Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kern County: Grand Jury taking volunteer applications

Kern Valley Sun - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Applications for the Kern County Grand Jury will be accepted from now through April 13. The Kern County Grand Jury is made up of a group of 19 citizens, randomly selected from a pool of citizens who have made their interest known. Applicants are interviewed and then nominated by the Superior Court Judges of our County. Judges are very interested in obtaining a volunteer pool representative of the ethnic and cultural diversity of all communities in our County. The final selection process will be conducted in open session of court during the month of June.

Once selected, Grand Jurors act as an investigative body to ensure that county and city governments are efficiently operated and that public funds are effectively spent. The Grand Jury also hears evidence of public offences presented by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office and, where appropriate, may issue criminal indictments. Applicants must be willing to spend approximately 20 hours a week in performing these tasks.

Candidates for the Grand Jury must be Unites States citizens, at least 18 years of age, have a working knowledge of the English language and have resided in the County for at least one year. Grand Jurors serve for a one year period beginning July 2012.

If Grand Jury service is for you, you may contact Deanna Maxwell at the Kern County Grand Jury, 1415 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, CA 93301, or telephone 661-868-4797 to obtain your application for nomination. You may also download an application from the Grand Jury website at

Monday, February 27, 2012


East County Magazine

District Attorney and Mayoral Candidate Bonnie Dumanis Unlikely to Prosecute Due to Political Ties to Sanders, Complaint says

February 26, 2012 (San Diego) - Today, Ray Lutz, national coordinator of Citizens Oversight Projects (COPS - Citizens Oversight, Inc.), submitted a complaint to the San Diego County Grand Jury regarding the claim that Mayor Jerry Sanders committed felony embezzlement by selling promotional signage to Qualcomm, allowing them to change their sign to "Snapdragon" during one NFL football game and two college bowl games for only $1000.

Sanders was notified by the City Attorney that the agreement with Qualcomm was unlawful. Sanders proceeded anyway, generating an agreement after the fact which was not approved by the City Attorney, as required by law, and not ratified by the City Council. "We are worried that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis will not prosecute her friend and political endorser in the Mayoral election, and so this submission to the Grand Jury was therefore required. We hope they will do their job and investigate this issue and prosecute Sanders -- no one should be above the law," Lutz said.

COPS submitted the complaint also to the San Diego City Attorney, San Diego City Council, Mayor Jerry Sanders, and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. COPS also attempted to make a citizens arrest of the Mayor on January 29, 2012, at his office but the San Diego Police, who report to Sanders, would not assist in the arrest. Sanders office staff said he was "not in" and said they did not know when he would be in, despite the fact that earlier, the same office staff admitted that his schedule is set two months in advance.
Lutz said the Grand Jury is perfectly suited for such an inquiry because this case includes illegal operations by the Mayor, overstepping his lawfully granted powers, and providing the use of public assets by a corporation for a promotional campaign. Sanders provided the promotional exposure to the "Snapdragon" product line by Qualcomm for a scant $1,000 instead of at least $125,000 or even much more, to bring the promotional exposure in line with market values, he added.

"We attempted to arrest Sanders because it is our right as citizens to make such an arrest based on California law when it is clear that someone has committed a felony. In this case, even the City Attorney agreed in two documents that Sanders operated unlawfully," Lutz said.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


GRAND JUROR APPLICANTS NEEDED FOR MENDOCINO COUNTY: All qualified citizens interested in serving on the 2012-13 Mendocino County Grand Jury are invited to submit their applications to the Superior Court for consideration. The 19 members of the Grand Jury serve for one year and are empowered to investigate the operations of county, city and district governments and to provide civil oversight of local government department and agencies and respond to citizen complaints. A Grand Juror must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years or older, a resident of Mendocino County for at least one year, and sufficiently fluent in written and spoken English. Applications and related information are available and can be downloaded at The application may also be obtained in person at the Superior Court, 100 N. State St., rm. 303, in Ukiah or by calling the Grand Jury at 707-463-4320.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Grand Jury gives Golden Hills CSD clean bill of health

Monday, Feb 20 2012 07:01 AM

By Tehachapi News

The Kern Country Grand Jury recently released a copy of a report by its Special Districts Committee concerning the Golden Hills Community Services District.

The report is published here in its entirety:



On January 9, 2012, the Special Districts Committee (Committee) of the 2011-2012 Kern County Grand Jury, pursuant to California Penal Code §925 and §933.5, investigated the operations and management of the Golden Hills Community Services District (District). The District had not been reviewed since 2003.


The Committee reviewed the District's "Consolidated Financial Statements, June 30, 2011 and 2010", including an "Independent Auditors' Report", and the 2005-2010 Budget. The Committee also reviewed the Board of Directors' Meeting Minutes for the last fiscal year (March 2011 to present), and viewed the District's website. The Committee then conducted a telephone interview with the General Manager for additional information.


A. The District was formed by Kern County Resolution 66-206 on May 3, 1966, and established on May 5, 1966. The original purpose of the District was to provide water, sewage disposal, garbage service, public recreation by means of parks, including (but not limited to) aquatic parks and recreational harbors, playgrounds, golf courses, swimming pools or recreation buildings, street lighting, mosquito abatement, street surfacing and maintenance, and construction of bridges, culverts, curbs, gutters, and drains.

B. The Mission of the District is: To provide the Golden Hills Community with a healthful, reliable water system; to support the inviting characteristics of our neighborhoods and natural beauty of our surroundings; and to strengthen our collaborative relationships with local and state governmental agencies.

C. The District:

* Provides potable water to its customers utilizing a water system approved by the Department of Health.

* Reviews and approves septic and building plans.

* Provides services for 21 housing tracts located within its boundaries of approximately 5,600 acres.

NOTE: Each housing tract has separate Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R's). However, the District is no longer enforcing CC&R's, which has become a civil matter between property owners since 2010.

D. The development consists of approximately 4,200 lots, zoned for residential, commercial, or industrial uses. Water (supplied by 14 District owned wells) is furnished by the District's water system to each parcel, excluding some of the 2.5 acre lots in the northern section of the District. All water is tested regularly to insure that customers receive the safest drinking water possible.


The District provides a $2,500 scholarship for local students with money derived from the rental of cell tower space. The remainder of the rental money is used for beautification projects on public lands.

The District received a grant for $1.4 million to drill a well on the east side of the City of Tehachapi and construct a pipeline 3.5 miles long, back to Golden Hills, tying into the water system for emergency connection between Tehachapi and Golden Hills. In an emergency, water can be diverted in either direction.

The District maintains some private/semi-public roads, funded and sustained by the property owners within the District, for Tract #3366.

The Regional Urban Water Management Plan (Plan) was prepared to ensure water service reliability during normal, dry, or multiple dry years, and is in compliance with the requirements of Water Code Section #10620. The five agencies included in this Plan are:

* Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District

* Bear Valley Community Services District

* Golden Hills Community Services District

* Stallion Springs Community Services District

* City of Tehachapi

These agencies cooperate on various regional issues and have formed a Water Availability Preservation Committee comprised of representatives from each agency. A regional plan is being submitted (as opposed to separate individual plans) to share information, avoid duplication of efforts, reduce costs, and implement a coordinated regional approach to water management. All five of the participating agencies have agreed to set the baseline and conservation targets as a regional alliance.

The five agencies followed normal procedures for reviewing and adopting the Plan. Each agency:

* Reviewed a preliminary draft Plan.

* Made the draft Plan available to the public before holding a public hearing. (Copies of the Plan were on file at each of the agency offices.)

* Published legal notice in the Tehachapi News and mailed notices to stakeholders in the area.

* Held public workshops to ensure public comments were incorporated in the final Plan.

* Adopted the Plan by resolution at Board and Council Meetings.


The five agencies coordinated their efforts with relevant agencies while preparing the 2010 Plan to ensure that the data and issues were presented accurately. Water use statistics and projections presented in the 2010 Plan have been discussed and mutually agreed upon by the five agencies. A Letter of Agreement between the five agencies was signed in June 2011.

The Special Districts Committee of the 2011-2012 Kern County Grand Jury thanks the Golden Hills Community Services District's General Manager for excellent explanation and informative answers to the Committee's questions.



* The Golden Hills Community Services District should post a copy of this report where it will be available for public review.

* Persons wishing to receive an email notification of newly released reports may sign up at , and click on: Sign up for early releases.

* Present and past Kern County Grand Jury Final Reports and Responses can be accessed on the Kern County Grand Jury website:


Stanislaus County: Patterson pays $50,000 for officials' legal battles

By Patty Guerra - Modesto Bee

The city has spent nearly $50,000 to defend two City Council members accused of wrongdoing in a Stanislaus County civil grand jury report.

But with the money going toward an attorney suing the county and a high-profile public relations professional, some are questioning whether it's an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

City Manager Rod Butler said the City Council last year authorized Annette Smith and Dominic Farinha to get "specialized legal counsel" in response to the grand jury.

In the report issued in June, grand jurors said Smith should lose her seat for failing to disclose a financial relationship with a developer and voting to give him $27,000 without justification, among other alleged offenses. The report said Farinha, Smith and then-Mayor Becky Campo illegally ousted then-City Manager Cleve Morris. And grand jurors said Farinha misused his position on the council over a planned city inspection of his business and tried to use city staff in an effort to collect delinquent rent.

Patterson responded with a blistering letter by City Attorney Tom Hallinan, denying wrongdoing by current or former council members. The vote to allow Smith and Farinha to use city money for their respective defenses took place in closed session; Butler said all five council members were there but referred questions about the vote to Hallinan, who could not be reached for comment.

Smith's bills total about $10,000. She is suing the county over the grand jury's report; a federal judge decided the lawsuit should be dismissed but gave Smith 30 days to refile an amended complaint. She has said she plans to do so and is confident of her chances in court.

Farinha has spent about $37,000. According to the Patterson Irrigator, Farinha hired Bay Area attorney Tip Mazzucco. Farinha also hired Nathan Ballard, a former communications director for Gavin Newsom, when Newsom was San Francisco's mayor.
Ballard issued a statement from Farinha in June in which he denied any wrongdoing.

Mayor Luis Molina said he thinks Smith and Farinha have spent more than they should, and he wants some justification.

"It shouldn't have gone this far," he said. He couldn't elaborate on what happened during closed session, but said, "I'm only one vote."

Farinha said this week that "I feel the subject is moot." He declined to elaborate, referring instead to an opinion piece he published in the Irrigator.

That included the following: "It certainly was not the city's initial desire to utilize professional resources to combat what the grand jury callously threw in its face, but as it is with any complicated challenge or frivolous attack that a municipality is faced with, legal costs become a standard byproduct of defending itself. … If you were placed into our situation and walked in our shoes, you would be seeking the same resolve to rectify and remedy a wrong that had been done towards you."

Official doing the legwork

Smith said the costs are justified because "it's something we were accused of in our official capacity." She said she has kept fees down by doing much of the research for her court case.

"The way I look at it, I'm slandered," she said. "I've done nothing wrong."
Smith said it's not her goal to waste the city's money. "If at any time I feel that this is not winnable, I will walk away."

Butler said he reviews the bills as they come in, and if he comes across anything questionable he will run it by Hallinan. He said the council did not place a cap on the amount Smith and Farinha could spent.

Molina said he will ask to review any paperwork not considered attorney-client privilege.

"This will come up for discussion at some point," he said. Whether that will be in closed or open session has not been determined. "My particular question is, 'Was this determined to be a justifiable expense?' "

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at or (209) 578-2343.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Grand jury blasts San Mateo County supes for not pursuing fire service deal with San Carlos

By Bonnie Eslinger - Daily News Staff Writer

Two San Mateo County supervisors last year blew a chance to save a lot of money by passing up on San Carlos' request to subcontract fire services through the county's agreement with the state forestry department, according to a civil grand jury report released Wednesday.

Such an arrangement with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, could have reaped $650,000 per year for the county and saved San Carlos $1.4 million a year, the report noted.

"That seemed to be on a path that was somehow shortcut or short-circuited prematurely," grand jury Foreman Bruce MacMillan said about Adrienne Tissier and Carole Groom's failure to bring the request to the full board of supervisors. "Staff had indicated there was some significant dollars that could be saved by the city and the county and these days the county has challenges as far as its revenues are concerned. That's the twist we had on it, why was this discussion dropped somewhat abruptly?"

The fumble was intentional, San Carlos Mayor Andy Klein charged Wednesday. As members of the board's finance committee, Tissier and Groom buckled under pressure from the union representing the city's firefighters, he said. San Carlos subsequently dismantled its joint fire department with Belmont and created a hybrid department managed by Redwood City Fire Department command staff.

"They caved into the union and political pressure," Klein said. "They didn't want to upset their financial supporters -- the people who back their campaigns."

In its findings the grand jury did conclude there was "significant pressure from the local union to not consider Cal Fire as an outsource alternative for municipal fire protection," but did not accuse Tissier and Groom of yielding to the demands of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 2400.

MacMillan diplomatically sidestepped the question Wednesday.

"Clearly the unions, they have a job to do; part of that job is making it known that they don't want their individuals replaced or displaced or restructured. I understand that perfectly," he said. "Whether that influenced -- that's the one that's the tipping point -- someone will have to reach that conclusion themselves."

Groom insisted Wednesday that Local 2400's opposition to using Cal Fire employees in San Carlos did not influence the committee's decision to reject the proposal last February. She said she stands by the justification she gave then -- that cities can reduce costs by partnering with each other.

"That was the only reason," she said. "I was not pressured."

When asked about the potential revenue for the county, Groom said she did not remember being told about that benefit.

Tissier did not respond to an email and calls for comment.

San Carlos went directly to Cal Fire to negotiate a contract for fire services but the state agency backed off, explaining in a letter it feared there could be costly legal challenges because of "concern" from regional legislators and "significant opposition" from local labor organizations, the grand jury noted.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Janet Upton said although labor opposition was one concern, the agency's main reason for not taking on San Carlos was that the arrangement didn't financially pencil out. The county is in a better position to extend its existing fire services in unincorporated areas where stations already are staffed by state firefighters than into San Carlos, she said. It would have been too costly to set up a new department in the city for Cal Fire, she said. "We don't want to create a bunch of (service) islands,"

Cal Fire pays its employees less than city fire departments pay theirs, according to the grand jury.

Since the county's contract with Cal Fire expires on June 30, the supervisors should add a provision to the next contract allowing cities to subcontract for Cal Fire services when such an arrangement benefits both, the grand jury recommended.

Groom said she likely would not support such a proposal. Local 2400 president Tony Slimick did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

Email Bonnie Eslinger at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Sacramento Bee: Natomas Unified School District to see partial refund for inflated land deal

Five years after Natomas Unified School District bought 41 acres of farmland for what school officials later conceded was an inflated price, the district is starting to see a portion of its money refunded.

On Monday, Natomas Unified officials confirmed that they had reached settlement with two different parties in the land deal. They are still seeking money from the original seller – a partnership of developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos and Woodside Homes – and the real estate broker, Mark Skreden.
Last week, attorney Martin Steiner and the law firm where he works, Hefner, Stark & Marois, LLP, agreed to pay $2.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the district, said interim Superintendent Walt Hanline.

Steiner, who was hired by the district to oversee legal aspects of the $13.3 million purchase, revealed three months after escrow closed that he had a conflict of interest, according to a Sacramento grand jury report released in 2009.

The Bee reported in 2008 that Steiner had represented Tsakopoulos in other transactions but hadn't obtained a written waiver from the school board or superintendent acknowledging they had been briefed about the potential conflict.

Steiner did not return calls from The Bee on Monday.

"He stepped forward to do the right thing," Hanline said. "I hope everyone else does, too."

While Skreden is named in the lawsuit, a complaint filed by the district with the California Department of Real Estate resulted in no disciplinary action against the broker.

"All I can tell you is I have been exonerated by the DRE," Skreden told The Bee on Monday.

He declined to discuss the lawsuit on the advice of his attorney.

West Lakeside LLC, a partnership that included Woodside Homes and was managed by Tsakopoulos, also is named in the suit.

Louis A. Gonzalez, an attorney for the company, wrote The Bee in an email Monday that West Lakeside "has the option, which it is evaluating, to file a motion objecting to the settlement between the district and Marty Steiner."

Gonzalez said West Lakeside isn't part of the Steiner settlement and doesn't have the option to join it.

Natomas Unified confirmed Monday it received a $350,000 settlement from appraiser Christopher Ferguson in October, Hanline said.

A Bee investigation in 2007 cited experts who said that appraisals the district relied on for the land deal overvalued the property by millions of dollars.

On Monday, the superintendent said the land is actually worth between $4.3 million and $8.6 million. He said the district is looking for refunds totaling at least $5 million from the remaining defendants in the lawsuit.

"I'm optimistic particularly that Tsakopoulos will come forward and we can reach a settlement," Hanline said. "Everyone recognizes it is a bad situation for everyone and we need to move forward."

Hanline said it is best for the school district to settle instead of push on to court. "If we win (in court), Tsakopoulos will receive the land back," he said. "We will receive a credit of $13 million and we will get in line with the debts that are owed from a bankrupt company."

Woodside Homes filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2008.

Hanline said that any money won in the settlements or in court will go back into the district's construction fund.

The lawsuit followed two years of community outrage over the land deal. The suit was filed after a grand jury report in May 2009 alleged that the district had paid six times the value of the land and that then-Superintendent Steve Farrar didn't oversee the purchase properly. Farrar has since retired.

The district had planned to build a bioscience magnet school on the site. Nothing can be built on it now because of a moratorium on building in the flood zone, Hanline said.

The superintendent said that the district has already paid about $700,000 from its construction fund for attorneys' fees related to the lawsuit.

The district expects to receive the settlement check from Steiner in mid-March.

"I'm hopeful we can get closure on this prior to my leaving the district June 30," Hanline said of the lawsuit.

By Diana Lambert
Published: Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Former Stanislaus County grand jurors hope to dispel myths

By Rosalio Ahumada

Former Stanislaus County grand jurors have formed a group to educate the public about the investigative work done by civil grand juries that examine complaints against local government agencies.

Carmen Morad, president of the Stanislaus County Chapter of the California Grand Jurors' Association, said the group wants to dispel myths some have about the watchdog panel.

"The grand jury is not meant to be a tool for anyone who has a chip on their shoulder or a disgruntled employee," Morad said.

The local chapter wants to increase the credibility and visibility of the civil grand jury system. Civil grand juries investigate agencies — such as school districts, cities and counties — and issue reports and recommendations based on their findings.

The civil grand jury recently has been the target of scrutiny from Patterson City Councilwoman Annette Smith, who is seeking an overhaul of the grand jury system.

A federal judge has rejected a civil lawsuit filed by Smith and her attorney. The lawsuit claimed that last year's grand jurors acted on behalf of the county when publishing "negative and false statements" about her.

In his order, District Judge Lawrence O'Neill wrote that "grand jury members are not employed by the county." Smith said she plans to file an amended complaint in federal court.

Michael Tozzi, chief executive officer of Stanislaus County Superior Court, doesn't expect news of the lawsuit to reduce the number of potential jurors.

"In my memory, this is the first time somebody has filed a lawsuit of that nature," said Tozzi, who has worked for the court for 29 years. He doubts the backlash will change the public's opinion of the grand jury because "it's still a good public service."

In Stanislaus County, criminal and civil grand juries are separate panels. Criminal grand juries are called for by the district attorney's office. Civil grand juries investigate submitted complaints.

Potential civil grand jurors wanting to join the panel must apply. Qualified applicants are interviewed, and 30 finalists are selected. Then, a 19-member grand jury panel with four alternates is chosen randomly in open court.

Grand jurors must be available at least 20 hours per month. They must meet the same qualifications as a trial juror. The term for a grand juror is one year, July 1 to June 30, and jurors can serve only two terms.

Group provides training

The statewide jurors' association provides training for newly selected jurors, including workshops on interviewing, investigating and report writing.

Once the panel gets to work, jurors split into committees to examine complaints with topics such as government administration, audits and law enforcement agencies.

Morad said the complaints are reviewed before the jury determines an investigation is needed. She said some complaints have no merit and are rejected. The entire jury panel must vote on whether to reject a complaint.

The purpose of an investigation is to determine whether policies or procedures were violated. Grand jurors may visit sites to inspect facilities, such as the county jail or a hospital.

Usually, interviews are done at the grand jury office, where jurors have access to materials gathered throughout the investigation. Jurors are never allowed to take those materials home.

"There's a lot more involved than your average resident knows about," Morad said.

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors recently proclaimed February as "Grand Jury Awareness Month." Morad hopes the board's recognition will encourage other former grand jurors to join her group, which has eight members.
She said they're conducting a membership drive along with developing a speakers' series for the public. Members are required to have completed their term as jurors and pay a $20 annual fee.

Morad wants the group's public awareness effort to demonstrate how crucial well- informed residents are to citizen oversight of local government.
"I'm one of those people who, instead of complaining, I get involved," said Morad, who volunteers with several other community groups. "The more involved I am, the more I understand."

For more information about the jurors' association, e-mail Morad at

Anyone interested in serving on the grand jury can call the grand jury office at (209) 558-7766 or go to and download an application. The court will begin to accept applications later this month.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at or (209) 578-2394.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kern County: Grand jury highlights medicine errors at children's shelter

BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer | Thursday, Feb 09 2012

The Kern County Grand Jury this week called for sharp changes in how staff at the A. Miriam Jamison Children's Center deliver over-the-counter and prescription medications to juveniles sheltered there.

The report shed light on a string of "medication error" incidents in which staff gave children the wrong doses or gave drugs to the wrong children.

Grand jurors called for Department of Human Services Director Pat Cheadle to staff a registered nurse from Kern Medical Center at the emergency shelter 24 hours a day, saying the county was violating state regulations and an agreement with KMC by having Jamison staff "dispense" drugs to children.

But both Cheadle and Kern Medical Center CEO Paul Hensler said Thursday that the jury's understanding of regulations and findings in the report were mistaken.

"They're confused," Hensler said.


Cheadle said that in February 2011, her office learned that group counselors had at times made mistakes when giving medication to children -- either accidentally overdosing kids, failing to give them enough medicine or giving medications to the wrong children.

No children were seriously injured, she said.

Those mistakes, Cheadle said, hadn't been reported to top shelter managers or people in her office. Staff members involved in the incidents were never disciplined as news of the incidents never made it out of the Jamison Center.

Finally, in February 2011, news of a "medication error" did make it to her office, Cheadle said. Her office moved to investigate and correct the situation.

"Our policy for the group counselors to give medication had to be strengthened," she said. "Training needed to be updated and strengthened."

The employee was placed on administrative leave, she said, during the inquiry. Group counselors reacted strongly, Cheadle said.

"It would be fair to say that some of the staff became concerned about the security of their job should a medication error have occurred," Cheadle said.

Some employees refused to administer drugs, she said. The Service Employees' International Union sent a letter to Cheadle claiming that registered nurses are required by law to dole out drugs to children at Jamison.

SEIU officials knowledgeable about the situation were not immediately available for comment Thursday.


Cheadle said that since February 2011, there have been four or five other incidents where "medical errors" have happened.

None resulted in serious injury, she said, though two times children were transported to Kern Medical Center to be checked out.

All the incidents have been investigated.

"We have not taken disciplinary actions on anyone as a result of those actions," Cheadle said. "There has been no gross negligence. There has been no harm to the child."

But the situation, and the debate over the role of nurses at Jamison, came to the attention of the grand jury.

"Somehow the grand jury became aware of the situation and came in and started to interview staff and management, which led to this report," Cheadle said.

The grand jury report indicates that group counselors at Jamison are not allowed to give medication to juveniles, quoting the memorandum of understanding under which Kern Medical Center sends nurses to the shelter to oversee medical care of children.

The grand jury committee that investigated the situation, the report states, "relied heavily upon the KMC/(Jamison) Center MOU which clearly specifies that medications are to be dispensed only by KMC medical staff to be in compliance with the California Nursing Practice Act."

But Hensler said the grand jurors have gotten confused about the medical definition of the word "dispense."

And both he and Cheadle said the Nursing Practice Act does not apply to staff at the Jamison Center, who are not nurses.

It's true that licensed medical staff are the only ones allowed to "dispense" or "administer" drugs, Hensler said. But under the law, dispensing a drug is what a pharmacist does -- counting, compounding, packaging and labeling the drug.

"Administration" of a drug is defined by state regulations as giving a patient a single dose of medication from a bulk supply of that medication.

That is, Cheadle said, not what the group counselors are required to do.

What they do is "deliver" medications to the children, taking drugs from a properly labeled, physician-approved prescription container and following the directions on the container to give the child the proper amount of that drug, she said.

It is no different, Cheadle said, from what parents do when their children are given a prescription by a doctor. And, she said, it is completely within the powers of a group counselor at Jamison to perform that task.


The grand jury report also recommends that communication between Kern Medical Center staff and Jamison staff and management be strengthened.

And it encourages the Department of Human Services to explore 24-hour medical staff coverage at Jamison Center.

Hensler discounted the need for 24-hour service at Jamison, saying group counselors are capable of "delivering" drugs to children.

Currently, medical staffing at Jamison costs the Department of Human Services $100,000 a year, he said.

Expanding that coverage would quintuple that expense.

"Do you need an RN on staff 24 hours a day?" he said. "If it's just for the delivery of the medications, obviously we don't think so."

Still, the Human Services Department is required to officially respond to the grand jury report within 90 days.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Task force will look at Tulare County employees pension plan

Feb. 8, 2012 - Committee to consider ways to cut expenses, respond to market changes; officials say county worker retirement plans in good shape - Written by DAVID CASTELLON

Members of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors and the directors of the Tulare County Employees Retirement Association will form a task force to look at ways to improve the county's retirement system.

Among the issues the informal committee may look at is how to respond if the value of the pension plan's assets drops drastically, said retirement board member Gary Reed.

The Tulare County grand jury urged TCERA in May to take action to reduce expenses to offset the possibility of the value of its assets dropping drastically, forcing the county to increase its contributions to keep the retirement fund afloat.

The grand jury claimed the pension fund's value could decline over the next few years to the point that it might be able to cover only 75.9 percent of its expected future costs.

County Supervisor Steve Worthley said Wednesday during a special joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and TCERA's board that he believes the grand jury report didn't present an accurate picture of the pension fund's financial health.

The grand jury looked at the market value of TCERA's assets as of June 30, 2010, as the stock market - in which the pension fund is heavily invested - was recovering from the economic crash that began in 2008.

TCERA's investment plan has for years assumed a 7.75 percent return rate on its investments, and from 2004 to 2007, the actual returns were between 9.93 percent and 18.35 percent.

In 2008 — when the crash occurred - the return rate dropped 7.8 percent and, in 2009, dropped again by 20.79 percent.

Since then, the investments have recovered significantly, with gains of 10.29 percent in 2010 and 21.83 percent last year, Worthley noted.

The value of the plan's assets has grown from about $833 million in June 2010 to more than $1 billion now.

"That's why you don't make a decision based on one bad year. You don't take a snapshot in time ... and determine the final outcome," Worthley said. "They took the worst year in the history of our plan."

But Tom Casale of Visalia, a retired teacher who has never been a Tulare County employee, warned the two boards against counting on recent improvements on TCERA's investment returns to continue very long.

"These rates of return are not expected to continue through the decade, according to TCERA's own investment advisers or any economist that I have read," he said.

Casale went on to urge TCERA to follow the grand jury's recommendation to obtain a 10-year projection on investment returns based on "realistic" assumptions.

While TCERA's assets can cover only 90.4 percent of its future retirement payments at their current values — compared to being more than 100 percent prior to the economic crash - Worthley said Tulare County's plan is doing a lot better than those of most other California counties and is building assets despite the economic hits.

He said Fresno County's plan is 73 percent funded, Kern County's is 62.7 percent funded and Merced County's is 59.7 percent funded.

Worthley and others at Wednesday's meeting noted that only 12.55 percent of Tulare County's payroll costs go into its employees' retirement plans, while Kern and Fresno counties pay 38.98 percent and 46.1 percent, respectively.

"We are in a very good position compared to anyone around us," Worthley said.

TCERA board chairman Mike Bennett appointed Reed and Gail Henry to the task force.

Worthley said it's likely he'll be on the task force, too, with fellow Supervisor Phil Cox - also a TCERA board member - but Board of Supervisors Chairman Allen Ishida, who left Wednesday's meeting early, would make that decision.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

(Sutter County) Veterinarian's report echoed calls for action in 2007

February 05, 2012 12:43:13 AM
By Jonathan Edwards/ADjedwards

Animal control workers and government officials are hurrying to fix problems that killed hundreds of dogs and cats since they were first identified 41⁄2 years ago.

A report issued two months ago by veterinarian Richard Bachman of Shelter Medicine Report echoed the calls for action made in 2007 and affirmed last year by the Sutter County grand jury, saying not much had been done to fix serious and systemic problems.

"Conditions for care within the shelter have not improved," Bachman says in his report. "Comprehensive medical program and population management policies are indeed needed."

Things have gotten worse in some respects. The number of dogs and cats flowing into the shelter increased by 14 percent to nearly 4,600 animals in the five years between a 2007 report from Folsom-based Citygate Associates and the Bachman report.

The number of animals euthanized at the shelter, however, skyrocketed by 52 percent to 2,330, while the number adopted went down by 5.4 percent to 1,000.

Even though the number of animals went up, the amount that died in the shelter went down by 18 percent, to 317. That's still about 70 times higher than the state average, according to Bachman's report.

To reverse these trends, Bachman recommended the shelter stop using inmates from the jail to care for animals, start an in-house veterinary program, overhaul management, create a volunteer program, modernize shelter protocol by incorporating policies and procedures vetted by the veterinary community, build a new shelter and make emergency upgrades to jury-rig things in the meantime.

They were not new suggestions. Many were outlined in the Citygate report and later affirmed in the grand jury report, released last April, which ripped the shelter for killing animals by spreading disease, poor management and making in inhumane conditions.

Bachman's report took a more subdued tone, and even praised shelter workers for helping him conduct his investigation and displaying a commitment to bettering shelter conditions.

Still, he reported "a true discord" existed between the shelter's condition in October and the 57 changes Citygate proposed in 2007.

Citygate labeled nearly all those actions mandatory, critical or strongly recommended they be implemented and said staff should complete most of them within six months.

The grand jury reported nearly four years later that shelter workers made few of those recommended changes, something Bachman echoed in November.

In the wake of the grand jury report, the Sheriff's Department investigated the shelter on charges of animal cruelty leveled in the grand jury report but did not file charges.

Shelter staff bristled at the grand jury's numerous rebukes, criticizing jurors for flogging the program without offering solutions.

Jurors, in fact, sprinkled solutions throughout the report, Bachman wrote, but workers lack of experience and training may have prevented them from seeing and acting on them.

"The staff had no real exposure to an organized shelter medical program of the expertise for understanding how to start a shelter medical program," Bachman wrote.

Things had improved between the grand jury's investigation and Bachman's visit. During his inspections, he didn't find evidence of the rat infestation that the grand jury noted as serious risk to the health of both animals and humans.

At Bachman's recommendation, the county bought a portable trailer it's now using to house kittens, clean laundry as well as wash food and water bowls.

Bachman also recommended buying another trailer for medical care, something the county has not done.

Officials also bought new cat cages and got containers for storage. They also made improvements to prevent disease by getting hot water, buying better cleaning supplies, preventing animals from making contact through their cages as well as sealing the floors and layering walls with nonabsorbent surfaces.

The county spent $124,000 over the last seven months to make emergency repairs.

The stop-gap measures are not good enough, Bachman wrote in the report. The 26-year-old shelter continues to stand in the way of bettering life for the region's wayward dogs and cats.

A new shelter won't be a cure-all, however. In fact, a bigger shelter with a more complex design could make things worse, Bachman reported. Unless officials get better management to implement a program armed with proven practices, the new shelter "is destined to be plagued from the outset."

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Ex-RTD workers win $1.16M verdict for assisting grand jury probe

By Zachary K. Johnson
Record Staff Writer
February 04, 2012 12:00 AM

STOCKTON - A jury returned a $1.16 million verdict Friday in a lawsuit brought by three former transit employees who said they were fired because they helped a grand jury investigate allegations of wrongdoing.

The case centered around Bobby Kuhn, the former director of maintenance at San Joaquin Regional Transit District. Kuhn testified before a civil grand jury that released a critical report of the transit agency.

But before the report was released in June 2008, Kuhn had told others at the district he'd been called to testify. He said that, after that, he was harassed at work before ultimately losing his job.

"The law protects whistle-blowers, and that's what Bobby Kuhn was," said Jeffrey Fulton, the attorney representing Kuhn and two other former employees.

Kari Wilson, former director of business analysis, and Stacy Douglas, former maintenance analyst, didn't testify before the investigating jury four years ago, but they did provide documents about consultants used by the district and a police car bought by the district, according to the lawsuit.

The 2008 grand jury report found the district bought a police car it couldn't use and criticized the transit district's use of consultants, including contracting with one with an apparent conflict of interest during negotiations with another contractor. The grand jury also found the transit district misused credit cards and followed improper procurement procedures.

The transit district in 2008 gave a response to all the issues raised by the grand jury, and it defended how it used consultants. The district agreed there was an "appearance" of a conflict of interest with one consultant, but that did not have a negative impact. RTD partners with local police departments and its response noted it could recoup the costs by selling the police car.

On Friday, the jury in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Barbara Kronlund was unanimous in finding that Kuhn's testimony was a "contributing factor" in his firing. The jury was less certain about Wilson and Douglas, voting 9-3 that the role they played contributed to their termination. Since this was a civil case, not a criminal one, the jury did not need to be unanimous.

The transit district had denied from the start that the grand jury investigation had anything to do with the elimination of the three jobs. In court documents and in the courtroom, officials said the struggling economy and unprecedented loss of state and local revenue required a leaner budget and the laying off of employees. The district had noted it laid off more employees than just the three who filed the lawsuit.

But Friday's verdict was not the final chapter. There are a number of post-trial motions pending before the court, said Albert Ellis, the attorney representing RTD. "This case is obviously not yet concluded," he said.

The jury awarded different amounts to each of the former employees, based on their individual loss of salary and benefits dating to the time they were terminated in 2008.

"It's been a long, hard road," said Kuhn after the verdict on Friday.

Contact reporter Zachary K. Johnson at (209) 546-8258 or Visit his blog at

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Judge Backs Stanislaus County in Patterson Grand Jury Lawsuit

Wednesday, Feb. 01, 2012

A federal judge sided with Stanislaus County in a lawsuit by a Patterson city councilwoman over its civil grand jury. But Annette Smith said she hasn't given up and will amend her claim that grand jurors acted on behalf of the county when publishing "negative and false statements" about her.

In his order, District Judge Lawrence O'Neill found that Smith failed to prove that any county employee or official did anything wrong.

"Grand Jury members are not employed by the county," O'Neill wrote. " … the alleged wrongful acts were performed by the Grand Jury and not municipal employees." O'Neill gave Smith 30 days to file an amended complaint with more information.

Smith is seeking an overhaul of the grand jury system, as well as unspecified monetary damages. She said it was clear the grand jury had targeted her when she was interviewed about actions the Patterson City Council had taken in 2010.

In its June report, the grand jury said that Smith should lose her seat for failing to disclose a financial relationship with a developer and voting to give him $27,000 without justification, among other alleged offenses. The report also said then-Mayor Becky Campo moved out of town during her term and Campo, Smith and Councilman Dominic Farinha illegally ousted then-City Manager Cleve Morris.

The city denied most of the accusations, with City Attorney Thomas Hallinan calling the report "the most outrageous and inappropriate recommendation" he had seen in 17 years.

Confidence in case
Smith's attorney in the civil case, Michael Babitzke, said he is confident she still can prevail. He said the grand jury is in the county's budget, makes use of its offices and facilities, and works with the county counsel's office.

"If that's what the court's concerned about, we can address those issues," he said.
Babitzke said the matter went beyond a public official complaining about criticism in a grand jury report. "Criticism is one thing," he said. "But republication of false and defamatory material is without the scope of a grand jury."

Smith said she wasn't surprised by the judge's ruling, and remains undaunted. "I'm not discouraged at all," she said. "I fully intend to refile." County Counsel John Doering is confident, as well. "We are pleased with the court's decision," he said. "We think it is correct and clearly demonstrates the lack of merit of the complaint filed by Miss Smith. … Grand jurors are not county employees. If anything, they're a function of a court."

Judge's closing note
Doering pointed to the final paragraph of O'Neill's order, in which the judge wrote: "This Court is beyond busy. Amend only if the facts to be alleged exist, and the law cited herein is followed."
"That's well said by the court," Doering said. "In a very subtle way, he's letting them know that, look, the law's the law and you need to plead facts."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at or (209) 578-2343.

Read more here:

Stanislaus County: Grand jury suits moving along

by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator

A federal judge has granted Stanislaus County’s motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed against it by Annette Smith, but the Patterson city councilwoman said she would stand her ground.

Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill ruled this week in Sacramento that Smith’s original court documents were too vague and insufficient. Smith has 30 days, until Feb. 24, to amend her complaint and provide more details.

She said this week that she was comfortable with the judge’s ruling.

“I looked at the judge’s order. He wants me to add some meat to my claims,” she said. “I have no problem doing that. I am absolutely confident going back and adding meat.”

The original complaint for damages — filed in U.S. District Federal Court in Sacramento against the County of Stanislaus and as many as 20 unidentified defendants — sought an injunction against the grand jury to stop further alleged abuse of authority and publication of transcripts from the investigation. The suit also called for the jury to revise its findings and sought unspecified damages and attorney fees.

Smith claimed in the suit that her rights as a citizen were violated.

Logan’s case delayed until April

A hearing Friday, Jan. 27, in the civil contempt case against former Patterson City Attorney George Logan was postponed until April 3 in Stanislaus Superior Court because of four motions he filed.

Logan has recently filed motions in addition to asking for a continuance to unseal court documents, which he says he has not been able to review.

He also filed an affidavit of prejudice alleging the entire county judiciary is biased against him, and has requested change of venue. Judge William Mayhew will make a decision April 3 on these motions.

“I think we need to get some fresh eyes on this issue,” Logan said last month.

The civil grand jury is seeking a contempt-of-court charge against Logan for speaking and writing in local newspapers last spring about his testimony in front of the grand jury during an investigation into Patterson City Council dealings. If he were found in contempt, the charge could carry a $1,000 fine or possible jail time, as well as court costs and opposing counsel’s attorney fees.

An affidavit signed by former Grand Jury Foreman Denis France accused Logan of violating an oath and admonition to secrecy, as well as insulting the grand jury.

Logan has cited previous court cases in arguing that he was not legally bound to secrecy, because there was no clear and present danger to the jury’s proceedings.

Logan said after the hearing Friday that he expected his case to be moved to a judge outside of the county.

• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187 or

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Santa Barbara County: Grand Jury Visits Los Prietos

Source: SBC Grand Jury

An emotionally charged performance by the Drama Kings was the highlight of the 2011-12 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury visit to Los Prietos Boys Camp and Academy. The visitation was part of the Jury's charge to investigate operations and conditions in detention facilities in the County.

Members of the Drama Kings, all wards of the court between the ages of 13 and 18 sent to the detention facility, performed a personalized rap version of how each wound up at Los Prietos. The stories were entertaining as well as thought-provoking to jurors who had an opportunity to visit with members of the troupe following the performance.

This juvenile facility, operated by the Santa Barbara County Probation Department, stresses education and vocational training for juvenile offenders. "The Jury found a staff committed to the future success of its wards," said Ted Sten, Grand Jury Foreman.

"The Jury toured the Camp and commended the Probation Department officials who manage and operate this juvenile detention facility," Sten said.

The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury is a basic part of the government within the judicial branch. The Grand Jury acts independently, but is under the general control of the Superior Court Presiding Judge to assure that it acts in accordance with the Penal Code of the State of California.