To get the report on county government management

Write: Grand jury of Humboldt County

Room G03, County Court House

825 5th Street

Eureka, CA 95501