Friday, December 30, 2011

San Bernardino International Airport

The biggest story of the year was an FBI raid at San Bernardino International Airport.

Following a civil Grand Jury report that questioned operational and financial oversight of the airport, federal investigators raided the former Norton Air Force Base on Sept. 21.

The FBI filled a 26-foot U-Haul truck with official records, as the agency is attempting to show a relationship between controversial airport developer Scot Spencer; Mayor Pat Morris; former interim Executive Director Donald L. Rogers; airport Aviation Director Bill Ingraham; Mike Burrows, the Inland Valley Development Agency's assistant director; former airport director Thomas "T. Milford" Harrison; and South Carolina-based aircraft materials company Tiger Enterprises and Trading.

San Bernardino Staff Reports, December 29, 2011

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Patterson Irrigator - Rough ride in 2011 for city politics, by Nick Rappley

Big shoes to fill

More than 11 months after his death, the gap left by Cuellar continues to leave a mark on city affairs, council members say.

“I don’t know that we’ve replaced Sam,” Smith said this week. “With Sam, there was institutional knowledge and experience, and that’s not something you can replace overnight. His life experience and his council experience is not something you can replace without years and years.”

“He was a very consistent councilmember,” Molina said this week regarding the councilmember he regarded as a friend and mentor. “He was reinvigorated by his re-election and I think there would’ve been more respectful dialogue.”.

No sooner did the city begin to heal after Cuellar’s death than controversy filled City Hall regarding how to fill the seat of the iconic councilman, who had been elected two months earlier to another four-year term.

The remaining council members agreed unanimously not to pursue a costly special election. Based solely on the results of the November 2010 election, the council appointed the next highest vote-getter, Larry Buehner, on Feb. 8, with Smith, Councilman Dominic Farinha and newly elected Councilwoman Deborah Novelli voting in favor and Molina dissenting.

A week later, after much public discussion and audience opposition within the council chambers, the council rescinded the appointment with another 3-1 vote, this time with Smith dissenting, on the night Buehner was to be sworn in.

The council decided instead to interview 10 candidates, including several who had run in the November election, starting Feb. 28.

As an advocate for the interview process, Reyes Cuellar, Sam Cuellar’s wife, expressed happiness after the meeting.

“I am very pleased and proud of what the council members decided tonight,” she said. “I certainly didn’t expect this to happen, but I’m glad it did. I know (Sam) was pleased, too.”

Following the interviews, however, the council decided unanimously and without comment to appoint Buehner again, and he was sworn in March 7.

Criticism by community members and political opponents in the following weeks centered on Buehner’s business interests and perceived conflicts of interest. Buehner disclosed ownership or partial ownership of 29 rental properties throughout Patterson and of undeveloped land interests outside city limits that are expected to be annexed. But council members and city staff, including interim City Attorney Tom Hallinan, said there was little to worry about.

“He’ll be just like anyone else on the council,” Hallinan said. “Although he may have more potential conflicts of interest than average, it’s not unusual for council members to have to conflict out of decisions sometimes.”

Grand jury dustup

Just as the political seas seemed to calm, an uproar broke out June 29 when the civil grand jury released a scathing report that named former city staff and present and past City Council members.

Most affected were Smith, former Mayor Becky Campo and former City Attorney George Logan.

The civil grand jury recommended that Smith resign or be recalled and that Campo pay back money she received as mayor because of allegations that she lived outside city limits.

It also stated that the city should file a complaint with the California State Bar to chastise Logan for alleged improprieties. Those included failing to be in the room when the council voted to reimburse developer John Ramos for $27,000 in legal fees he incurred as he sought to block the Del Puerto Health Center from moving to the Keystone Pacific Business Park in western Patterson. The grand jury suggested that Ramos, the health center’s present landlord, should return that money to the city.

In July, Campo blamed Molina for the grand jury investigation, alleging that he was behind the investigation and was a complainant.

“I was not a complainant,” Molina said in July. “I was called as a witness by the civil grand jury, but I never filled out a complaint.”

The city’s official response three months later, in a letter to the grand jury written by Hallinan, appeared defiant.

“This is the most outrageous and inappropriate recommendation our City Attorney has seen in 17 years of reviewing Grand Jury reports,” Hallinan wrote in response to the resignation-or-recall recommendation. “To engage in political advocacy is completely and utterly contrary to the charge of the Grand Jury.

“This recommendation cannot be implemented by (the city) and as such, shouldn’t even be included in this report.”

While the council voted unanimously to send off the response, Molina was apprehensive about the tone of the letter, calling it “harsh.”

Returning fire

The grand jury report prompted two related lawsuits — one from Smith and one from Logan.

On Sept. 28, Smith filed a federal suit against Stanislaus County and the civil grand jury for defamation of character and violation of her civil rights.

“I don’t want to see anyone else to have to go through something like this,” she said this week. “It was clear that there was a conspiracy to target myself, Mayor Campo and Dominic Farinha,

“It was hearsay, nonsense and outright made up. I will not stop this lawsuit until I uncover those that perjured themselves in front of this grand jury.”

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Federal Court in Sacramento, seeks an injunction against the grand jury to stop further alleged abuse of authority and publication of transcripts from the investigation. The suit also calls for the jury to revise its findings and seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees.

Smith said she was never given an opportunity to respond formally to the allegations, as the grand jury asked only the city for a response, not the people identified in the report.

Meanwhile, former civil grand jury foreman Denis France — along with Stanislaus County Counsel Jack Doering, who later recused himself from the case because of possible conflict of interests — began pursuing a contempt-of-court charge against Logan.

The court asked the county for $10,000 to hire Modesto civil attorney Dean Petrulakis to pursue the contempt charge against Logan for discussing and writing in local newspapers about his civil grand jury testimony in April and May.

Logan wrote op-eds in the Patterson Irrigator and the Modesto Bee and also responded to questions from the Irrigator for a story about the grand jury investigation.

“I knew they were just going to try and crucify me and my reputation, along with the others (they brought in as witnesses),” Logan said in late May.

In court documents, Logan has cited legal precedent that he has a right to freedom of speech in the matter if no one is endangered by his testimony.

More ahead In early December, criticism of Molina arose regarding his dual roles as mayor of Patterson and chairman of the Stanislaus County Office of Education board.

Smith asked at the Dec. 6 Patterson City Council meeting that Molina’s dual offices be publicly discussed at the council’s next regular meeting Jan. 17. Smith has said she wants the attorney general’s opinion on the matter, while Molina has contended that the offices are compatible and can coexist. Legal opinions have been murky.

Such incidents hint that there may be more council drama ahead in 2012, as the political year will begin apace with Molina’s debate and Logan’s court date.

• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187 or

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

1000th Post

This represents the 1000th posting of news articles from around the State of California, pertaining to (Civil) Grand Jury activities in the 58 counties.

2010-11 Shasta County grand jury have filed their responses and rebuttals to the jury's findings and recommendations

Government agencies and special districts that came under the magnifying glass of the 2011 Shasta County Grand Jury.

Those responses can be viewed in their entirety on the grand jury's website,

The full grand jury report, which was issued on June 27, also can be viewed there.

The responses include those from the Mountain Gate Community Services District, which the jury claimed showed favoritism when it lowered its employment standards and hired a former board chairman as its general manager.

In its rebuttal, the district maintains the board of directors did not lower the employment standards.

Instead, it said, the general manager's job description was revised to conform with the Association of California Water Association and Americans with Disabilities Act.

Also available on the grand jury website are forms for citizens to file complaints with the grand jury to initiate an investigation into city or county government or a special district operating within Shasta County.

Applications are also included for those interested in serving on the 2012-13 grand jury.

Further information and inquiries can be addressed by writing the grand jury at P. O. Box 992086, Redding, CA 96099-2086, or by calling 225-5098.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Library case verdicts show the value of grand juries

Editorial: Library case verdicts show the value of grand juries

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011

California's civil grand juries aren't perfect; they sometimes go overboard in their zeal to uncover wrongdoing in local government.

But the kickback scandal at Sacramento County's library is a good reminder of the valuable watchdog role the citizen grand juries can play.

A Superior Court criminal jury on Monday convicted the library's former security chief and his wife for bilking taxpayers of $780,000 in a maintenance over-billing scheme that also involved the library's former facilities director, who was convicted earlier this month. All three are to be sentenced Jan. 20 and face years in prison in what the prosecutor called "a classic case of public corruption."

It's a case, however, that might not have seen the light of day – except for a whistle-blower who came forward, a series of stories in The Bee and investigations by the Sacramento County grand jury and the District Attorney's Office.

The library director at the time, Anne Marie Gold, brushed off the accusations. So the whistle-blower sought out the grand jury. It pushed the case and issued a blistering report in 2008 that helped force Gold's resignation.

"You swear people in and all of a sudden, a lot of the truth comes out," grand jury foreman Don Prange told The Bee's Andy Furillo. "I'm very pleased."

This case also should be a caution to those who want to overhaul how grand juries operate.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a former Sacramento County supervisor and defender of Gold, pushed a sweeping measure last session in the name of transparency. But after supporters of grand juries responded, Assembly Bill 622 was wisely stripped down.

What the Legislature eventually passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed allows any witness testifying under oath to a grand jury to have his or her lawyer present, though it restricts attorneys from objecting to questions or disclosing anything that they hear during the proceedings.

Grand juries will have to see how the law works. While it's an additional safeguard for witnesses, it would be a shame if it interfered with the important job that grand juries do.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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Logan fires back in contempt case - Stanislaus County

by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Dec 22, 2011

Former Patterson City Attorney George Logan is firing back at the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury, saying he was within his First Amendment rights to speak about his testimony in front of the legal body before the jury published its findings earlier this year.

The civil grand jury is seeking a contempt-of-court charge against Logan for discussing and writing in local newspapers about his testimony in April and May. The penalty could carry a $1,000 fine or possible jail time and added court costs.

“Mr. Logan insulted the integrity, ability and intelligence of the Grand Jury in an attempt to influence the outcome of its investigation,” states an affidavit signed by Denis France, the former grand jury foreman.

The affidavit also accuses Logan of violating an oath and admonition to secrecy.

In the written admonishment that witnesses must sign as they exit their grand jury interview, they are told not to reveal to anyone what was discussed, except as the court dictates. The court requires witnesses to sign the document to indicate that they understand the admonishment.

Below is the question, “Will you abide by the admonishment?”

Logan crossed out that question on his exit document and wrote, “I will abide by the law,” and signed it.

Logan argues in court documents that his First Amendment right to free speech trumps the grand jury’s admonition of secrecy, because his disclosures posed no specific harm to the public.

Citing a 2000 California appellate court case, Logan states in the documents that the grand jury’s admonition was unconstitutional, unless there had been a clear and present danger or an imminent threat to the grand jury.

He also cites a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Landmark Communications v. Virginia, which states, “This Court has consistently rejected the argument that out-of-court comments on pending cases or grand jury investigations constituted a clear and present danger to the administration of justice.”

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors approved a $10,000 appropriation at its regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 6, to hire private attorney Dean Petrulakis to pursue the contempt charge. Stanislaus County Counsel Jack Doering said his office wouldn’t pursue the charge because of a conflict of interest and because it was unclear whether the contempt charge would be civil or criminal. County counsel offices by law cannot pursue criminal charges.

Neither Logan nor Petrulakis has returned calls on the matter. France, reached at his home last week, refused to comment.

In a grand jury report released in late June, the civil grand jury recommended that Councilwoman Annette Smith resign or be recalled and that former Mayor Becky Campo pay back money she received as mayor because she allegedly lived outside city limits.

It also stated that the city should file a complaint with the California State Bar to chastise Logan for alleged improprieties. Those include failing to be in the room when the council voted to reimburse developer John Ramos for $27,000 in legal fees he incurred as he sought to block the Del Puerto Health Center from moving to the Keystone Pacific Business Park in western Patterson. The grand jury suggested that Ramos return that money to the city.

Smith filed a federal lawsuit against the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury and Stanislaus County on Sept. 28.

The complaint for damages — filed in U.S. District Federal Court in Sacramento — seeks an injunction against the grand jury to stop further alleged abuse of authority and to publish transcripts from the investigation. The suit also calls for the jury to revise its findings and seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees. By law, the Stanislaus County Superior Court — which is funded by the state — has purview over the civil grand jury, while Stanislaus County has responsibility for legal defense of the body.

The board voted to pass a proposed Legislative Projects and Issues document for the upcoming year Tuesday Dec. 20 that asks for the state Legislature to support full state funding for the civil grand jury, including its legal defense.

• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187 or

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sacramento library kickback scheme results in 2 more convictions

Sacramento library kickback scheme results in 2 more convictions

By Andy Furillo, The Sacramento Bee,Dec. 20, 2011

Gadflies, watchdogs and whistle-blowers basked in validation and vindication Monday when a Sacramento jury closed the book on the library corruption scandal with a clean sweep of convictions.

"You swear people in and all of a sudden a lot of the truth comes out," said Don Prange, foreman of the Sacramento County Grand Jury, which forced the case that has placed three defendants on the precipice of prison. "That's how we got to where we're at, and I'm really pleased."

A Sacramento Superior Court criminal jury finished the work begun more than four years ago by a library whistle-blower, The Sacramento Bee, a citizen activist and Prange's grand jury.
The culmination came in convictions returned against the library's former security chief, James Mayle, and his wife, Janie Rankins-Mayle. They ran a billing operation good for a $780,000 take by those two defendants and another convicted in-house collaborator, former library facilities director Dennis Nilsson. Nilsson was found guilty Dec. 9 on 16 counts.

To see full story click on:

Kern County Grand Jury recommends consolidation of air districts

Tehachapi News

Tuesday, Dec 20 2011 02:30 PM

The Kern County Grand Jury has recommended that the Air Pollution Control Districts of eastern and western Kern County be consolidated into one.

In a report issued earlier this month, the Grand Jury noted that its Administration and Audit Committee conducted a review of the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District.

According to the findings of the committee, “it is logical and advantageous to combine the Eastern Kern County Air Pollution Control District and Western Kern County into a single pollution control local district. This change is justified by the extensive oil production and refinement activities in western Kern County, including the expanded financial resources gleaned from production and manufacturing.”

According to Dave Jones, Air Pollution Control Officer with the Eastern Kern APCD, the recommendation is problematic in that the Eastern Kern APCD is comprised of the eastern portion of Kern County that is not within the San Joaquin Valley APCD.

Jones said that Kern County once had one APCD, but that around 1990, state legislation required the eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley to consolidate into one air pollution control district to begin addressing issues common to that air basin.

Eastern Kern - including Tehachapi - is not part of the San Joaquin Valley air basin, so a decision was made at the time to split off into a separate air pollution control district.

Currently, the board of directors of the Eastern Kern APCD is made up of two representatives of the Kern County Board of Supervisors and representatives of the three cities in the district - Tehachapi, California City and Ridgecrest. Tehachapi Mayor Ed Grimes sits on the board.

Jones said the board will consider the Grand Jury recommendation at its January meeting. The staff recommendation is to oppose consolidation because of the differences in the air quality issues.

“Although there are minor ozone problems,” the air in Eastern Kern is “nothing like it is here in Bakersfield,” Jones said.

The Mojave Chamber of Commerce has also come out against the consolidation proposed by the Grand Jury.

In a letter to Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner, Cathy Hansen, president of the Mojave Chamber of Commerce, noted that “Eastern Kern is in a separate APCD because this region is in a different air basin, and has an industrial base based on mining, aerospace, renewable energy, and tourism rather than the petroleum and agriculture base of the SJVAPCD.

“Further,” Hansen noted, “EKAPCD consists of the 41 communities of the region, all in Kern County, while SJVAPCD includes seven other counties in addition to the western portion of Kern County.”

Eastern Kern leaders have faced the challenge of similar suggestions in the past, Hansen noted.

“Several years ago the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempted to impose upon Eastern Kern potentially devastating air quality rules based on combining pollution levels in the Valley with those in Eastern Kern. It took an outcry from Eastern Kern community leaders and the support of then-Congressman Bill Thomas to halt this action, which could have closed down activities at Edwards Air Force Base, the Mojave Air and Space Port, and the Naval Air Warfare Weapons Division Weapons Division at China Lake if fully implemented,” she said, asking Scrivner to “do everything in your power to oppose this recommendation, and that you suggest to the Grand Jury that they perform more intensive studies before making potentially devastating suggestions such as this one.”

The January meeting of the EKAPCD Board of Directors will be held on Jan. 12, 2012, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Golden Hills Community Services District office, 21415 Reeves, Tehachapi. The meeting is open to the public.

Jones noted that although the district is now headquartered in Bakersfield with a field office in Tehachapi, it plans to relocate its headquarters to Tehachapi in October 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

EZ way to follow our News Blog

Text FOLLOW @cgja1 to 40404 and you'll receive updates via your cell phone. Just click on the link in the text to read the entire article. It's never been easier to stay informed about grand jury news from all of California's 58 counties!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Solano County grand jury reviews treasurer's department

Solano County grand jury reviews treasurer's department

A review of the Solano County treasurer's department by the county grand jury showed it is an "effectively managed organization" with only minor changes needed. One change recommended is the elimination of the department's oversight committee.

A report released Thursday states that the grand jury reviewed the county treasurer and its treasury oversight committee, finding that the committee created in 1997 only met four times in the last two years. It is required to meet quarterly.

The committee apparently failed to attain a quorum at the four meetings and was unable to perform any formal business for at least two years. The committee, according to the report, didn't post agendas, as required by the Brown Act.

Meanwhile, the committee did not conduct an annual audit in either 2009 or 2010, as required by county policy. The last audit performed by the Auditor-Controller's Office was for 2008.

"We asked them to see if the committee was relevant," said Charles Lomeli, treasurer/tax collector/county clerk. "We want to eliminate things that cost money and this was one of those things."

Lomeli explained money was spent on staff to prepare reports for meetings.

"There was a time when we did things manually," he said about when the committee was first created. "We've revamped the process since then and technology has improved."

Other inconsistencies mentioned in the report show that the Solano County Treasurer Investment Policy does not contain all the language required by California Government Code and a Board of Supervisors' resolution.

On a positive note, the committee also found that the treasury's activity is transparent to the public and financial information is posted on its website, including yield reports, financial statements, rating reports and the results of both internal and external audits.

Additionally, the grand jury noted that the auditor-controller conducts quarterly treasury reviews, which are also published online.

Also, the investment rating company Standard and Poor's continuously rates the Solano County Treasury. As a result, according to the grand jury, every month the treasurer provides a complete accounting of the investment pool and all securities held to the rating agency.

See complete story at:

Follow Staff Writer Melissa Murphy at ReporterMMurphy.

Trustees should be removed from office

(Kern County) Grand Jury says two Elk Hills trustees should be removed from office

The grand jury did not name the board members, but did recommend that the Kern County Superintendent of Schools immediately replace the trustees.

The grand jury investigated the district after receiving a complaint against the trustees. The report said it found no evidence of criminal activity.

The grand jury report also recommended the California Legislature change state laws to make it legal to conduct “thorough criminal/background checks on all individuals currently holding or running for elected positions, including School Board Trustees, without exception.”

The reports said the grand jury contacted the Kern County Superintendent of Schools over residency and background check issues and also did an online search for records of criminal activity in Kern County

There are three trustees currently serving on the Elk Hills School District Board of Trustees.

According to the district's website, they are Board President Curt Stephens, whose four-year term expires in 2014 and Debra Howard and Brenda Bennett, whose terms expire in 2012.

Taft Midway Driller
December 15, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

(Imperial) County Grand Jury Report Cites Problems

(Imperial) County grand jury report cites narcotics and cellphone problems at local state prisons
By SILVIO J. PANTA, Staff Writer

An ongoing problem of illegal narcotics and a continuing issue with inmates in possession of cellular phones are problems that Centinela and Calipatria state prisons are dealing with, according to the findings of a final report issued by the Imperial County
Civil Grand Jury.

The report concluded that both prisons are generally well-run “with no major issues uncovered” during annually mandated inspections conducted by the civil grand jury.

The presence of illegal drugs is common in most modern prisons. The grand jury recommended that local prison officials “make use of one or more trained narcotic dogs that would be assigned to one or both prisons.”

In addition, both prisons should work with local, state and national authorities “to overcome the federal resistance to block illegal cell phone signals,” according to the report.

The civil grand jury is allowed to issue as many reports as it can as long as they are done before the end of the fiscal year, June 30, said Imperial County Civil Grand Jury Foreman Gil Rapoza.
More reports by the civil grand jury are expected, Rapoza said.

Centinela State Prison Administrative Lt. Jesse Jackson was unable to immediately comment and referred all questions to Chief Deputy Warden Amy Miller, who did not return a call for comment.

Administrative Lt. Jorge Santana of Calipatria State Prison said that efforts are always being undertaken to assure that drugs and cellular phone use are curtailed. “We’re constantly searching and make every reasonable effort,” Santana said.

Copyright © 2011, Imperial Valley Press

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Board backs Stanislaus grand jury's legal press

Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

Ex-Patterson lawyer divulged his testimony
By Garth Stapley

Stanislaus County civil grand jurors want Patterson's former city attorney held in contempt of court for publicly divulging the focus of a grand jury investigation before it was complete.

County Counsel John Doering said his office thinks George Logan broke the law and should be prosecuted in criminal court, but the district attorney's office refused.

County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously agreed to let grand jurors spend up to $10,000 hiring private lawyers to go after Logan in civil court.

Logan and District Attorney Birgit Fladager could not be reached Tuesday.

In a court document, Logan says his constitutional right to free speech trumps a grand jury's admonition to keep quiet about an ongoing probe.

"I plead not guilty and refute all charges," Logan said in an Oct. 14 court brief.

At issue is the grand jury's June 29 report criticizing Logan, former Patterson Mayor Becky Campo and Councilwoman Annette Smith. Smith subsequently sued the grand jury, saying her rights were violated and that she hoped to force an overhaul of the grand jury system.

A report to the Board of Supervisors on the grand jury's request for $10,000, submitted through Presiding Judge Ricardo Córdova, fails to identify parties. Tuesday, Doering offered details.

He said his office initially represented the grand jury but backed away because of a potential conflict of interest and because his office cannot pursue criminal matters.

Logan, an Atwater attorney, pre-empted the grand jury's report by writing a point-by-point summary of his testimony to some jurors, published April 28 in The Bee and the next day in the Patterson Irrigator.

"They told me I could not reveal any of the discussions before the grand jury. I told them that the prohibition only applied to grand jury members — not witnesses," Logan wrote. "They were dead wrong on every assumption about the city and even about their own rules."

In a separate Irrigator news story about Logan's decision to go public, he is quoted as saying he feared grand jurors "were just going to try and crucify me and my reputation."

When grand jurors issued their report two months later, they said Logan should have recused himself from advising a councilman summoned by the grand jury, because Logan had himself already testified. Logan also violated a grand jury oath by talking about his testimony, grand jurors found.

Grand jurors also claim Logan mishandled a matter involving a developer whose legal fees were paid by the Patterson council and told the city he would testify for the developer should he sue the city. Jurors recommended that the city complain to the California Bar Association.

In a November affidavit, former grand jury foreman Denis France said Logan "disobeyed the admonition … with the intent to frustrate the dignity, authority and the processes of this court."

Logan told The Bee that grand jurors didn't understand the law.

He resigned as Patterson's city attorney in May 2010, citing medical reasons.

In a court document, Logan said newspaper articles amount to hearsay and are not suitable as evidence.

In an August affidavit, France said Logan signed an oath and admonition form after receiving this instruction: "You are admonished not to reveal to any person … what questions were asked or what responses were given or any other matters concerning the nature or subject of the grand jury investigation … until such time as the report is made public. Violation of this admonition is punishable as contempt of court."

In a rival brief, Logan said state law "recognizes the First Amendment right to criticize any judicial office as long as it does not actually interfere with its proceedings."

Hearings are scheduled in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at or (209) 578-2390.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oakland building inspection reforms 'too slow'

Oakland Councilwoman Jane Brunner tore into the city's building services division on Tuesday, saying its attempts at reforms in the wake of a scathing grand jury report have been sluggish.

Among other things, the division has failed to create an independent appeals board or create a citizens task force, Brunner said. In addition, the division plans to bring a reform plan before the council in March even though an Alameda County Civil Grand Jury issued a report with recommendations in June.

"We are absolutely moving too slow," Brunner said at a meeting Tuesday of the City Council's community and economic development committee. "I had higher expectations of things."

E-mail Matthai Kuruvila at

Judge orders more Grand Jury transcripts be handed over to Colonies' defendants

Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/29/2011 10:37:41 PM PST

A San Bernardino Superior Court judge on Tuesday ordered that the Grand Jury testimony of a former county official be unsealed.

Judge Michael A. Smith ordered the release of transcripts of testimony given by Jim Lindley, the county's former public health director and former director of purchasing, before the county's civil Grand Jury on April 21.

Defense attorney Stephen Larson requested the transcripts. He is defending Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum in a corruption case.

Burum and three former county officials are accused of conspiring to expedite a legal settlement between the county and Rancho Cucamonga investor group Colonies Partners LP, of which Burum is a co-managing partner, in exchange for bribes.

The county settled with Colonies in November 2006 for a landmark $102 million, ending a nearly five-year legal battle over flood-control easements at the developer's 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland.

Prosecutors allege the settlement was tainted by bribery and blackmail. Also charged are former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt. All four defendants deny any wrongdoing.

Lindley's Grand Jury testimony occurred the same month state and local prosecutors impaneled the special criminal Grand Jury to hear testimony in the Colonies' case. His testimony was subsequently summarized to the criminal Grand Jury by prosecutor Lewis Cope, Larson said.
Larson said that when all the evidence is presented, Burum will be vindicated.

"We are confident once all the information is out in the open it will clearly establish Mr. Burum's innocence," Larson said.

Contact Joe via email or by phone at 909-386-3874.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

S.F. Ethics Meetings Coming to Local TV

CITY INSIDER/S.F. ethics meetings coming to local TV
Three cheers for '10-11 (San Francisco Grand) Jury

Monday, November 28, 2011 (SF Chronicle)
By Rachel Gordon
Move over, "Dancing with the Stars." San Francisco soon may lay claim to one of the hottest shows on TV: "The Ethics Commission." Starting in January, the commission's regular monthly meetings will be moved to thefourth Monday of the month and televised locally on Channels 26 and 78, orviewable online at And special sessions held in between -sweeps week, perhaps? - also will be broadcast.
The San Francisco Civil Grand Jury pushed for the idea, after derisively describing the panel as "the sleeping watchdog," and Supervisor David Campos ran with it, crafting legislation to turn the concept into reality,as in reality TV. Raw and unfiltered. The idea, states the legislation, is to give "the public a chance to monitor and understand the commission's role in protecting the integrity of city government and local officials." The commission oversees and enforces San Francisco laws regulating campaign finance and the conduct of appointed and local officials.
Currently, only audio recordings of the meetings are available. The public also can catch the commission action live and in person at City Hall. But that's far different from watching from the comfort of your own home or on the communal flat screen at your favorite bar. The Board of Supervisors gave a preliminary OK to the broadcast deal las tweek, with final approval expected Dec. 6. The five commissioners and executive director may not be household names -yet. But just wait. And, to keep the show from getting stale, keep an eyeout for guest appearances by campaign consultants, good-government watchdogs, candidates and attorneys. Mondays will never be the same.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

San Bernardino officials draft response to grand jury

By Kimberly Pierceall, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.
Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


San Bernardino International Airport's response to the civil grand jury's response (that was a response to the airport's original response to a scathing report that questioned the airport's management) appears to be ready.

On the Nov. 30 agenda for the San Bernardino International Airport Authority's agenda is a draft copy of a letter the authority and its parent agency -- the Inland Valley Development Agency -- may send to the grand jury.

Approval of what the letter may say is only up for a vote of the airport board, though, not the related IVDA board.

Earlier this month, the grand jury made the unheard decision to fire back at the agency for its "unsubstantiated and misleading" allegations that the jury got its facts wrong.

The cost to build a passenger terminal and a destination for private planes to land and refuel has grown in cost from $45 million to more than $142.5 million and the report questioned no-bid agreements awarded to the airport's developer, Scot Spencer, as well as a legal settlement with the agencies he manages, among other concerns raised. The grand jury's report was released June 30. In September, the FBI led a raid of airport offices as well as the offices and rented Riverside home of Spencer.

The Nov. 30 meetings of the SBIAA and IVDA boards will start at 3 p.m. at Loma Linda City Hall at 25541 Barton Rd.

The proposed response (verbatim and with no changes to spelling, punctuation or formatting errors):

SBIAA and IVDA Confirm Intent for Action on Grand Jury Report

The Board of Directors of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority acknowledged the receipt of the Grand Jury's follow up letter and affirmed at their meeting the implementation of a program to address the concerns.

"We welcome the clarifications of the Grand Jury who, as we, wish to insure that the San Bernardino International Airport and the related development activities of the Inland Valley Development Agency are managed and operated with the highest professional standards."

"We have moved forward and begun the process of addressing all of the concerns with the systems and operations issues raised by the Grand Jury report We have already taken steps to address their suggested improvements and are conducting a review which will set in place policies and procedures that meet the highest professional, accounting, and public accountability standards".
Best Impaired Risk

"We have asked out Interim Executive Director to manage this corrective action process and anticipate that we will be able to demonstrate in a very short time not only the intention but the capacity to become a public entity whose policies, procedures, programs and operations will be viewed as exemplary".

"We are pleased with our achievements in the redevelopment of Norton Air Force Base and the development of the San Bernardino International Airport to date but remain committed to new ideas on how we can do even a better job."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

San Bernardino COUNTY: Grand jury disputes airport’s claims

A civil grand jury is saying officials tied to San Bernardino International Airport, seen above during an FBI raid, are misrepresenting findings from a previous civil grand jury that faulted the management of the airport's operations.



Published: 08 November 2011 03:12 PM

The San Bernardino County civil grand jury has fired back at officials leading San Bernardino International Airport who had earlier accused the jury of getting its facts wrong in a highly critical audit of efforts to build a commercial airport at the former Norton Air Force Base.

The current grand jury defended the report Tuesday, saying the airport’s allegations were “unsubstantiated and misleading.”

While unusual for a grand jury to respond in such a way, the jury said in a statement Tuesday that it felt it was necessary to do so, quoting a line from the airport’s own response that it needed to “ensure the integrity of the process.”

The 15-page response was sent Nov. 3 to San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris, president of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, and the rest of the board made up of elected officials from San Bernardino County’s east valley. One alternate member on the board called the response from the grand jury unprecedented.

“The (airport’s) written response to our audit report consistently misrepresents our findings and provides vast amounts of information that is superfluous to the audit topics,” the letter stated.

The grand jury letter was signed by Edward Burgnon, foreman for the current 2011-12 grand jury who wasn’t a juror June 30, when the airport report was released. Burgnon said the audit report commissioned by the prior jury was “very thorough” and “pointed out things that we would hope they would build on and correct.” He said the report was free of errors.

“We stand by that report,” he said.

The 120-page grand jury report questioned many of the airport’s operations, including the decision to award lucrative no-bid development agreements to Scot Spencer, who was convicted of bankruptcy fraud in the mid-1990s for his role at Braniff Airlines and who was later banned from the aviation industry by the Department of Transportation.

In 2007 Spencer was put in charge of developing the main passenger terminal and a smaller fixed-base operation for private pilots, earning a developer fee and a percentage for each construction contract awarded. The projects grew in scope and cost from $45 million in 2007 to at least $142.5 million today and now include a three-story U.S. Customs building still under construction.

After the grand jury report was released, airport officials, including Morris and former executive director Donald L. Rogers, defended the decision to award contracts to Spencer and often discredited the report for containing errors.

In one case, Rogers — a certified public accountant who is a former partner in the San Bernardino CPA firm Rogers Anderson Malody & Scott — said the report wasn’t a true performance audit as it was represented to them by San Francisco auditing firm Harvey M. Rose Associates. Harvey Rose auditors wrote the final grand jury report.

Rogers had said the audit wasn’t a performance audit because it didn’t compare the airport to similar airports, for example.

The 15-page letter from the grand jury pointed out that a performance audit, as defined by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, is exactly what the jury conducted.

Rogers resigned Sept. 28, a week following an FBI-led raid of airport offices as well as the offices and rented Riverside home of Spencer. The FBI was seeking evidence of conspiracy, bribery, fraud and money laundering among other wrongdoing, according to the search warrant.

The grand jury report had criticized the airport’s decision to buy used airport equipment from Spencer for $4.06 million and how the transaction was handled.

Calls to Morris and San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales, another longtime member of the authority board, weren’t immediately returned Tuesday. Neither were calls to the airport authority’s assistant director Mike Burrows. In an e-mail, Rogers said he hadn’t seen the grand jury’s letter and declined to comment since he’s no longer with the airport.

The authority is related to the Inland Valley Development Agency, which earns revenue from property tax revenue and has been overseeing redevelopment of the former Norton Air Force Base since it closed in 1994. The IVDA funds the airport's construction and operation.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry, who was appointed to the IVDA board in 2009 and is an alternate on the airport board said Tuesday that he hadn’t read the 15-page letter but had been told about its content and believed it was unprecedented.

“All in all, I don’t question its accuracy,” he said of the original grand jury report.

In August, the airport responded to the 120-page grand jury audit with a collection of 583 pages that included presentations made at public meetings and a Cal State San Bernardino report paid for by the airport that looked at the beneficial economic impact of private development, primarily nonaviation commercial development, at the former base.

The grand jury took issue with the airport using other companies, including TranSystems which is a subcontractor still developing the airport, to make presentations that attempted to discredit the grand jury’s claims. TranSystems ultimately misrepresented the report’s findings, the letter states.

The grand jury’s investigation spanned two years after it received an anonymous complaint in 2009.

(San Joaqin) Sanitary district counters key grand jury findings

By Keith Reid
Record Staff Writer
November 08, 2011 12:00 AM

WOODBRIDGE - The Woodbridge Sanitary District has responded to a critical June report out of the San Joaquin County grand jury, denying that the district has falsified reports to the State Water Resources Control Board or was involved in payroll fraud, but also saying it will implement some new policies to better monitor district spending.

A scathing nine-page San Joaquin County grand jury report released in June blasted general manager Luis Ching for engaging in payroll fraud, falsifying State Water Resources Control Board records and nepotism. The report also criticized the elected board of directors for being "uninformed" on the issues.

The Woodbridge Sanitary District, which serves 3,500 customers over 188 acres in northern San Joaquin County, issued a seven-page response to the allegations signed by board president Douglas Colucci. Ching would not respond further when contacted by The Record.

"It's a constant work in progress as far as implementing the policies," Woodbridge Sanitary District Attorney Mia Brown said. "We've responded to all of the allegations and implemented or have drafted forms (for procedures) in regards to everything recommended."

The payroll fraud allegation stemmed from a report that an employee was paid $1,260 for 36 hours of work that he didn't perform so that he could turn the money over to another employee who couldn't be formally paid because he was getting disability benefits.

That allegation was denied in the district's response, saying the employee that did the work was paid for his time "and no check was issued improperly."

The district also denied falsifying quality control reports or failing to document sewage spills that were reported by customers. In both cases, the district said "The district does not find support for this finding in its records, no such records were requested by the Grand Jury for inspection, and therefore the District is unclear upon what evidence this finding is based."

In the case of the water quality control reports, the district said employees did find that three full months of records regarding dissolved oxygen levels in the district's water treatment system are missing. The district is filing a police report in regard to the missing documents in the event they were stolen.

The grand jury also alleged the district engaged in nepotism/favoritism in hiring and paying employees. The grand jury report said relatives of district management were paid as much as $25 an hour more to do the same work as nonrelatives. The district made it clear it will not hire relatives of employees.

"The district's personnel manual does not allow for the hiring of relatives of present employees," the district's response states.

In other areas, the district said it has begun a process of tightening up its operations and fiscal management with new procedures for credit card use and employee-training manuals.

The district has also created new policies to review water readings and spills and to better monitor public complaints.

Brown said the district's response is likely the end to the grand jury's report.

"The grand jury that performed this investigation is disbanded. The next grand jury can take it up if they wish," she said.

Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 546-8257 or Visit his blog at

CA Grand Jurors’ Association gives award to Oakland Local for outstanding coverage

Oakland Local is proud to receive a 2011 A Certificate of Merit for Excellence in Reporting – Media Award from the California Grand Jurors’ Association for our coverage of the CEDA/Building services issues and the Alameda County Grand Jury report.

The citation reads: "Many media organizations reported on the 2010-2011 Alameda County Grand Jury’s investigation and subsequent report titled “City of Oakland Building Services Division,” however, it was the comprehensive series of reports by Oakland Local that made a significant impact and through this exposure, created a positive change in the government of the City of Oakland. This extensive series of articles, which included interviews with citizens and city officials, was made possible by a grant from “The Fund for Investigative Journalism” in Washington, D.C. This Fund was founded in 1969 to grant money to determined journalists to assist in the fight against racism, poverty, corporate greed, and governmental corruption. The awarding of this national grant for press coverage substantiates the impact of the Grand Jury’s investigation and report.

"The Alameda County Grand Jury’s investigation was generated by many citizens who were negatively affected by the city of Oakland’s Building Services Division’s practices and who contacted the Jury to express their outrage. Through the series of articles presented by this media outlet, many other citizens were alerted to a means of finding resolution of their complaints with this Division."

The ward was presented at the association’s annual conference held in Napa on Nov. 7-8. Susan Mernit, founder and editor of Oakland Local, and reporter Barbara Grady attending the ceremony and accepted the award; reporter Jennifer Inez also shared the lead writing duties on the stories with Grady.

Representing the 2010-11 Alameda County Grand Jury were Dale Rogers Marshall, Foreperson; Dr. Patrick Preminger, Forman Pro Tem; and Anita Ramlo, Government Committee Chair.

The California Grand Jurors’ Association is a statewide nonprofit organization of former grand jurors dedicated to promoting government accountability by improving the training and resources available to California’s 58 regular grand juries and educating the public about the substantial local government oversight and reporting powers of those grand juries.

We're thrilled to receive this honor from them. The Fund for Investigative Journalism's grant made the work possible. Follow the stories recognized at

If you'd like to support what we do, make a donation to our nonprofit at

2011-2012 Yolo County Grand Jury is in session

• Sun, Nov 20, 2011

The Yolo County Grand Jury functions as a citizen “watchdog” organization to review the operations and performance of county and city organizations, school districts and special districts. Citizens may submit complaints about the actions or performances of public officials or public agencies within Yolo County and the Grand Jury makes its own determination about which complaints may be investigated. All information is kept strictly confidential.

Based on these reviews or investigations, the Grand Jury publishes its findings and may recommend constructive action to improve the quality and effectiveness of local government.

The public can access Grand Jury forms, information and published reports at or by calling (530) 406-5088. Forms are also available at Yolo County Administration information counter, 625 Court Street, Woodland, California and Yolo County Public Libraries.

The Grand Jury is an all volunteer panel of Yolo County residents. Jury service is a one-year term. The Grand Jury is an arm of the judicial system, but acts as an entirely independent body. Juries act as oversight bodies for county and city governments and also have responsibilities in certain criminal matters. Grand Juries are mandated by the California constitution.

Monday, November 14, 2011

AIRPORT: Leaders to respond to (San Bernardino) grand jury’s response


Published: 11 November 2011 06:05 AM

The back and forth between San Bernardino International Airport officials and the San Bernardino County civil grand jury isn’t over yet. Expect a response to the grand jury’s Nov. 3 response to the airport’s 500-plus page answer to the jury’s highly critical report of the airport’s operations.

That’s right. A response to the response that was a response to another response.

During the closed session of Wednesday’s meeting, the elected leaders that sit on the San Bernardino International Airport Authority discussed their intention to formally respond to the grand jury, again, but this time they’ll keep it short and concise.

Meanwhile, there was no mention of the grand jury’s letter during the regular Wednesday meeting’s open session. The letter was made public a day before and accused airport officials of being misleading and making unsubstantiated claims that there were errors in the original jury report, a rare action by a grand jury.

The original report released June 30 was the culmination of a two-year investigation that started in 2009. The jury had hired San Francisco firm Harvey M. Rose Associates for $75,840 to conduct an audit of the airport’s operations and management.

The airport’s former executive director, Donald L. Rogers, deferred comment to the authority’s current staff. The authority’s assistant executive director Mike Burrows didn’t return calls seeking comment the day the letter was released. Neither did San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris and San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales who both sit on the authority’s board. Morris is president and Gonzales is a member.

When asked about the letter after Wednesday’s meeting, board member and Colton Councilman Vincent Yzaguirre said he had actually handwritten his thoughts on the subject on the back of one of the pages in the agenda. He wrote:

“I personally and respectfully appreciate the sincere effort by (the) grand jury to provide a meaningful and helpful critique of this airport. One that we can all humbly find value in (in) the form of recommendations that will help us become more efficient, more effective and more productive in our efforts to develop this base for the future benefit of this region. I personally thank the grand jury for their collective input and service to our communities.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

(Santa Cruz) Grand jury’s final report now online

Posted: Friday, Nov 11th, 2011

The final report of the 2011 Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury has been put online, complete with responses from those investigated.

The city of Watsonville was the target of an investigation titled “City of Watsonville: Fastest Growing City Looking for Leadership and a Fire Truck.” The investigation questioned the process the city took when buying a used fire truck, which was purchased in 2008 but did not arrive in Watsonville until earlier this year; questioned the city’s apparent nondisclosure of environmental issues concerning selective land use permits; criticized the city for its handling of development issues around the airport; and criticized the city for failing to provide the public, the City Council and other elected bodies with complete information regarding city functions.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grand Jury commissions second audit of Victorville

Joe Nelson, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 11/03/2011 02:13:47 PM PDT

The San Bernardino County Grand Jury has commissioned a performance and compliance audit of Victorville, the embattled High Desert city's second one in the last two years.

A letter received by the city on Monday from Grand Jury foreman Edward "Ted" Burgnon confirmed that the Grand Jury is now in its unprecedented third year investigating the city.

"This engagement is intended to complement a forensic audit of the accounts and records of the city of Victorville and associated agencies that was requested by the Victorville City Council and conducted for previous grand juries by the firm Kessler International," Burgnon said in his letter.

He said the Grand Jury has commissioned North Hollywood-based Harvey M. Rose Associates LLC to conduct the performance and compliance audit. The company will investigate the operations, accounts and records of the city and the Victor Valley Economic Development Authority.

Kessler International, a New York City-based forensic accounting firm, conducted the audit in 2009 and 2010 at the request of then-Councilman Ryan McEachron, who is now mayor. The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved an allocation of $195,000 for the audit.

In July, Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt voiced concern when the Grand Jury released its annual report, which did not include any findings from the Victorville audit and investigation.

Mitzelfelt did not return phone calls Thursday seeking comment, and it was unclear how the recently commissioned audit will be funded.

In December 2009, McEachron pushed for the forensic audit amid allegations of shaky finances and reported handshake deals for development projects, mainly at Southern California Logistics Airport.

Earlier that year, the Grand Jury interviewed roughly a half-dozen elected and appointed city officials, inquiring about the city's financial and at least three verbal or handshake deals involving former City Manager Jon B. Roberts, who is now the city manager in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

The allegations also prompted an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is still ongoing.

When volunteers were selected for the 2010-2011 Grand Jury, six members of the previous year's Grand Jury were held over for the continuing investigation of Victorville. They were dismissed on June 30, leading some to believe the investigation had been scrapped or handed off to the FBI.

But rumors swirling about a potential FBI investigation have gone unconfirmed.

"The city has had no contact with the FBI in any way," City Manager Doug Robertson said Thursday.

McEachron said he has not received any concrete proof that the FBI is investigating and just wants to see some closure to the whole thing.

"We want to move on.... I think we all deserve a report," McEachron said Thursday.

A news release issued this week by the city summed up its position:

"Inasmuch as the investigation was never concluded we are hopeful the work to be done by Harvey M. Associates LLC and the 2011-2012 San Bernardino County Grand Jury will finally conclude this investigation with a public report. The city and its employees stand ready to fully participate and assist in any way in the completion of this investigation."

Reach Joe via email, call him at 909-386-3874.

Read more:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

True Facts on (San Francisco) Central Subway

Documented true facts on the Central Subway

By:Quentin L. Kopp 10/23/11
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, 10th edition, defines boondoggle as “a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft.” In one of the most remarkable and distorting set of glittering generalities in contemporary local public affairs, Steve Falk, president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, in an Oct. 6 op-ed tries to justify the Central Subway project on the ground it would create construction jobs and put money in businesses.
He doesn’t tell us that most of those big businesses are headquartered elsewhere. He claims the project has been “politicized in the heated mayoral race.” He purports “to set the record straight.” Well, let’s do so.
If it weren’t for the unappreciated San Francisco civil grand jury’s June 11 report, titled “Central Subway: Too Much Money for Too Little Benefit,” and the unsung and uncompensated efforts of citizens Howard Wong, Gerald Cauthen, Aaron Peskin (two-term Board of Supervisors president), Jake McGoldrick (eight-year Board of Supervisors member), the Sierra Club, Save Muni and now others, this scandalous project would never have been the subject of mayoral candidate debate.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, former Supervisor Tony Hall and Green Party member Terri Baum have unmistakably declared the project should be scrapped in favor of a more effective, considerably less expensive plan, which the appointed mayor never even knew about when first questioned this month. Public-Defender Jeff Adachi recommends thorough, public reexamination of this disgraceful, political waste of taxpayer money.
Falk mischaracterizes the Central Subway as a “fully funded $1.6 billion project.” It is not fully funded. The major source, the Federal Transit Administration, supposedly will supply $983.2 million, or 62 percent, of the June estimated total cost of $1.6 billion. For the record, in 2003, the estimated project cost was $648 million by 2004, it was $763 million by 2006, it was $994 million for a 1.7-mile project.
Omitted from Falk’s false rhetoric is that FTA final approval as part of its so-called New Starts program has yet to occur. Moreover, any FTA approval must thereafter be approved by both houses of the U.S. Congress, and on Sept. 8, 2011, an appropriations bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives; its effect will strip all federal funds from the Central Subway project.
Falk then talks of where the Central Subway will go, but not where it will not go. It will not go to the Market Street Subway System. The Central Subway’s Union Square stop is about 1000 feet from the BART and Muni subway stops. It also manages to miss connections with 25 of the 30 east-west bus and rail lines it crosses, thereby making connections to most of Twin Peaks longer and less convenient. And because it arbitrarily ends at Stockton and Washington streets, the subway would extend neither to the nine populous residential and commercial districts to the north and west of Chinatown, nor the northerly two-thirds of Chinatown itself.
Falk asserts the Central Subway would “provide direct, rapid transit from the Bayview, Mission Bay and South of Market areas to The City’s dense downtown core and Chinatown.” That’s untrue. The trip from the Bayview would continue to be virtually all by surface light rail, a service that today is slow and unreliable. “Direct service to the downtown core”? Also untrue. Union Square isn’t the downtown core — it’s our shopping center, featuring high-priced retail stores unlikely to be patronized by Chinatown or southeast San Francisco residents. And, “service to Chinatown”? Misleading. Chinatown extends at least as far north today as Greenwich Street, eight blocks past the end of the vaunted subway.
Next, Falk repeats The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s exaggerated contention that by 2030, “the new rail line will accommodate 43,700 daily riders in its opening year and more than 65,000 in 2030.” But here’s the rub: The SFMTA representations of 65,000 one-way riders includes ridership of the already completed and paid-for Third Street line; and according to reports The SFMTA filed officially with the FTA, by 2030, the Central Subway would carry only 35,100 one-way riders daily, of whom but 4,800 would be new Muni riders. If Caltrain is extended to First and Mission streets, Central Subway ridership is projected by The SFMTA to decline by another 8,000 or more riders per day. These are The SFMTA data, not political campaign talk. These are reasons Messrs. Peskin and McGoldrick, who approved the proposed project eight years ago as Supervisors, and the Sierra Club, which did likewise, now loudly proclaim opposition to an excruciatingly flawed project.
So, San Francisco City Hall is now poised to spend over $100,000 in capital for each daily rider added by the subway and force Muni to suffer $15,200,000 more a year in operating costs to its 2011-12 estimated $23,000,000 deficit. What Falk doesn’t tell readers is that Muni promulgated in 2002 a “transit-preferential streets” program, which included for Stockton Street traffic signal priority, transit-stop respacing and relocation, bus bulbs, and an extension of overhead trolley wires to Marina Boulevard, at a three-year completion cost of only $9,100,000.
Finally, Falk refuses to note that under applicable federal law and contractual requirements, San Francisco taxpayers will be responsible for all further cost increases of the project beyond the approximate $1 billion-per-mile current price tag.
In sum, Central Subway represents a garish, highly overpriced “loser” that if opened by 2018 (which it won’t) will fail to provide enough in transportation benefits to justify exorbitant cost and its baleful effect upon Muni operating expenses. Heed the facts, not the downtown propaganda.
Quentin L. Kopp is a retired Superior Court judge, a former state senator and San Francisco Board of Supervisors member.

Monday, October 31, 2011

(Santa Barbara) County, DA working to develop truancy plan

Goal is to address root causes with help from local school districts

By Marga K. Cooley/Associate Editor | Posted: Sunday, October 30, 2011 12:30 am |

Santa Barbara County, in conjunction with the District Attorney’s Office, is working to establish a partnership with local educators to stop a growing truancy problem.

The effort is in response to a Grand Jury report that shows the truancy rate for the county’s approximately 66,000 public school students has skyrocketed — from 21 percent in 2007-08, to 31 percent in 2009-10.

Truancy refers to a student having more than three unexcused absences.

The upward trend began in 2008, when the cash-strapped county Board of Supervisors decided not to fund an existing program, which would have cost about $215,000 that year and required ongoing revenue of $226,900 beginning in 2009-10.

Earlier this month, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal agreed to serve as an ad-hoc committee and work with the district attorney’s office and local school districts to develop a plan to address the problem.

The move is something that local school superintendents said earlier this year they would welcome.

Lavagnino said Friday that District Attorney Joyce Dudley will be studying a program in the Bay Area next month that could serve as a blueprint for Santa Barbara County.

“There’s an enforcement procedure, but there’s also hand-holding to get the kids to class and find out what the systemic problems are that are associated with truancy,” he said.

In the meantime, Lavagnino said, he and Carbajal will be talking to school district officials about their involvement.

According to Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss, a successful program will require at least some funding from the county.

Beyond that, he said, the parties will have to look at creative ways to put a budget together that can operate such a system.

That may involve private funding, he said, adding that the District Attorney’s Office is “actively engaged in looking at community interest along those lines.”

The Grand Jury report notes that state and federal funding for truancy programs is no longer available.

While Auchincloss points to a bare-bones truancy program in place now that involves sending letters to school districts and parents, Lavagnino said he doesn’t think that approach is effective, especially in Santa Maria.

“I look at the socioeconomic and cultural setup in Santa Maria and I don’t think sending a letter from the DA to somebody’s house saying your kid isn’t going to class would be a very effective way to deal with the problem,” said Lavagnino. “I think in Santa Maria we have to find out why kids aren’t going to class. Are they working? Are they ditching and their parents don’t know it?

“I’d like some real fixes instead of trying to Band-Aid it,” he continued. “We’re kind of blazing our own trail to get everybody involved.”

Pointing to the big-picture impact that truancy has on society in terms of its cost to taxpayers, as well as to school districts, Lavagnino said he wants to fix the fiscal problem “and turn people into taxpayers instead of benefit recipients.”

According to the Grand Jury report, the unemployment rate for working-age people over 25 who have not completed high school has grown from 11 percent in 1992 to nearly 16 percent in 2010. Comparatively, the unemployment rate for high school graduates with no college has gone from about 7 percent in 1992 to about 8.5 percent in 2010, and for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, from 2.5 percent in 1992 to 4 percent in 2010.

“You are required to have your kids in school, and at the end the only way to deal with it is enforcement, but I just want to make sure that’s the last resort,” Lavagnino said. “It’s probably not the most effective way to communicate with most of these people.”

Auchincloss said that the DA’s office is committed to reestablishing a truancy program because it’s an invaluable aspect of criminal intervention and prevention, and because of the value of education.

More importantly, he said, there is a need to understand what’s causing the problem.

“That’s where a truancy program comes in,” Auchincloss said. “Our truancy program as it existed in the past worked to identify the root causes, and used truancy as a bellwether to determine what kids are at risk in our community.”

Lavagnino said he hasn’t done any outreach with regard to local school districts since the ad-hoc committee was formed on Oct. 18, and none has contacted him. But, he said, it’s early in the process.

“I know their budgets are tight as well,” he said, “but I think everybody is going to have to tackle this thing together.”

Read more:

Santa Barbara County Grand Jury recommends cameras in police cars

Guadalupe chief to ask council for cash

By Brian Bullock / Staff Writer / | Posted: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:05 am |

The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury thinks all law enforcement patrol cars in the county should be equipped with video cameras.

For the Guadalupe Police Department — one of only two agencies in the county without them — that means an investment of around $65,000. Chief George Mitchell will put forth that information and a request to fund the effort to the City Council when it meets at 6 tonight at City Hall, 918 Obispo St.

According to the report, all county law enforcement vehicles are equipped with audio/visual equipment except those in the cities of Guadalupe and Santa Barbara. The report recommends those cities have such equipment installed on its patrol cars — 35 in Santa Barbara and seven in Guadalupe.

The grand jury estimates the cost per unit between $8,000 and $9,500, an amount not many departments can afford right now, according to Mitchell.

“Due to reduced budgets that all police departments are experiencing, they’re all looking for grant funding, so its getting hard to find,” said Mitchell. “We have no funding this year with the Police Department budget, so we’ll take it to the next level and ask the City Council.

“For us, it would have to be something that was planned for. Other than that, there would have to be some kind grant windfall or something like that.”

The report, published earlier this month, says that in an effort to maintain openness and accountability in government and to help protect agencies from litigation, audio/video technology should be installed in patrol vehicles. The report was in response to requests in July that local law enforcement agencies provide more transparency in their operations.

The county Sheriff’s Department installed the equipment in 53 of its patrol cars back in 2000. The report also indicates the Santa Maria Police Department has had similar equipment in all 32 of its cars since 2000, while Lompoc installed the equipment this year in all 11 of its patrol cars.

“It’s basically been driven by the grand jury’s look into the cameras,” Mitchell said of his request. “So we’re just trying to be in compliance with addressing their concerns and seeing what we can come up with.”

The council also will hear reports on its Guadalupe Street (Highway 1) improvement and street overlay projects.

Approximately $2 million in overlay and Guadalupe Street (Highway 1) improvement projects were recently finished, and City Engineer Dennis Delzeit will brief the council on their completion.

The projects were accomplished with a variety of funding, including Measure D, Proposition 1B, State Transportation Program Exchange funds and federal funding, according to the staff report.

Read more:

FBI, county join forces to probe Victorville

SEC also continues interviewing staffers

October 31, 2011 11:16 AM
Brooke Edwards Staggs

VICTORVILLE • Though Victorville wasn’t mentioned in the San Bernardino County Grand Jury’s 2011 report, that doesn’t mean the citizen group’s two-year probe into corruption allegations turned up nothing, according to a source close to the investigation.

Instead, the grand jury has turned its findings — including results of a lengthy, county-funded forensic audit — over to the FBI, the source told the Daily Press. The FBI then asked that some members of the grand jury join a special task force charged with looking into Victorville.

The grand jury began questioning city officials in spring 2009, as concerns continued to emerge over finances, the November 2008 campaign and handshake contracts allegedly made under former City Manager Jon Roberts.

Over the next two and a half years, council members and city staff were questioned, documents were subpoenaed and the county Board of Supervisors agreed to spend $195,000 to have New York-based auditor Kessler International look into the allegations.

For the first time in the history of San Bernardino County, six citizens were held over from the 2009-10 grand jury to continue serving with the next year’s watchdog group. Those members were released from service at the end of June, though a source who didn’t have permission to speak on the issue said at least two joined a task force to work with the FBI on both Victorville’s case and corruption concerns that have emerged related to San Bernardino International Airport.

Victorville staff hasn’t heard anything from the grand jury since the 2010-11 citizen group disbanded and issued its report at the end of June, according to City Manager Doug Robertson.

Two staff members are tentatively scheduled to meet separately with the Securities and Exchange Commission next month, Robertson said, as part of the federal agency’s ongoing probe into Victorville’s bond expenditures.

“The city has had no contact from any other investigatory body,” Robertson said in an email, “nor have any employees been interviewed by any other agency that we are aware of.”

In September, Councilman Mike Rothschild asked the District Attorney’s office, which oversees the grand jury, to look into statements made by Councilwoman Angela Valles following closed session talks. The DA issued a letter a short time later dismissing the concerns.

Valles said she spent several hours meeting with representatives from the DA’s office last week, expressing her concerns over the way Victorville operates.

“I believe in our justice system and I know that the wheels of justice turn slowly,” Valles said. “Hopefully we can get some closure to the investigations soon.”

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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

(Mendocino) County responds to grand jury's medical marijuana dispensary report

By TIFFANY REVELLE The Daily Journal
Updated: 10/30/2011 12:00:01 AM PDT

Mendocino County departments responded in August and September to a report from the county's civil grand jury recommending that the county regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

The report, titled "A Pot Paradox or Bud Bingo?: A Report on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Mendocino County," says all that's required to open a dispensary is a business license, which doesn't provide for "the needs of neighbors and communities to be protected from public safety impacts" of dispensaries.

"The public safety impacts are currently being met, regardless of the existence of dispensaries," Mendocino County Counsel Jeanine Nadel wrote in her response.

The grand jury report also notes two dispensaries were opened earlier this year in the coastal town of Mendocino, both within 1,000 feet of schools.

Nadel responded that she has "no specific knowledge" of that and two other of the grand jury's findings.

The county Treasurer-Tax Collector's Office, which the grand jury criticizes for being "unable to accurately state how many (dispensaries) or collective business licenses have been issued," stated in its response that it knows about at least one of the dispensaries in the town of Mendocino.

"The (office) has issued one business license for medical marijuana distribution in Mendocino Township and has no specific information regarding a second establishment," Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Schapmire writes in her response.

Schapmire also notes that, contrary to an earlier estimate of 10 dispensaries in all of Mendocino County, her office has issued four business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries or collectives.

Nash Gonzalez, director of the county Planning and Building Services Department, gives the exact addresses of both Mendocino dispensaries and their relative distances from the local high school.

"The two dispensaries that staff is aware of are located at 10470 Lansing Street ... located approximately 897 feet from the high school and 675 feet from the community center, which has after-school programs. The second is located at 10483 Lansing Street, approximately 500 feet from the community center and 890 feet from the high school," Gonzalez writes.

His office reviews the business licenses "for use and occupancy only," he writes, adding that determining whether the license is for a dispensary "would be difficult ... until such time as a specific use type is defined for marijuana dispensaries."

Gonzalez responds to the grand jury's claim that "an undetermined number of (dispensaries) have been established" in the county, saying county code doesn't provide for marijuana sales as a permitted use.

"Many of these so-called dispensaries have or are applying as some form of retail sales (i.e. herbal sales, etc.)," Gonzalez writes. "Therefore it is difficult to fully evaluate such uses unless it is specifically noted on an application that such uses are medical marijuana dispensaries."

The grand jury notes in its report that "There are no grounds for denial by the county (of the establishment of a dispensary) except the limitations imposed by the business license process."

Nadel agrees with the finding. Gonzalez also agrees, but notes that "sale of marijuana is not a permitted use contained within the county's zoning ordinance and is thus not permitted and a business license could be denied.

"However, (Planning and Building) staff cannot regulate a marijuana dispensary' when an applicant for a business license does not represent such use on an application, and calls it something else that could be permitted within the confines of retail sales."

Responding to a recommendation that the county adopt regulations regarding the production and sale of food-based medical marijuana items, Gonzalez says his staff is "more than willing" to meet with Nadel and Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman to craft the language of an ordinance regulating dispensaries "as it relates to zoning/land use/building and safety issue (sic)."

He goes on in his response to recommend that the county Health and Human Services Agency's Division of Environmental Health have input about that recommendation.

Environmental Health Director John Morley disagrees with the recommendation, citing a California Department of Public Health determination that "edible products containing marijuana may not legally be sold as food pursuant to the Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law ... or the California Retail Food Code."

Morley continues, "Edibles that contain marijuana meet the statutory definition of drugs' under the Sherman Law because they are being used in the cure, mitigation and treatment of disease. The edible merely becomes the drug delivery system."

The grand jury also recommends the county establish fees to cover its regulation and enforcement costs.

Gonzalez recommends in his response that "a permit or entitlement be utilized as a mechanism for regulation and enforcement," noting the recommendation needs further analysis.

The grand jury also recommends that the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors adopt an ordinance that would address neighborhood safety concerns, mobile dispensaries, patient/caregiver relationships, medical marijuana transportation within the county, a definition of a mature, female plant and a minimum age requirement for anyone allowed inside a dispensary.

Nadel notes in her response that the Board of Supervisors formed an ad-hoc committee to write an ordinance regulating dispensaries.

Tiffany Revelle can be reached at, or at 468-3523.

Monday, October 24, 2011

(San Francisco) Schools leave real estate funds untapped

Proposition A on this November’s ballot would authorize the issuance of $531 million dollars in general obligation bonds for the San Francisco Unified School District. General obligation means they are repaid with San Francisco property taxes.

Is it just me, or have we been here before? In 2003, 2006 and again in 2008, massive revenue measures have been passed by voters for the purposes of funding and fixing our schools. This is in addition to the millions in rainy-day funds that are given to the district each year because of sudden budget problems. I say, “given” because the school system is a state entity. We can’t really tell it what to do with the money it receives, though state law requires certain oversight for bond money.

In 2009, The City’s civil grand jury issued a report called, “Use it or Lose it: A Report on the Surplus Real Property Owned by the San Francisco Unified School District.” It seems that dwindling numbers of students since 1978 has resulted in shuttered schools that are still owned by the district. At least 10 parcels have been designated “surplus” by an advisory committee set up by the school district to study the problem from 2006-07.

According to representatives of the school district, selling the property is complicated, and in some cases, state law restricts the use of money from the sale of real property.

The grand jury report concluded that, “The city and county of San Francisco should not allocate to the SFUSD any further ‘rainy day’ or ‘bail out’ funds until such time as the SFUSD has sold the properties it already identified as surplus.”

Believing that this conclusion was a bit harsh, in November 2009 the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking that the school district “bring its surplus property disposition plan(s) before the Joint City and School District Select Committee in a timely manner for review and consideration.”

No such plans have ever been presented to that committee.

The grand jury report does not estimate how much money could be made from the sale or lease of surplus school property, so I’m not necessarily suggesting that people vote against Prop. A. I’m merely suggesting that, as the grand jury report stated, “the SFUSD is poised to waste the extraordinary amount of time and money that has already gone into determining how to dispose of or manage some of its real property. The SFUSD should take the remaining critical steps.”

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner:

Conflict-of-interest controls in place, (San Luis Obispo) official finds

Auditor-controller’s review runs counter to a grand jury report critical of district board

By Cynthia Lambert |

In the wake of a civil grand jury report that found a conflict of interest at a South County sewage treatment plant, a review by the county auditor-controller has found there is sufficient oversight of finances to prevent such conflicts.

Auditor-Controller Gere Sibbach — who was not investigating whether or not a conflict of interest existed at the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District — found a few areas he called a small “breakdown of their systems.” But by and large his office’s review of some district finances and methods was far brighter than a critical report the San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury released in June.

The grand jury report alleged a conflict of interest exists at the sanitation district because John Wallace serves as the treatment plant’s administrator while his engineering firm, the Wallace Group, provides engineering services for the di­strict.

The grand jury also criticized the district board for failing to recognize the conflict.

The board vehemently disputed that conclusion, stating in a rebuttal that a conflict does not exist, the grand jury’s assertions were largely inaccurate and its “depiction of the board of directors as being generally ‘unaware’ is both inaccurate and offensive.”

The district provides wastewater treatment services to about 39,000 people in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano.

Sibbach didn’t determine whether he believes a conflict exists at the sanitation district. Instead, he focused his review on what types of policies the district has in place regarding district finances to offset any potential conflict.

“The district has been making some changes, and I think they’re going to come out of it with stronger financial controls and more transparency than they had before,” he said Friday.

Sibbach released a final copy of his review to the district board members on Friday, in which he primarily reviewed documents in fiscal year 2010-11, which ended June 30.

Among his findings:

• In one out of 23 instances, the district’s list of checks to be issued (called a warrant register) was only signed by one board member. District practice requires two board members to sign it. In three of 13 separate instances, Wallace and one board member had signed to authorize payments to Wallace’s firm. Sibbach recommended that Wallace not be allowed to sign for payments made to his company, and as of August, he has not been authorized to do so per a new district policy.

• The district board receives quarterly financial reports, but Sibbach did not find a year-end report showing the budgeted estimates compared to actual results. Michael Seitz, the district’s attorney, said the board does receive the information while preparing the following year’s budget, just not in a formal report.

• The district’s cash balances have decreased by about $1.8 million over the past three fiscal years.

• Costs for Wallace Group services in major budget items were not always easily identified or separated from other project costs. But the information in the budget and board reports from fiscal year 2011-12 improved.

• The district has a clear and well-understood organizational structure, and all employees and officers who have to disclose economic interests have done so.

The board has also split Wallace’s contract into two: one for his administrative role, a second for engineering services his firm provides. The board moved to do so before the grand jury report, Seitz said, “and so the inference that the grand jury caused that is not particularly accurate.

“But,” he added, “the fact that we were getting looked at did cause us to be a little more self-introspective in terms of what we’re doing.”

Seitz said the board will discuss a response to Sibbach’s review at its next meeting.

Read more:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

(San Bernardino) Grand Jury testimony could help defense

By Joe Nelson, Staff Writer

Grand Jury testimony given by Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum in 2009 could prove beneficial to his defense and should have been provided to a criminal grand jury in April, according to Burum's attorney.

The transcripts, released last week, detail Burum's March 2009 testimony before the county's civil Grand Jury in which he described how attorneys for his firm, Colonies Partners LP, impeached nearly every witness called by San Bernardino County's lawyers in the months leading up to the county's decision to settle with Colonies.

In testimony, Burum said attorneys representing the county were giving the Board of Supervisors bad advice and telling them they were winning in court despite evidence to the contrary, according to the 130-page transcript.

"It is fundamentally unfair and, in our view, contrary to the law, that the grand jury was not provided with copies of Mr. Burum's testimony prior to being asked to return the indictment," Burum's attorney, Stephen Larson, said in a telephone interview.

None of Burum's 2009 testimony was provided to a special criminal grand jury, which indicted Burum and three former county officials, including former Colonies consultant Jim Erwin, in May on charges of conspiracy, bribery and conflict of interest, among other charges. Prosecutors allege the county's landmark $102 million settlement with Colonies Partners in November 2006 was tainted by bribery and extortion. A federal investigation is under way as well.

Five of the seven charges against Burum, including all bribery-related charges, were subsequently dismissed after a judge determined the criminal statutes used to charge Burum were either erroneously applied or the statute of limitations had lapsed for charging Burum with such crimes. Judge Brian McCarville also dismissed one felony count of misappropriation of public funds against the other three defendants - former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former assistant assessor and union boss Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

During his 2009 testimony, Burum laid out his interpretation of the nearly five-year legal battle over who was responsible for flood-control improvements at Colonies' Upland development, which resulted in two Superior Court rulings in the developer's favor.

"I'm going, `Are they in the same courtroom I'm in, because they're getting killed every day?"' Burum said during his testimony.

He said Colonies made strong headway during the 2006 trial, and the county resorted to having a witness go on the stand and attack his character.

Burum said what made him angriest - when he broke off communication with county supervisors - was when the county forced him to build a flood control basin on Colonies' property with enough storage capacity to protect residents from a 100-year flood, then reversed its position after the trial court ruled the basin's construction was the county's responsibility.

On appeal, the county unsuccessfully argued that the basin was not needed, and that its existing earthen berm easement was sufficient. The county requested construction on Colonies' property be halted until the conclusion of litigation, a move Burum said was an attempt to bankrupt Colonies and force and end to the lawsuit.

The judge denied the county's motion for a stay on the construction of the basin, allowing Colonies to proceed with the second phase of its residential development, Colonies at San Antonio.

Settlement encouraged

As the trial moved forward, so did settlement talks between the county and Colonies' attorneys. Burum said during his testimony that he pushed to settle the lawsuit for a discounted value, despite what he said could have been upwards of a $750 million judgment that could have bankrupted the county had it lost to in court.

Though initial damage estimates by Burum's camp ranged between $250 million to more than $300 million, efforts were under way in 2006 to change state law so that when the government abused a private property owner the government was held to the same standards as the private sector. As to damages, that would mean three times the amount of whatever the jury awarded.

"So ... if we continued down the road at ($250 million), the verdict against the county could be a $750 million verdict against the county, which would bankrupt the county," Burum said during his testimony. "Everyone in political circles also knew this. This was a hotly contested issue."

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