Friday, March 30, 2012

San Mateo County: Grand Jury Report Notes 'Missed Opportunities'

Report on fire services says San Carlos would have saved more partnering with Cal Fire.
By Kenny Porpora - San Carlos Patch
In a notice sent to the city, the San Mateo County Grand Jury found missed opportunities within the city’s failed attempts to partner with Cal Fire after interference from political bodies and stalling from the County Board of Supervisors.

The report said the city’s pursuit to subcontract with Cal Fire would have been more cost-effective, an option shot down by the Board of Supervisors in favor of reconciliation between San Carlos and then-partner Belmont.

The 2011-2012 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recommends to the County Board of Supervisors that it should renew its contract with Cal Fire by June 2012, unless they show a fiscal reason not to do so, and include a provision in future contracts to allow all qualified cities to subcontract for Cal Fire services through the county.

The jury also recommends that Cal Fire be considered as an alternative when assessing changes to local-agency fire protection. San Carlos must respond to the letter by May 15.

The initial break with Belmont

On April 12, 2010, San Carlos notified Belmont that it would be ending their 31-year Joint Power Agreement, a separation that had been in the works since 2004. San Carlos’ decision, according to city officials at the time, was a cost-saving measure.

The Grand Jury report notes that the City of Good Living’s fire expenses had increased more than 30 percent between 2005 and 2010, and under the complicated cost-sharing formula it had worked out with Belmont, the city went from paying 47 percent of all costs to 53 percent.

San Carlos and Belmont experienced many failed negotiations and the decision to dissolve the relationship became official.

Searching for options

On September 16, 2010, the city hired TriData Consulting Firm out of Arlington, Va. to analyze options for thee city. About a month later, TriData submitted an 85-page report to the city, outlining several options, the best of which, they said, would be Cal Fire, due to their ability to hire displaced employees, soething other partnering cities
could not do.

"That may be a deciding factor, said assistant city manager Brian Moura in October of 2010. "But it may not be. It depends on what the formal and final proposals look like. This is all still in the early stages."

The fire union took concern with Cal Fire's hiring of all fire personnel, however, due to their significantly lower salaries; salaries city employees would inherit should they contract with the county.

According to the Grand Jury report, often times, firefighters salaries are maintained even when picked up by Cal Fire.

Other suggestions from the consultant firm included the city's partnering with neighbor Redwood City, or possibly a three way split among San Carlos, Redwood City, and Cal Fire.

This distribution of services among the three, had it happened, would have limited station and equipment costs and would have allowed for more personnel to be hired, making it possible for the station to respond to more than one call at a time, said assistant city manager Brian Moura, at the time.

San Carlos sent out a call for RFP’s, and sought out proposals from North County Fire, San Mateo, and Menlo Park, in addition to Redwood City and Cal Fire.

A change of heart

On November 19, 2010, the city received a fax from Cal Fire director Ken Pilmott saying Cal Fire will not be submitting a bid for proposal, a decision that has surprised San Carlos officials.

“To be successful, it is imperative that there is support for these agreements amongst all the stakeholders, including public officials, local citizens and labor organizations,” said Ken Pimlott, the Cal Fire director in a fax sent to assistant city manager Brian Moura.

“In the case of the City of San Carlos, there is concern from regional Legislative members and significant opposition from local labor organizations. Lacking support from these stakeholders, a proposed partnership could face legal challenges and be cast in a negative light by the media and the community.”

The letter sent concern through government officials, who were expecting a bid from Cal Fire due to previous interest, and an unofficial bid sent back in March of 2010.

“Something changed in the last seven days,” said assistant city manager Brian Moura told San Carlos Patch at the time the letter was sent. “Cal Fire submitted an unofficial proposal in March of this year, and two others in previous years when we’ve attempted this, so something changed in the last few days and I don’t know what it is.”

San Carlos looks to Board of Supervisors for help

On January 17, 2011, city officials sat before the Boards Finance and Operations Committee and asked to contract with Cal Fire. The County instead wanted to see the city work out its relationship wih Belmont. Mediation between the two cities was suggested by Supervisors Carole Groom and Adrienne Tissier.

Mediation failed. The city went on to contract with Redwood City. The Grand Jury report states that while savings were made, the savings would have been greater had the city been allowed to subcontract with Cal Fire under the county’s contract.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kern County: Public Employee Accused Of Misspending Taxpayer Money

Camila Bastidas - 23ABC - North County Reporter
DELANO, Calif. -- Gary Johnson, the general manager at the Delano Mosquito Abatement District, is on administrative leave after the Kern County grand jury began investigating the District's spending practices.

The Grand Jury report states that Johnson used more $15,000 in District credit cards for purchases without turning in actual receipts. He also took a total of 86 days, of vacation with full pay when he should have only had 25 days but everything was approved by the board of directors.

The Grand Jury report states that Johnson would often go to conferences throughout the United States and to Europe. He would leave several days before and or stay several days after the conference, all of which were paid for by the district with taxpayer money, and those conference days were not counted as vacation time. Board officials said he should have never gone to Europe because the conference there dealt with issues that he wasn't qualified to deal with.

"He was a very persuasive person, and he misrepresented himself, and he led this board to believe that he was required to be there, that he needed to attend that conference, and we believed him," said Aguirre.

The board of directors is responsible for allowing Johnson to get away with his actions. Now, the five members are planning to create and enforce new rules.

"Starting with the contractual agreement with the next general manager in identifying the required dates of employment, vacation time and how we are going to be acquiring vehicles and disposing of vehicles,” said Aguirre.

Officials know that the public’s trust has been violated, but now they want to fix things and move forward.

"Are the taxpayers upset? They should be, and if they are not, then they will be because it is very upsetting, and this isn’t going away easily. But, we are not going to run from this. We are going to run to it," said Aguirre.

The District was formed in 1944 under provisions of the California Health and Safety Code. The objectives of the District are the elimination of mosquito breeding-grounds, education of the public at large about mosquito control measures and establishment of processes for mosquito source reduction.

The District is located at 11282 Garzoli Ave. in Delano and services the northern part of Kern County including Delano, McFarland, Pond and Richgrove. The District also extends into southern Tulare County.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My turn: Grand Juror’s view

Grand Juries have been in existence in England since the 12th century and came to the colonies with the early settlers in the 1600s. As a check against improper conduct by elected officials, the Grand Jury system grew to be established throughout the United States. Gradually, to avoid oversight, state legislatures across our country voted to eliminate them; only California and Nevada now have full time Civil Grand Juries. The effort to eliminate this oversight function continues in some California counties with support by some in the state legislature.

A recent effort by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) was the introduction of Assembly Bill 622 which would significantly reduce the investigative powers of Grand Juries. The timing of his Assembly Bill introduction followed a Sacramento County Grand Jury investigation of a complaint regarding alleged improprieties at the Sacramento County Library. Mr. Dickinson, then a Sacramento County Supervisor, vigorously defended the integrity of the Sacramento Library Facilities Director and Library Security Chief. They were later convicted of embezzling $780,000 and defined by the prosecutor as “a classic case of public corruption.”

Assemblyman Dickinson was obviously wrong in his defense of these now convicted criminals, yet sought to make the Grand Jury system more restrictive in its investigative procedures. It is hard to determine Dickinson’s real intent, but to many it appears to be a move to reduce oversight of government officials.

With hard work by the California Grand Juror’s Association and many local county juror groups, some of the most cutting and restrictive features of AB 622 were diluted during its path to a vote. Unfortunately, AB 622 was in fact passed by the Legislature (primarily along partisan lines) and signed by Governor Brown on Oct. 9, 2011, impacting the Grand Jury’s access to witnesses by inserting lawyers into the process and adding challenges to jury members attempting to get to the truth of their factual findings.

The Grand Jury in El Dorado County has had similar success in uncovering wrongful or illegal behavior by public officials. Several years ago an investigation revealed that elected Board Members of a Fire District had paid themselves illegally and were subsequently required to return those funds to the district.

Only the Grand Jury has the power and authority to request information, files and records for which the average citizen would be required to file a law suit to obtain. The Grand Jury system is protected in the State of California Constitution. However, the California State Legislature with its powers to change the penal code may over time erode the Grand Jury’s state constitutional authority, the traditional “people’s protection clause” or right of oversight of their local government.

It is up to the citizens in every county in California to protect the integrity of our Grand Jury system, and not to allow legislators to take or erode the protection of Grand Juries written into the California Constitution.

How can you help? Be a vocal citizen when assaults are made on the Grand Jury system. Volunteer to serve as a Grand Juror in El Dorado County. You will become very educated as to how local government operates and provide a valuable service to the citizens of our fine County.

The Grand Jurors View is published throughout the year in the Mountain Democrat, written by the El Dorado County Grand Jurors Association. Please contact Chuck MacLean, President, at our e-mail: or at our mailing address: P.O. Box 383, Placerville, CA 95667. View our new Website: or look for El Dorado County Grand Jurors Association on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Placer grand jury critical of speedway work at fairgrounds

By Cathy Locke - The Modesto Bee
A Placer County grand jury report says a history of negligence by county government in overseeing contracts resulted in unauthorized modifications to a speedway on county fairgrounds – and that is creating a nuisance for neighbors.

The report released by the 2011-12 grand jury calls for the county to terminate its contract with the Placer County Fair Association, arguing that despite a statutory limitation of five years, the current contract has been in effect for more than 10 years.

The jury recommends the Board of Supervisors seek an alternative nonprofit corporation or association to operate and manage the Placer County Fair and the All American Speedway on the Roseville fairgrounds.

After structural modifications to the speedway were made in 2006-07, residents near the fairgrounds complained of noise from race cars and the PA system, and traffic congestion.

To address these complaints, the grand jury report says, the county drafted a revised contract that included additional safeguards, controls and oversight by the county, but the association refused to sign it.

Mary Dietrich, assistant director of the county's Department of Facility Services, said the speedway modifications were made without the county's knowledge, and the fair association is now applying retroactively for the required building and grading permits.

Although the fair association is covering the cost of permit fees, the county will pay for an environmental study that will accompany a new operating agreement, Dietrich said.

The study, she said, will evaluate the environmental effects the speedway would have on the surrounding neighborhood under the operations plan.

The grand jury report estimates the study could cost as much as $100,000. Dietrich said the county is seeking proposals from firms to conduct the environmental impact report. "EIRs are expensive," she said.

But Dietrich said the study and operating agreement could apply to any party that contracted with the county to operate the fairgrounds and speedway.

John Javidan became general manager of the Placer County Fair Association in January. He said the speedway generates more than 50 percent of the revenue needed to operate the annual Placer County Fair, revenue that is critical since the state eliminated funding for county fairs.

Javidan said the association is working with Dietrich on the new operating agreement, and has been working with race car drivers and equipment manufacturers to keep engine noise levels below 90 decibels.

Dietrich said the county also has directed the speedway to caulk gaps in sound walls and raise berms to reduce noise in the surrounding neighborhood.
But Mike Kassis, a neighborhood resident, said efforts thus far have done nothing to reduce the noise.

Kassis said he doesn't think any measures will adequately resolve nuisance issues with a speedway at this location. He favors allowing the speedway to operate as is for now, but with this directive to the operator: "Give yourself three years to plan and relocate, because this is not the right place."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Solano Grand Jury Targets Dixon Library

At the special meeting of the Dixon Public Library Board of Trustees Friday, the board announced that a Solano County Grand Jury contacted them to inform them of an inquiry into the library.
- By Carlos Villatoro, Editor -

The Dixon Public Library is currently the target of a Solano County Grand Jury inquiry said the Dixon Public Library board during a special meeting held within the chambers of the Dixon City Council Friday.

The board met in closed session with its legal counsel and afterwards made the Grand Jury inquiry annoucenment.

The board did not state any specifics of the inquiry, but said it was aware of it and is currently speaking to its legal counsel on how to best proceed. The board also announced that it is directing its legal counsel to draft a letter to the library commission requiring them to place District Librarian Gregg Atkins on administrative leave, with pay, until his contract expires on June. 1.

In addition, the board is asking the library commission to not amend Atkins’ contract that would grant him additional pay, bonuses or compensation.

On March 13, Dixon Patch reported that Atkins would not seek a renewal of his contract and that he had planned on retiring when his contract expires. The board is currently looking for a new librarian to step into Atkins’ position, and has begun the search by inviting qualified applicants to apply for the position.

The library board is also in the process of conducting an independent audit of the library's finances and a board member is entrusted to begin the search for an auditor to do that.

Dixon Patch will continue to follow these developments and will post an update on this story as soon as we can.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Contra Costa County: Applications sought for civil grand jurors

Contra Costa Times - MARTINEZ

The Contra Costa County Superior Court is accepting applications for civil grand jury service for the fiscal year 2012-2013 term.

The civil grand jury is made up of 19 members who serve for one year, July through June, to monitor, review and report on city and county governments, special districts and school districts.

Approximately 60 applicants will be selected to be interviewed by a committee made up of Superior Court judges. After interviews, the judges will nominate 30 applicants to constitute a grand jury pool, from which the final panel of 19 will be selected by random drawing.

Those chosen must be available the last two weeks of June for an orientation and to learn what committees they will serve.

Grand jurors must be United States citizens, 18 years of age or older, residents of Contra Costa County for at least one year before selection. They cannot currently hold any elected position within the county. Applicants should have reliable transportation to Martinez, and must be prepared to devote at least 20 hours per week to the grand jury.

Applicants selected as one of the 30 nominees will be fingerprinted before the drawing.

Jurors receive a stipend for attending full jury and committee meetings and are reimbursed for allowable jury travel.

To apply contact the Office of the Civil grand jury at 925-957-5638, or go to to obtain an application. The application deadline is April 13.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ventura County: Superior Court seeking grand jury nominations - March 23, 2012

The Ventura County Superior Court of California is seeking nominations for the 2012-13 grand jury. A grand jury member must be an American citizen 18 years of age or older, have been a resident of Ventura County for at least one year, have no felony convictions or malfeasance in offi ce, and be in possession of their natural faculties, of ordinary intelligence, of sound judgment and of good character.

The grand jury investigates the various departments, special districts of the county and city government, is involved in fiscal or management audits, and prepares reports on related matters.

Grand jurors serve for one year, from July 2, 2012 through June 30, 2013, and usually involves 32 to 40 hours per week.

Call Jury Services at(805) 654-2845 or download an application form from

Applications are due by Fri., April 13. Mail to: Ventura Superior Court, Jury Services, Room 113, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura, CA 93009.

Friday, March 23, 2012

San Luis Obispo County: Sheriff wants more hours for commander in charge of professional standards

By Bob Cuddy and Cynthia Lambert - - The Tribune

The man hired to oversee the professional standards unit at the Sheriff’s Office needs more time to do the job thoroughly, according to Sheriff Ian Parkinson, who is asking the Board of Supervisors to approve additional hours.

The timing of Parkinson’s request is serendipitous for him: On Thursday, the county’s civil grand jury issued a report praising Parkinson for hiring James Voge and for re-establishing the professional standards unit in February 2011. The unit had been dissolved under former Sheriff Pat Hedges.

Voge, who served 33 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, ran the Internal Affairs Group there and has expertise in “the area of internal discipline,” to use Parkinson’s phrase. He was hired as a part-time contract employee.

Parkinson said the professional standards unit under Voge has developed new procedures, forms and reporting. Among the unit’s responsibilities are handling complaints from the public and conducting internal investigations, Parkinson wrote in a report to the county board.

Parkinson’s action drew accolades from the county’s civil grand jury.

The grand jury found that since the unit was restored, “the percentage of sustained complaints has been reduced and the overall tracking of citizen complaints has been improved.”

In his report to supervisors, Parkinson noted some of Voge’s accomplishments to date.
Among them:

• Improved reporting, including complaint forms and “use of force” reports that allow an analysis of the causes of a particular incident.

• Buying new software that allows more efficient handling of citizens’ complaints and administrative investigations.

• Developing and teaching an eight-hour course titled “Officer-involved shootings and lethal use of force by law enforcement.”

Voge also is developing a course on internal affairs.

Voge needs more than the 960 hours for which he was hired as a temporary employee, Parkinson wrote. He wants to add more hours for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and then hire him full time for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Parkinson is asking supervisors to approve an additional $61,190 for the rest of this fiscal year. He will include his request for Voge to become full time in his 2013-14 budget proposal.

The grand jury also reviewed policies kept by each of the seven police departments in the county and found the agencies are now conducting investigations into citizen complaints “in a positive and effective manner.”

Jury recommendations

The grand jury report made a few recommendations, which the police departments are required to respond to by June 18. The jury recommended the Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Morro Bay, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo police departments add citizen complaint forms to their websites.

The jury also found the Sheriff’s Office has an outdated system of video recording in its vehicles and suggested the equipment be upgraded with digital recording devices.
Cmdr. Aaron Nix said that enough money has been budgeted to upgrade the equipment in patrol cars assigned to two of the department’s three stations, hopefully by the end of the summer, at an estimated cost of $70,000 per station.

The Sheriff’s Office has until May 19 to respond.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grand jury: San Mateo County allowed 'public' pools to stay open before making required inspections

By Bonnie Eslinger - Palo Alto Daily News Staff Writer - 03/22/2012

San Mateo County allowed hundreds of swimming pools to remain open to the public before authorities confirmed that all except for three complied with state and federal laws requiring drain covers and other safety devices to prevent drowning accidents, according to a civil grand jury report released Wednesday.

The county environmental health department's failure to make timely inspections of the pools stemmed from its "perceived low level of safety risk," a reluctance to penalize pool owners and an expectation that other counties would be lax as well, according to the grand jury report.

Although no one in the county reportedly has died or been injured by getting stuck in underwater drains, 12 fatalities and 97 injuries have been reported nationwide. All except one of the victims have been children.

"Fortunately there has not been an injury or a fatality in our county on account of this suction that has harmed other children," said Bruce MacMillan, foreman of the 19-member civil grand jury.

A federal law passed in 2007 -- the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act -- was named after a 7-year-old girl who drowned after becoming trapped underwater by the suction of a hot tub drain. The law requires anti-entrapment equipment for pools used by the general public, such as those at apartment complexes or condo developments.

In 2009, California passed its own version of the federal law. The state law required pools without the proper anti-entrapment equipment to be closed by July 1, 2010, until necessary retrofits were made, according to the grand jury report.

The law applied to pools open to the public, as well as those available to members and guests of an organization or residential building or at an athletic club or school, according to the California Department of Public Health.

San Mateo County has 1,044 "public pools" that fell under the law, according to the grand jury report. By the July 2010 deadline, about 448 of them had not been inspected or did not have the required equipment.

By the time the grand jury convened last year on July 1, the number of noncompliant pools had dropped to 47. By Sept. 30, only three did not comply, according to the grand jury.

Email Bonnie Eslinger at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Monterey County responds to grand jury report - Social services officials disagree with allegation of apparent underreporting of suspected abuse

By JIM JOHNSON - Herald Staff Writer
Just because a girl under 14 seeks pregnancy services doesn't mean she was the victim of child sexual abuse.

That was among the positions taken by county officials in a draft response to the 2011 Monterey County civil grand jury report.

In the response, approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, social services officials disagreed with the grand jury's contention that eligibility workers and medical professionals had "apparently" underreported suspected sexual abuse cases because none of the 24 instances from 2008-10 when girls under 14 sought pregnancy services resulted in a suspected abuse report.

County officials pointed out that mandatory reporters must consider the relative age of the girl's sexual partner, under California law, and that pregnancy of a minor does not by itself constitute the basis of reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse.

County officials argued that the Minor Consent program is a "valuable resource" that "provides an option for youth facing difficult life circumstances." Without the program, they said, girls might not seek treatment. The response said half of all mothers under 18 accessed prenatal care either late or not at all.

The program provides young mothers with access to a clinician, who is responsible for assessing whether a mandated sexual abuse report is required.

Requiring eligibility workers to gather enough information to determine if there is reasonable suspicion of abuse "would be contrary to the design and intent of the program," said the county's response. At the same time, eligibility workers are trained as mandated reporters if minors do offer enough information to indicate reasonable suspicion.

The response read: "The Department of Social and Employment Services recognizes that teen sexuality can be risky and problematic, yet must deal with the reality of its presence in the community. The Department is committed to obeying the laws regarding child abuse and neglect reporting and embracing the value of the Medi-Cal Minor Consent Program as an important resource for youth in assuring they have access to necessary health care and resources that may be necessary for preventing child abuse and addressing sexual assault."

County officials said girls accessing pregnancy services are not necessarily pregnant, but could be seeking everything from contraception to treatment for a sexually transmitted disease.

Other responses

The county's draft response also covered:

· Potential abuse of the welfare food stamp and benefits programs known as CalFresh and CalWorks.

The grand jury suggested that increased outreach to potentially eligible food stamp recipients could result in fraudulent applications. It said county social workers should improve their efficiency without resorting to overtime.

County officials said outreach is an important initiative and the county is among the state's most accurate in processing applications, but occasionally needs to rely on overtime.

The county agreed with the grand jury's contention that more emphasis should be placed on the purchase of fresh, nutritious food through the food stamps program. The county also agreed that some ATMs that accept CalWorks benefit cards are in places inconsistent with the intent of the program, such as the Monterey County Race Place at the county fairgrounds. The ATM there has since been removed.

The response also pointed out that the state is responsible for authorizing which ATMs can accept benefit cards.

· Issues with local juvenile justice programs, including security policies at the Youth Center, the site of inmate escapes last year.

In their response, county probation officials said they had taken steps to "evaluate and strengthen internal security," including "appropriate personnel actions," and made "structural improvements to further secure and strengthen the facility."

Probation chief Manuel Real said the center's fence has been upgraded and cameras and lighting added. He said there would be no more use of front meeting rooms, where the escapes began.

Real said personnel changes were confidential.

· Excessive overtime in the county jail.

In a separate response, Sheriff Scott Miller outlined a series of actions he has taken since taking office in January 2011 to reduce overtime in the county jail.

Those included creation of 12 custody and control specialist positions to replace deputies with lower-paid workers at the jail; implementation of a new timekeeping and scheduling system; and consideration of a new policy limiting the number of hours worked on consecutive days.

Further cost-savings analysis resulted in outsourcing inmate medical services and other measures, he said.

Jim Johnson can be reached at 753-6753 or

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stanislaus County: County tries to get Smith lawsuit thrown out again

by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator - March 19, 2012
Stanislaus County is seeking once again to dismiss a federal civil rights lawsuit that Councilwoman Annette Smith filed against the county, after she sought to reverse the findings of a Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury report that called for her dismissal.

A six-page dismissal motion that the county filed Friday, March 16, states that Smith’s Feb. 28 amended complaint failed to meet court timelines, did not name any county workers who violated her rights and did not allege any local government policy that led to the alleged civil rights violations.

In citing a federal court case from 2007, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombley, the county’s attorneys assert that Smith must “give the defendant a fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” The documents also state that the grand juries are arms of the court and not part of county government.

Smith’s amended complaint labels grand jury members as county employees.

“Grand jury members are as a matter of law considered to be employees of the County of Stanislaus and were so employed at all relevant times,” Smith’s court documents state. “Grand jury members are compensated on a daily basis by the County of Stanislaus, receive parking permits, office keys, access to a copy machine, access to email and access to a grand jury library to compensate them for services provided.”

Smith’s original complaint filed in federal Court in October was dismissed Jan. 26 because it was too vague, according to U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill.

A hearing regarding the county’s motion for dismissal is set for April 17 at the U.S. District Court Eastern Division Department courthouse in Fresno.

Smith has requested that the names and testimony of anonymous witnesses used to compile the grand jury report be published. She is also seeking a revised grand jury report and attorney fees. She has said she is not seeking personal monetary damages from the lawsuit.

The grand jury’s report stated that Smith failed to recuse herself from a vote regarding developer John Ramos’ legal fees while she had a financial relationship with him and stated that Ramos had written off expenses for Smith in the past. It also criticized Smith for allegedly confronting a resident in a supermarket parking lot and using abusive language. The report stated further that she pressured city staff to fire former City Manager Cleve Morris and former Community Development Director Rod Simpson.

The report called for Smith’s ouster, by either citizen recall or her resignation.

The grand jury also recommended that former Mayor Becky Campo pay back money she received as mayor because she allegedly lived outside city limits. It further stated that the city should file a complaint with the California State Bar to chastise former city attorney George Logan for alleged improprieties, such as failing to be in the room when the council voted to reimburse Ramos for $27,000 in legal fees.

The grand jury advised that Ramos return that money to the city and admonished Councilman Dominic Farinha for open-meeting violations.

Smith has alleged that the grand jury received false testimony that resulted in false claims without properly investigating the facts. Her suit states that the grand jury “consciously refused to consider exonerating evidence including (Smith’s) testimony and others” and was out to “destroy the reputation of (Smith).”

• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187, ext. 31 or

Monday, March 19, 2012

CGJA: It's grand jury recruitment time all over California!

Agents of Change is a short, informative video about California's citizen-led county grand jury system.

Share this video with your Public Access TV stations, with your local Jury Services Office, and your friends.

Serving on YOUR county grand jury is democracy-in-action!

Share it and the other resources in the free Education Package offered on our website - - Check it out!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shasta County grand jury holds open house; serving community is a priority

Posted March 15, 2012 - By Joe Szydlowski - The Record Searchlight

About 40 people came to the Shasta County grand jury's open house Thursday evening to hear about the responsibilities and benefits of serving as a grand juror.

The grand jury investigates local government agencies to ensure they are acting appropriately.

The jury then reports its results, along with problems and suggestions, to the community.

A key question on the application to become a grand juror is why a resident wants to serve, said Molly Bigelow, presiding judge of the Shasta County Superior Court.

"The overwhelming majority answer they have a need or a desire to give back to the community," Bigelow said to attendees.

That's what brought Mel Woods, 56, to the meeting at the Redding Library. He said his father, a sheriff's deputy, always spoke to him about the importance of civic responsibility.

He said he's become more involved in the past few years, and sees the grand jury as a good opportunity.

"For the first 50 years ... I was kind of a wallflower," he said. But he wants to make up for that by helping preserve the importance of "citizens having a hand in and not letting government run rampant."

After winnowing down the applicants through interviews, 19 people are selected by lottery to serve. The others serve as backups.

The group investigates complaints from community members against local agencies, identifies problems and solutions, and inspects government facilities. Jurors can also suggest investigations.

State law forbids jurors from speaking about any investigations or findings that aren't included in the final report. Jurors' identities are also kept confidential, Bigelow said.

"It's not a job for someone seeking the limelight," she said.

To be selected, individuals must have lived in Shasta County for at least one year as of June 28, when the jurors are sworn in. They must know English, be at least 18 years old and not hold an elected office.

They earn $15 per day, and can expect 10 to 20 hours of work per week, said Marsha Caranci, head of training for the California Grand Jury Association.

Interested in serving on grand jury?

Applications are due by April 13.

Go to and click on “application” or call 245-6761 to apply.

© 2012 Record Searchlight. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Humboldt County: $150K Audit Probes Years Of Grant Bungling By DA’s Office

March 17, 2012 - Daniel Mintz - Arcata Eye Correspondent
A consulting firm specializing in grant regulation compliance is reviewing management of grant funds in the District Attorney’s Office and its work has expanded to include what a county staff report describes as “all prior year grants and revenue sources.”

The firm’s expanded contract is said to be connected to a personnel matter. The District Attorney’s Office’s legal business manager is on administrative leave and a separate county investigation has reviewed the job performance of that employee.

Failure to claim grant revenues is one of the issues being analyzed, and it’s one that’s been noted by the county’s Grand Jury.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos had refuted the 2010 Grand Jury report’s finding that two quarters of grant funding reimbursements for a victim-witness program hadn’t been claimed in the 2006-07 fiscal year.

But the accuracy of Gallegos’ response is in serious doubt. The DA’s Office, the County Administrative Office and the county’s Auditor-Controller’s Office noticed that grant revenues failed to materialize in the 2010-11 fiscal year, said Assistant County Administrative Officer Cheryl Dillingham. “Money hadn’t been claimed,” she said, leading to “a lot of backwards research to maximize revenue.”

A Sacramento-based consulting firm, Intellibridge Partners, was hired by the DA’s Office to look into the situation.

Originally contracted for $30,000, Intellibridge began work on June 14, 2011 and its contract has been extended to March 31 for a total cost of $147,805.

Dillingham said that once Intellibridge began its review, it was determined to be “cost effective” to enlist the firm for additional work.

At the March 6 Board of Supervisors meeting, the DA asked for and got approval of transfers from asset forfeiture funds to pay for the contract, which is part of a larger supplemental budget funding request.

“The underlying reason for hiring the outside consultant somewhat emanated out of a personnel matter but certainly, it’s important for us to make sure all the funds we received, both from grants and from the General Fund, are actually being spent as they should be,” Gallegos told supervisors when asked about the Intellibridge contract.

Irregularities in DA’s Office grant management were publicized through the Grand Jury’s report and media coverage of concerns raised by the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) last summer.

The agency informed Gallegos that county public safety departments weren’t being notified of the availability of hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant monies.

At the time, a spokesman for CalEMA said that “management papers weren’t being filed and the state doesn’t like to delay getting money to locals.” But CalEMA has not responded to several messages requesting follow-up information.

Gallegos said that so far, one grant from the federal Office on Violence Against Women has been identified as having been affected by lack of reimbursement. “In and of itself, it’s not an issue, it depends on the magnitude of what wasn’t reclaimed,” he continued.

Asked if there’s a grasp on the magnitude, Gallegos said there isn’t. He said he isn’t certain if the grant is the same one that the Grand Jury focused on in its finding.

The grant mentioned by the DA is related to domestic violence services and spanned multiple years. Gallegos said it was discontinued in 2008 but the staffing that it supported remained in place because the funding was thought to be active until last year, when its non-renewal was discovered.

Gallegos declined to say more about the situation due to its status as a personnel matter. But he acknowledged responsibility for it.

“Is it my fault? Yes, because it was my employee and I allowed it to happen,” Gallegos said.

Linda Forbes, Intellibridge’s director of marketing, said the firm will draft a report when it completes its work. The firm won’t release the report to the public, she continued, as that decision will be left to the county and the DA’s Office.

Gallegos said anything in the report related to the personnel matter won’t be disclosed but information on the status of grant funding will be.

Forbes said Intellibridge is “providing critical fiscal services related to grant management, ensuring that requirements are followed concerning the use of grant funds.” Responding to a question, she said there’s no indication that grant funds have been misused.

“It’s just a matter of meeting their compliance needs,” she continued.

The county has handled the situation as a personnel matter. An inquiry to the County Administrative Officer last month was referred to Amy Nilsen, the county’s risk manager, for response.

Nilsen declined comment, saying personnel matters can’t be discussed. She also declined comment for the same reason when asked for general information about the status of grants.

Gallegos said that all grants affecting his office’s services are now being properly managed. The county agrees.

“I feel fairly confident about what’s going on up there now,” said Dillingham. “They have a good handle on what’s going on with all of their grants.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

San Mateo County: Civil grand jury may pass on mosquito district investigation

by Michelle Durand - Daily Journal Staff - March 16, 2012
The civil grand jury’s current docket is full so any investigation into the county’s mosquito abatement district and the alleged embezzlement of more than $400,000 by its former finance director may have to wait until the next term.

The city of San Carlos asked the civil grand jury late last month to look at the district’s management and overall operations as well as the circumstances surrounding the alleged embezzlement. In a March 13 response to Mayor Andy Klein, jury foreperson Bruce E. MacMillan said the body will review the request but added “our current docket is full.” MacMillan also acknowledged “the serious and important nature of the matters you raise.”

Klein said he was “pretty disheartened” by the response because he doesn’t “understand what could be bigger than civic corruption” but concedes not knowing what else the jury has on its plate.

Jury investigations are confidential until it releases reports with conclusions and recommendations.

Klein and other San Carlos councilmembers had hoped the civil grand jury could shine some light on the district which has remained relatively mum since news broke of the alleged embezzlement.

Prosecutors say former finance director Jo Ann Seeney, 61, who worked under the last name Dearman, and accounting assistant Vika Sinipata, 35, embezzled the funds between 2009 and 2011 by giving themselves extra pay at a higher rate and fraudulent time off, excessively contributed to their deferred compensation funds, used credit cards for personal purchases and electronically transferred money into their own accounts. An audit reported more than $635,000 was missing, much of it in the last fiscal year. The district contacted the County Counsel’s Office which in turn handed the matter to the District Attorney’s Office which charged them with stealing more than $450,000. The district’s numbers might be closer to the actual loss but prosecutors are only alleging the amount they can prove, according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

In the wake, several officials have voiced a desire for information but only San Carlos took the formal step of contacting the civil grand jury and asking other cities and the county to follow suit. San Carlos’ representative to the board, Betsey Schneider, was the one who helped uncover the alleged embezzlement by questioning expenses in the district’s pesticide account.

At the time of Seeney’s employment, she had been prosecuted in two different embezzlement cases, including one in which she ran up more than a half-million dollars on her boss’ credit card. In March 2010, she was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison on the two cases and ordered to pay restitution.

She was transferred back to San Mateo County from prison to face eight new counts of embezzling public money along with Sinipata. She has finished the prison term and wants to post $250,000 bail but first authorities must review the funds’ source to make sure the money isn’t connected to any of her confirmed or alleged crimes.

Sinipata is being held in lieu of $150,000.

Both are due in court March 19 for the bail review and to set a preliminary hearing.

If the civil grand jury does investigate and issue a report on the district, it is under no legal obligation to abide by recommendations or findings. However, recipients must respond in writing within 90 days.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: or by phone: (650)344-5200 ext.102

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Contra Costa County: Mt. Diablo Health Care District stripped of power; Concord assumes oversight

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen - Contra Costa Times - Posted: 03/15/2012
Contra Costa regulators voted Wednesday to strip the Mt. Diablo Health Care District and its five elected board members of their authority and turn over its small pot of property tax revenues and limited duties to Concord.

The Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission's 6-1 decision signals a likely end to years of controversy surrounding a district that lost its hospital 16 years ago but continued to spend the vast majority of its money on elections, overhead and free lifetime health benefits for several elected directors.

The only no vote came from Commissioner Martin McNair, who fought for a clean shutdown of the 64-year-old health care district that includes Concord, Pleasant Hill, Martinez and portions of Lafayette. Contra Costa would have been the first in the state to disband a public agency under a new state law that allows a special district to be dissolved without a vote of its residents.

McNair's six colleagues on the commission, a seven-member board of county, city and special district officials who have authority over public agency service boundaries, chose a less confrontational path they said carries less legal risk but disbands the existing board and preserves at least a portion of the tax dollars for unmet community health needs.

"Being cautious puts us in the leadership role and we avoid the added risks," said Contra Costa Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg.

He is referring to potential post-dissolution litigation over the 1996 agreement under which the health care district transferred its Concord hospital to the nonprofit John Muir Health that includes a mandatory $1 million annual community grant program and a provision that returns the hospital to the district in 2049. The health care district's attorney said dissolution would jeopardize the agreement.

Mt. Diablo Health Care District Chairman Jeff Kasper expressed "cautious optimism" to the commissioners about a reorganization option. But a commissioner blasted Kasper after he asked for at least a year to "reestablish (the district's) proper role in the safety net that serves the area's most vulnerable residents."

"We've been giving you one year for years," said Commissioner Dwight Meadows. "How many years do we have to give you?"

A commission consultant found that the health care district spent in the past decade 85 percent of its property tax proceeds on overhead, elections and legal bills. The findings matched what four civil grand juries said for years.

But the commission and Concord are under the gun to finish the complex paperwork soon.

Four of the five health care board seats are up for election in November. If the city has not been named the district's governing board by the time the candidate filing period opens in early August, a costly election will proceed.

The tight timing was one of the key reasons why Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill, the city of Concord and John Muir representatives said they favored dissolution. They also weighed the potential election and administrative costs against the diminished property tax revenues of the smaller district.

"I'm very angry," Mitchoff said after the vote supported by Glover and Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho. "Concord, John Muir and the supervisor who represents this community all wanted dissolution, and my two colleagues on the commission voted against that."

Under the reorganization plan adopted Wednesday, Concord will create a new subsidiary district governed by the Concord City Council. The commission will reassign to the city governance of the district's assets and the transfer agreement. The existing elected health care board will be eliminated.

Concord will receive the property tax proceeds that currently go to the health care district, although the dollar amount will drop from $240,000 a year to as little as $100,000, depending on the size of the new district.

A Concord-led district will be smaller than the current one, as the city cannot govern residents outside its limits unless they represent at least 70 percent of the overall population in the subsidiary district. Concord makes up 44.5 percent of the existing district.

No tax dollars will be returned to residents. Money generated in areas of the district excluded from the new one will remain in the pool and distributed to cities, schools and other special districts.

The commission will also require the health care district to purchase an annuity that covers the costs of free lifetime benefits for board member Grace Ellis and former board member and Concord Councilman Ron Leone.


1948: Voters form the Mt. Diablo Health Care District and pass a new parcel tax to
pay for the management and construction of a new hospital in Concord.
Nov. 1, 1994: California Legislature bans health care districts from offering new free lifetime medical benefits to their elected boards. Certain members who already held office were exempted: A member had to have been in office at least 12 years and elected before Jan. 1, 1995. Two Mt. Diablo Health District directors were eligible -- Grace Ellis and Ron Leone. Ellis is still on the board. Leone is a Concord councilman.
1996: The district hits rough financial waters and voters agree to turn over the hospital to John Muir Health. But the district and its elected board remain in place, where its duties include oversight of the transfer agreement, five seats on the 10-member community health fund and responsibility over roughly $240,000 a year in property tax proceeds.
2001: Contra Costa civil grand jury recommends dissolution of the district, saying it has outlived its usefulness.
2003: Civil grand jury issues second call for the elimination of the district.
2007: Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission, which has jurisdiction over city and special district boundaries, questions the health care district's high level of spending on overhead and legal bills. It rejects dissolution demands but mandates annual progress reports.
2008: Third civil grand jury recommends disbanding the district.
2010: Three of the district's five elected board members vote to dissolve the agency, but it takes a supermajority, or four votes.
June 2011: A fourth grand jury demands the district shut its doors. Its findings show that the district had spent $360,000 from 2000-2009 on health care benefits for the two eligible trustees, Ellis and Leone.
July 2011: Commission postpones a dissolution vote pending the outcome of Assembly Bill 912, a measure that would allow commissions to close public agencies without a vote of its residents. It was later signed into law.
August 2011: Commission initiates dissolution study.
September 2011: Health care district hires Sacramento lawyer Ralph Ferguson to help fight dissolution.
December 2011: The commission's consultant finds evidence to support elimination of the district, finding that the agency has spent 85 percent of its money since 2000 on elections, administration and legal bills, only rarely providing community grants.
Jan. 11: Commission votes unanimously in favor of dissolution but postpones decision about whether to shut the district down or turn over its duties and dollars to Concord.
March 14: Commission votes to strip the five health care district members of their authority and reassign the agency's property tax proceeds and duties to a new subsidiary zone governed by Concord.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Santa Clara County Looking For Civil Grand Jurors

You could be a member of the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury
By Lori Preuitt - - Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012

Here is an interesting job option that will look great on your resume. How about being a member of a civil grand jury?

It is a part time job that very very important. The only thing it lacks is a salary. This is a volunteer gig.

The Santa Clara County Superior Court is looking for people to serve a one-year term with the Civil Grand Jury.

The volunteer position will take a minimum commitment of 20-25 hours per week.

A Civil Grand Jury serves as the county's investigatory body and is often asked to examine the efficiency and integrity of city and county government. Basically, you look at evidence and then make a legal decision. One of the most famous grand jury decisions of late here in the Bay Area was the decision by a grand jury to prosecute Giants slugger Barry Bonds on perjury charges.

The county website says people who are asked to serve feel privileged to be selected.

Those who apply should be interested in learning more about the administration and operation of the government in the county in which they live.

The county states, "Although serving as a Grand Juror consumes many hours, those who serve are willing to give their time for the betterment of the government which, in truth, belongs to them."

The way to get started is to fill out an application. The deadline to apply for the 2012-2013 Grand Jury is Wednesday, March 21.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

(San Luis Obispo County) Grand Jury critiques city vacation policies


The San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury thinks Paso Robles and Atascadero have too much time on their hands.

In a report released March 2, the Grand Jury concluded that both cities are in major violation of their own employee vacation accumulation policies.

The report, which looked at all of the cities in SLO County, also applauded the cities of Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, and San Luis Obispo for successfully sticking to their policies on accumulated vacation time.

The jury found that more than 40 percent of Paso Robles’ city employees had violated policy, which resulted in an average of 285 hours of vacation time per employee and a $1,647,000 unfunded liability for city coffers. According to city policy, employees should be allowed to collect only 80 to 200 hours of vacation time, depending on their position and years in service.

Jury members found that Atascadero hadn’t enforced its own vacation policy in more than 20 years. According to the report, 116 Atascadero employees had managed to accrue 25,352 hours of sick leave.

Paso Robles City Manager Jim App said the city has more than enough money to cover its liabilities. Should every employee terminate simultaneously, App said the city’s General Fund of $10 million would be more than enough to cover the nearly $1.65 million of vacation payout.

In a statement to New Times, App said the unlimited accrual of vacation time had been the city’s practice for more than 20 years.

“The fact that an older policy states otherwise merely reflects that the written policy has not caught up with established practice,” he said.

The Grand Jury also found Morro Bay has violated its own policies “in some cases.” The report recommended that Paso Robles and Atascadero city officials immediately cease their long-standing practices and review personnel rules. Each city is required to respond to the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations by May 30.

Alameda County: Oakland mayor may hit pay dirt with clean sweep

Chip Johnson, Chronicle Columnist - Tuesday, March 13, 2012
If Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was searching for an issue on which to establish her leadership position after a rocky first year, I think she has found it: cleaning house.

She has a bulldog city administrator in Deanna Santana who is taking on issues her predecessors - and city officials - have avoided like the plague for years.

Two top City Hall officials confirmed Monday that Quan's administration has turned over to the FBI the results of a police probe into the Oakland Building Services division.

The building division was the subject of a 2011 annual report of the Alameda County grand jury, a civil grand jury that discovered abuses throughout the process of citing building and home owners for blighted properties.

The report outlined a pattern of arbitrary and excessive fees, fines and abusive actions by the city against property owners that appalled the panel. In some cases, building inspectors who issued citations served as the hearing officers in resident appeals.

In one case, Oakland building inspectors tagged a home with a blight order, demolished a garage legally converted into a recreation area two decades earlier and handed the owners a bill for $18,000.

But last year wasn't the first time Oakland had been informed of such outrageous practices by city employees.

The report noted that 12 years earlier, another grand jury pointed out similar problems within the Building Services division. But nothing was done about that - and things got worse.

This is a city whose ability to provide oversight has been called into question in its Police Department, its financial dealings and its political ethics. So, making someone accountable for the abusive, unethical practices outlined by the grand jury would be a breath of fresh air to residents.

One case handed over to the FBI's public corruptions unit involves allegations of building inspectors taking bribes, said an Oakland Police Department official who requested anonymity.

"One or two cases were handed over to the FBI from that grand jury report," the source confirmed.

1st to take action

Another case involves the actions of a Buildings Services manager who received a 10-year interest-free loan from a debris removal contractor. The contractor received a "disproportionately large number of contracts" for debris removal and abatement work. The Building Services manager "at one time listed her address at a property owned by the contractor," the report said.

Every candidate and their brother has claimed the moral high ground and promised reforms during campaigns to lead this city, but Quan is the first one in a long time to take action.

This is tough sledding for any politician. In most political settings, the fallout of upsetting long-standing alliances and creating animosity between colleagues results in making legislative and policy agreements even more difficult.

Mayor stands to gain

But in Oakland, where the council is in an utter state of chaos, blather and confusion, there is low risk - and high rewards - for Quan.

Her reputation and standing as mayor can only benefit from making internal reform a high priority. If she can remove the debris that has hindered effective political leadership in Oakland for years, she needn't worry about her efforts as mayor being judged solely on the rise or fall of the city's crime rate.

If you took a survey asking Oakland residents to identify the city's No. 1 problem, the overwhelming response would be crime and its impact on the city's budget, night life and its public image.

But when you consider the internal scandals that have surfaced over the years, from cases of police abuse to unethical administrative actions, a case could be made that public corruption in government may be more harmful overall to the city than the violence.

Chip Johnson's column appears in The San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday and Friday.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

(Orange County) Supervisors Sitting on Request for Grand Jury Probe of CalOptima

More than a week after requesting the grand jury to investigate anonymous conflict of interest allegations against Ed Kacic, chairman of the CalOptima board of directors, Orange County supervisors still haven't sent their formal request.

“It has not gone out yet,” said county spokesman Howard Sutter. “They are working on it.”

During debate on the issue at their Feb. 28 meeting, a three-member board majority said it was important to have the grand jury investigate so they were certain Kacic had no conflicts.

Allegations in the anonymous letter were strongly denied by Kacic, by the board of directors of the nonprofit he heads, by Irvine Health Foundation and by others involved with the issue.

After the supervisors’ vote, Kacic said he welcomed the investigation and hoped it would be very thorough.

But when Voice of OC began asking this week about the status of the referral to the grand jury, the county CEO’s staff said it was being handled by the county's Health Care Agency.

Not us, said a spokeswoman for the Health Care Agency after seeking information from her organization for more than a day. “That directive was actually made to the CEO to draft the memo.”

Told that the referral still hadn’t gone to the grand jury, Kacic said in a telephone interview, “I would hope they would move with alacrity to get it to the grand jury.” The grand jury will “get all the facts and get to a conclusion as soon as possible,” he said.

In addition to the cloud that the anonymous letter and the board action put over his head, Kacic’s reappointment to the board is being held up pending results of the investigation, although he continues to serve in the interim.

The anonymous letter is part of an ongoing drama at the $1.4-billion health plan for the poor and elderly. Supervisor Janet Nguyen provoked the situation last year when she and a split Board of Supervisors decided to reconstitute the CalOptima board of directors, giving her and the medical industry more control over the agency.

If it determines it’s necessary, the grand jury could delve into a range of issues surrounding CalOptima. With the new national health care plan scheduled to begin in 2014, the medical industry faces major changes that will cost millions of dollars in federal and state tax funds.

Kings County: Openings available on Kings County Grand Jury - Applicants sought to join investigative body for coming fiscal year

by Sentinel Staff - March 10, 2012
HANFORD — The Kings County Grand Jury is once again looking for volunteers to help serve their community.

Every year, 19 people are selected to join the Civil Grand Jury and act as a watchdog group overseeing city and county government. Their work ensures that public agencies are operating in an “appropriate and efficient manner,” officials said.

The Grand Jury is given broad authority to investigate almost any organization in the county and make suggestions about how they could be run better.

Applicants are chosen from a broad cross-section of the community to serve from July 1, 2012 until June 30, 2013. Those interested in applying can pick up an application either online at or at the Superior Court Jury Services office in building B at the Kings County Government Center.

Volunteers who are selected will be compensated about $15 a day for their attendance and be reimbursed about $0.55 per mile they drive while doing committee work, a news release said.

Applicants will be screened by a grand jury advisor judge and then randomly drawn from pool of viable candidates.

Anyone who would like more information is encouraged to contact Deputy Court Administrator Rose Hamblin at 582-1010, ext. 5041.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

(Shasta County) Grand Jury: Red Light Cameras A Success

UPDATED: 11:45 am PST March 8, 2012

REDDING, Calif. -- The Shasta County Grand Jury is giving Redding's red light camera program a "thumbs up."
The 2011-2012 Grand Jury took a fresh look at the program because the City's contract with Redflex Traffic Systems is scheduled to be renewed.
According to the jury, it reviewed the existing agreement between the City and Reflex, the income and expense balance sheet for the program and the Redding Traffic Operations Manual. A number of Redding police officers were interviewed, video and photographic evidence of several red light violations were looked at, and Superior Court red light traffic violation cases were attended. The jury also timed yellow light intervals at several different intersections.
Citations and revenue and operating costs of the program were reviewed and the actual operation of red light cameras was demonstrated for the Grand Jury during the investigation.
The investigation revealed that monitored intersections have shown a decrease in accidents by 30 percent from 2007 to 2010.
The grand jury determined that the program continues to be a valuable law enforcement tool that increases traffic and pedestrian safety for local citizens and visitors to Redding.
The full report on the red light camera program can be viewed at the Grand Jury Link on the Shasta County website home page.

Extra time to apply for Santa Clara County civil grand jury

March 7, 2012 - by Mike Rosenberg -
Good news for civic-minded Santa Clara County residents who also happen to be procrastinators: The court on Wednesday extended the deadline to apply for the next civil grand jury.

Adults who have lived in the county for at least a year will have until March 21, or 12 extra days, to apply for a one-year term that will start in June. The volunteer commitment requires at least 20 to 25 hours per week, with the current grand jury consisting of 19 members.

The grand jury issues reports and recommendations after investigating various hot-button issues in government agencies, ranging from the county and cities to schools and special districts.

The six-page application is available at the superior court website,

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Humboldt County: Grand jury seeking citizens; applications due May 11

Times-Standard, March 6, 2012
The Humboldt County Superior Court is accepting applications from individuals interested in serving on the Humboldt County civil grand jury for fiscal year 2012-13.

The civil grand jury consists of 19 citizens who investigate citizen complaints relating to local government agencies and nonprofit organizations that receive public funding. According to a Humboldt County Superior Court press release, it is an arm of the Superior Court but an entirely independent body.

Grand jurors must meet the following qualifications: U.S. citizenship, 18 years of age or older, a Humboldt County resident for at least one year, not currently holding an elected public office position, and not currently serving on a commission or committee appointed by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.

The time commitment is approximately 10 hours per week. Applications are due May 11.

Anyone interested in being a member of the civil grand jury can call court administration at 269-1200 to have an application mailed to them, or download it from

To learn more about the civil grand jury, visit and click on “jury” under the General Information tab on the home page.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Marin Voice: Apply now for position on grand jury

Guest op-ed column by James R. Ritchie - March 5, 2012 -

IF YOU have given up hope for our national and state governmental processes, perhaps it is time to reinvigorate yourself at a more local level. If you have switched off your television and modified your hand-held devices to accept only the "Colbert Report," maybe it's time to apply for a position on the Marin County Civil Grand Jury.

Some suggest that, "All politics is local."

Each spring, the Marin Superior Court accepts applications from qualified residents willing to serve on the civil grand jury.

Well, spring is almost here. Although it's not political, the grand jury is local and it may be just the vehicle for all of you with urges to offer constructive and

helpful solutions to the county's various departments and agencies.
Each of California's 58 counties empanels a civil grand jury to investigate county government, departments, and agencies. From time to time, a criminal grand jury may be empanelled to hear a presentation from the District Attorney and a specific request for a criminal indictment. This is an entirely separate process and should not be confused with the civil grand jury. Civil grand jurors serve for the course of the fiscal year and provide a thoughtful investigation, review and analysis of many of our governmental functions and, after digesting that information, may issue reports on that investigation.

Although this country has a rich tradition of grand juries,dating back to medieval England, the modern grand jury has evolved into an investigatory body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of laws. It is the only independent "watchdog" investigative body in Marin County. Grand jurors may interview anybody with information thought relevant to their charge to improve the functioning of governmental entities in our county. This may include elected officials, professionals, public and private organizations, and anyone with knowledge regarding the conduct of public business. Often reports from these investigations may serve as the basis for meaningful changes in the functioning of governmental entities.

In Marin County, the Superior Court presiding judge swears in a 19-member civil grand jury, randomly selected from a pool of 30 potential jurors, narrowed from approximately 60 to 70 applications reviewed by the judges and representatives of prior grand jurors.

The remaining unselected applicants become alternates, often replacing grand jurors who are unable to continue to serve out their term.

If you are so inclined, please ask yourself the following questions. Are you a good listener? Can you cooperate with 18 others in pursuit of a common goal? Can you ask thoughtful questions, review documents, and help write understandable reports? Are you interested in trying to increase the efficiency of local government and improve services to the public?

Can you commit 20 hours per week toward performing this valuable community service?

Current grand jurors may be a good source of information regarding the nature of grand jury service.

Please understand that grand jurors take an oath of permanent secrecy regarding their investigations to protect those whom they interview from retaliation, similar perhaps to, "Men in Black."

If you have answered "yes" to the questions above, we are now accepting applications for the 2012-13 Marin County Civil Grand Jury. Please contact Patti Baseheart, aide to the grand jury, at 473-6132 or online at

Judge James R. Ritchie has served on the Marin Superior Court since 2000. He is the presiding judge for 2012.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury report shows Atascadero & Paso Robles employees racking up vacation, sick time

Posted: Mar 2, 2012 5:42 PM by Nancy Chen
Updated: Mar 2, 2012 7:17 PM

A San Luis Obispo County grand jury report released Thursday has found Atascadero and Paso Robles in violation of employee vacation policies.

The grand jury is in charge of investigating how the county's local governments are run. In this report, titled "Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later: City Employee Vacation and Sick Leave Accumulation Pay," jurors examined all seven cities in the county, looking at each employee's records. That was to decide if excessive, unused vacation time could become a liability if everyone quit and cashed out at once.

The report covered Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Atascadero but had the most concerns about Paso Robles and Atascadero.

It says Paso Robles now has nearly $1.6 million worth of accrued vacation because of employees not taking time off like they're supposed to. The report says about 40 percent of employees exceed the maximum vacation allowed to be saved up..

However, the city manager of Paso Robles, Jim App, wrote in an email to KSBY News that the grand jury misunderstands accumulated vacation. He says it is not a liability because accumulated vacation is paid out when an employee leaves the city. He added vacant positions stay open for at least three months, saving the city in the end.

Atascadero also caught the jury's attention because the city has nearly $900,000 in unfunded liability. The report wrote, "The city of Atascadero has admittedly and blatantly violated its own policies on vacation time for more than 20 years."

Atascadero Mayor Bob Kelley says he became aware of the unfunded liabilities last fall and is working together with city staff to see what changes, if any, they'll make.

"That's the way the business is running," he said. "It's like any business, you look at it, and hey, I found something here that hasn't been going smoothly. We'll fix it. I don't turn the pages backward. I try to turn the pages forward."

The report also found the Cities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo to have managed their vacation time well.

All cities have until May 30th to respond to the findings.

Click to read the report

(Butte County) State Grand Jurors' Association forms chapter in Butte County - March 3, 2012 - Staff Reports

CHICO — The California Grand Jurors' Association, an organization of current and former grand jurors from throughout the state, now has a Butte County chapter.

The association is dedicated to promoting the unique practices of grand juries in California and to educating the public and prospective grand jurors about the beneficial oversight function of this system.

The goal of the Butte County Chapter is to assist the courts and grand jury of Butte County and to help educate the public of the function of the grand jury system.

The Butte County Chapter of the association is open to all former and current grand jurors who live in Butte County.

For details or to attend a meeting, email

Friday, March 2, 2012

Orange County: Supervisors Send CalOptima Charges to Grand Jury

Tracy Wood - VOICE OF OC - March 1, 2012
The Orange County Board of Supervisors added to the CalOptima drama this week, directing lawyers to ask the county grand jury and state’s political watchdog commission to investigate anonymous conflict-of-interest charges leveled against CalOptima Chairman Ed Kacic.

Kacic said he welcomed “a complete and thorough investigation” and hoped the grand jury or another agency would also delve into who was behind writing and distributing the anonymous letter and why.

The letter, which circulated earlier this month, accused Kacic of trying to steer a potential federal grant to his foundation. The letter was strongly refuted by Kacic, his board of directors and the executive director of a group of county health organizations that actually would receive the grant.

The letter also made unsubstantiated claims that CalOptima board member Mary Anne Foo accepts money from CalOptima, which Foo and CalOptima Chief Executive Officer Richard Chambers deny.

CalOptima provides Medicare and Medi-Cal programs for about 400,000 poor children, their parents, pregnant women, senior citizens and the disabled. Low-income men generally don't qualify for the program's services. The county doesn’t contribute funds to the program.

The vote to make the referrals to the grand jury and Fair Political Practices Commission broke along the same lines as several other recent votes regarding CalOptima — Supervisors Janet Nguyen, Bill Campbell and Pat Bates in favor and Supervisors Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach against.

Nelson warned the majority that they were setting a precedent where, from now on, anyone who wanted to damage someone could “just lob in an anonymous letter.”

The board majority said they just wanted assurances from the grand jury and the FPPC that there were no conflicts.

But following the meeting, Nelson said the supervisors were sending a message that " 'I don’t want to besmirch anybody’s reputation. By the way, would you please send this guy’s name to the grand jury for investigation?' It’s just a different way of besmirching someone’s name.”

Nelson went on to say that if the grand jury did agree to look into the supervisor’s request, they could dig deeper and investigate who sent the anonymous letter and whether the sender benefited financially or politically from the results.

“That person could very well find out they’re the butt of their own joke, I suppose,” said Nelson. “Boomerangs do tend to return to the person who threw them.”

Campbell, who along with Bates voted to support a grand jury investigation, said “it’s pretty clear to me” Kacic didn’t do what was alleged in the anonymous letter.

Even so, he said he supported the grand jury and FPPC inquiries “so that neither he nor we end up being embarrassed here.”

Bates said the inquiries were “I think, the best thing that can happen" for Kacic to have his name cleared. She said people are “saying this is bunk. Let’s get an official bunking letter.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the current grand jury, whose term ends in June, would agree to the board’s request or have time to handle the issue.

The board also unanimously approved a proposal by Nguyen to remove Adriana A. Moreno, program director of the Children’s Health Initiative of Orange County, from the CalOptima board. Meanwhile, three other CalOptima board members, including Foo, were approved to complete the rest of their terms.

But changes made by Nguyen could mean some board members wouldn’t be eligible for a second four-year term once their current terms are up.

Moreno's removal and the continuing efforts aimed at Kacic were seen by insiders as the latest step in a campaign by Nguyen, with help from Campbell and Bates, to realign the CalOptima board and give more control to Nguyen and the medical industry.

The high demand for experienced executives in the health care industry and Nguyen’s criticisms have combined to cause six top CalOptima executives, including Chambers, the CEO, to resign in recent months.

A $250-per-person fundraiser for Nguyen, hosted by local hospitals, was scheduled for Tuesday night.

Nguyen said Moreno should be removed as a CalOptima board member because CalOptima gives her charity free office space and technical advice worth about $80,000 a year. CalOptima also paid to move the charity into the new CalOptima building in Orange, said Nguyen.

The anonymous letter alleged that the Irvine Health Foundation, which Kacic heads, stood to financially benefit from a federal grant it was seeking on behalf of Managed System of Care, a group of health organizations that includes CalOptima, the county Health Care Agency, hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers.

But Kacic, his board of directors and the director of Managed System of Care said the Irvine Health Foundation simply acted on behalf of Managed System because it hasn’t yet formed its own nonprofit. Before the grant application was submitted, Kacic told everyone involved that his foundation wouldn’t accept any money, he and others said.

“We are incensed that the authors of this vicious smear did not have the decency to check their facts with IHF [Irvine Health Foundation] before acting,” stated a Feb. 27 letter from the foundation’s directors to the Board of Supervisors.

“We are angry and surprised that they have maliciously impugned our President and our organization when we were simply facilitating an opportunity for Orange County to receive funding for much-needed programs to benefit our community’s poor and sick.”

The Irvine Health Foundation board also criticized the Hospital Association of Southern California for using the anonymous letter in a trade association blog post and newsletter.

“We are also surprised and disappointed that senior executives of the Hospital Association of Southern California have continued to spread this damaging misinformation despite having received the facts disproving the allegation,” stated the Irvine Health Foundation letter to the Board of Supervisors.

The Irvine Health Foundation was formed in the 1980s and is one of the few Orange County foundations that provide grants to health-related organizations. According to the letter, it has awarded about $25 million in grants to county groups.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

(Kern County) Grand Jury addresses County Supervisors’ salaries, travel expenses

By Stephanie Forshee
Daily Independent
Posted Mar 01, 2012 @ 10:30 AM

Ridgecrest, Calif. —

With a population less than in Sacramento, Contra Costa and Fresno counties, Kern County’s Board of Supervisors receive higher annual salaries - a point highlighted in a Grand Jury report released Wednesday. The report also addresses travel expenses for Kern County and its transportation and discretionary funds carryover.
According to the report, the administration and audit committee received two written complaints and numerous verbal inquiries and comments regarding activities and expenses incurred by the five supervisors. The recommendations of the Grand Jury essentially suggest more transparency for travel expenses
Kern’s supervisors oversee just less than 840,000 constituents and receive about $112,400 annually for salaries and benefits, whereas Sacramento County with its 1.4 million residents receives $103,260 per year. No recommendations were made to indicate a needed modification of salaries or transportation from the Grand Jury.
The report states that First District Supervisor Jon McQuiston consistently incurs the most travel reimbursements. Among the findings also are that he serves on the most committees, multiple outside of the County.
McQuiston confirmed that he does serve on several committees that meet in various cities inside and outside the county, as well as in other states at times.
“It’s all at the discretion of the Board,” he said.
He explained that he accrues the most travel time because he is the only supervisor who does not live in the Bakersfield area, with the exception of District Supervisor Zack Scrivner who recently moved to Tehachapi.
“When I work, my mileage starts at the Ridgecrest office. The general feedback I’ve had is they (Ridgecrest residents) are happy for me to reside in Ridgecrest. It is an expense, but I think to live in Ridgecrest and keep my promise to the community - nobody has ever complained to me from anywhere. I believe that at least the people in the Indian Wells Valley are appreciative I’ve stayed in Ridgecrest all these 15 years,” he said. “
The Grand Jury recommends that the Board write an annual summary stating the number of committees each supervisor serves on and the mileage and expenses incurred, and make the information public to increase public awareness and diminish criticism. Another recommendation for travel is that an out-of-county travel request and authorization form be submitted prior to the arrangement of the travel.
McQuiston deferred to the County Administrative Office on the feasibility of the Grand Jury’s recommendations, which must receive a response within 30 days.
Another concern listed is that the Discretionary Fund carryover for the 2010-2011 fiscal year was in excess of $1.8 million, whereas the other ten most populated areas throughout the state’s carryover vary from zero to $10 million. The Grand Jury requests that the Board of Supervisors clarify an amount to be allocated for each supervisor and appropriate 50 percent as a Contingency Fund.
Other recommendations on the fund are: “The remaining 50% can be allocated to Supervisors who submit a Board approved written request stipulating the purpose, cost, and estimated date of completion for a project (e.g., $X for new sewer system on 18th Street, Bakersfield, + estimated completion date). Institute an annual formal review of long term programs/projects identified by Supervisors. In cases where the carryover funds are not enough for the cost of a project, the annual input funds can be ear marked for the total cost of the identified project(s) and made public in an annual report—thus providing accountability and transparency for citizens. Although a $1.8 Million carryover is only a small percentage of the total County Budget, citizens consider this amount significant.”
“There’s a lot of little things you can fix for $5,000 to $10,000 that will never make it to the annual budget,” McQuiston said, citing the Teen Court in Ridgecrest to which he has allocated County discretionary funds.
District Supervisor Ray Watson echoed his support of keeping the discretionary funds intact and continuing to permit the carryover each year.
Watson said that if the carryover funds were not allowed, he would not be able to create a sewer trunk in South Taft that he has in the works which costs approximately $240,000, he said.
“The discretionary fund is helpful to me and my district,” he said. “They are small amount projects we can move forward on without having to get lumped in with dozens of major projects that have to be prioritized. A lot of these things fall to the bottom of the list. The sewer trunk, I’m hoping to have it built this year. It would have been very difficult otherwise.”
Both Watson and McQuiston agreed upon the accuracy presented within the Grand Jury statement and acknowledged the validity of the constituents’ concern.
“The information is as they represented,” McQuiston said. “People can draw whatever conclusions that they want to.”
Calls to the Grand Jury Foreman Dwight Reynolds and Supervisors Scrivner, Karen Goh, and Mike Maggard were unreturned for this article.

The final report can be found at