Tuesday, June 29, 2010

San Joaquin County Grand Jury: Censure Delta board members

Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 12:00 am

By Layla Bohm, Maggie Creamer and Ross Farrow
News-Sentinel Staff Writers | 0 comments

Several San Joaquin County Delta College board members should be censured for violating rules, the county Grand Jury ruled.

Grand jurors, who released their final reports Monday, opened 15 new investigations over the past year and followed up on nine open investigations from previous juries. They also visited and reviewed county law enforcement agencies and holding centers, including a prison in Tracy.

The civil Grand Jury took on new cases that included whether the public appointment process is fair, allegations of negligence at the county-run children’s center and discipline at Delta College, and they briefly discussed courthouse security in light of a recent attack on a judge.

Overall, the Grand Jury reviewed 50 complaints, 19 of which were not within the jury’s jurisdiction. The full, 180-page report is available at www.stocktoncourt.org/grandjury/. Some of the jury’s investigations involved:

VIOLATION OF BROWN ACT: Delta College trustees violated the state’s open record law in two separate incidents, according to the Grand Jury report. The jury called for censure of the trustees involved in both violations.

Censure is used rarely, college president Raul Rodriguez said, but he believes it is appropriate if the violations of the act occurred.

“It’s basically public embarrassment or humiliation. You have your name out there with a violation. There is no real teeth or consequences,” Rodriguez said.

Part of the problem with enforcing the jury recommendations is that the report did not include the names of the trustees who participated in the incidents, instead labeling them as Trustee A, Trustee B, etc. He said the jury is supposed to be sending a letter to the college’s lawyers with the names of the trustees.

“I don’t know why they are being so secretive,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t name names.”

The report states that three trustees violated the act by discussing a board issue outside of a public meeting.

One trustee contacted two others and asked them to vote with him or her when an issue came up before the board. When the trustee contacted two of the other board members, they reported that member to the Grand Jury.

The other incident happened when two trustees disclosed confidential information from a closed session in a public meeting even though other trustees attempted to stop them.

Besides censure of the trustees, the other main recommendation includes holding mandatory training on the Brown Act quarterly.

COURTHOUSE SECURITY: In light of the March 4, 2009, attack on Judge Cinda Fox by Lodi murder suspect David Paradiso, the Grand Jury asked the Sheriff’s Office for its “Post Incident Review” while investigating court and jail security.

Before that incident, custody staffing levels had been reduced, the Grand Jury wrote in its report. There were not enough deputies in the courthouse, and they can be distracted due to the high volume of cases and paperwork. Bailiffs have been told to slow down and concentrate on courtroom security, the report says.

However, the Sheriff’s Office declined to release the full report to grand jurors because the District Attorney’s Office is still investigating. The matter fell to the District Attorney because a Lodi police detective shot and killed the assailant, and prosecutors take the lead in all officer-involved shootings.

Though the District Attorney’s Office in January notified Detective Eric Bradley in writing that his shooting was justified, they have not released their final report.

COMMITTEES: The Grand Jury determined that the Lodi City Council, other city councils in the county, Board of Supervisors and local school districts fail to actively publicize their openings.

The Grand Jury recommends that:

• Supervisors, city councils and school boards advertise committee openings through Twitter, movie theaters, TV, radio and announcements at public events. • Annually review appointee performance. • Develop a process to remove someone from a committee. • Perform criminal and credit background checks prior to appointment.

The following agencies must respond to the Grand Jury recommendations within 90 days: the Lodi, Stockton, Lathrop, Tracy, Manteca, Ripon and Escalon city councils, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, San Joaquin County Office of Education, the Lodi, Lincoln, Manteca, Stockton and Tracy unified school districts and the San Joaquin Delta College Board of Trustees.

STUDENT DISCIPLINE PROCEDURES: The jury heard a complaint about a student who was suspended for a year after Trudy Walton, the vice president of student services at San Joaquin Delta College, received several reports about “inappropriate behavior/disturbing communication/harassment toward Delta College students.”

The male student said he made comments critical of the vice president and was complaining about the student discipline procedure.

The student said Walton set up a meeting to discuss the complaints she had received, and he arrived at noon. He was then informed that his appointment was at 11 a.m.

The jury recommended that the college set up a policy requiring written confirmation for misconduct meetings. It also recommended that an alternative official who had not been criticized by the student should deal with the discipline to “avoid the appearance of Impropriety.”

Rodriguez said the trustees had already started reviewing their procedures.

“We realize there are some things that have been there a while that are out of date,” he said.

MORADA MOSQUE: The Grand Jury ruled that the Morada Area Association’s complaint about the county’s approval of a Muslim mosque in Morada is “without merit.”

The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors complied with the California Environmental Quality Act and gave adequate notice of public hearings, according to the Grand Jury. The Board of Supervisors approved the project in 2009.

The county approved a 14,000-square-foot mosque to swerve up to 282 people on a 2-acre site on the eastern Highway 99 frontage road between Morada and Hammer lanes.

CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES: Some people complained that county social workers did not act in the best interest of children who were removed from homes.

The Grand Jury found that parents do not know how to report possible social worker misconduct, and that Child Protective Services doesn’t have a policy for dealing with such complaints. Jurors recommended that the agency create such a policy and make the complaint process public in print and online.


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