Thursday, January 31, 2013

San Joaquin County Superior Court seeks civil grand jury applicants

By Ross Farrow/News-Sentinel Staff Writer -

San Joaquin County Superior Court is seeking applicants to serve on the 2013-14 civil grand jury. The grand jury is comprised of 19 residents whose names are randomly selected from applicants nominated by Superior Court judges. They serve for one year, beginning July 1.

The civil grand jury inquiries into and investigates matters of civil concern, including the functions and operations of governmental agencies within San Joaquin County. Past reports have focused on community college and school districts, jail operations, redevelopment agencies and housing authorities.

A grand juror must be at least 18 years old, a United States citizen who has resided in San Joaquin County for at least one year, possess sufficient knowledge of the English language, and not currently be serving as a trial juror or elected public official.

The court will conduct information sessions at Humphrey's College, 6650 Inglewood Ave., Room 413 lecture hall, Stockton. Sessions will be held at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 12 and 6 p.m. Feb. 26.

The deadline to apply for the grand jury is March 8. Applications are available by calling 209-468-2827 or at the Superior Court clerk's office in Lodi, Stockton or Manteca between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays. The Lodi courthouse at 217 W. Elm St. will close to the public on March 4. Applications can also be found at

(Orange Co) Supervisor responds to grand jury's health-plan report


County Supervisor Janet Nguyen hit back Wednesday at a grand jury report that criticized her role in triggering what it described as an implosion of CalOptima, the county's public health plan for the poor and disabled.

Nguyen pointed out what she said were errors in the report, while portraying herself as having rescued and reformed an organization that she described as having been badly mismanaged before she joined its board of directors nearly two years ago.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen speaks to the media in Santa Ana Wednesday. Supervisor Nguyen called the press conference to "set the record straight about CalOptima and the grand jury report."

The grand jury "failed in its mission and completely missed the mark," Nguyen said at a news conference in the county's Hall of Administration. "Everyone rushed to judgment ... no one has done their homework."

Click here to watch a video of Nguyen's comments.

CalOptima, Orange County's administrator of the federal Medicaid (known as MediCal in California) program, provides health insurance for 427,000 county residents, including about one in three children.

The grand jury report, released Friday, depicted CalOptima as a troubled organization that has lost 16 top executives since Nguyen joined its board in March 2011. Every member of CalOptima's board has been replaced with candidates backed by Nguyen since she became the sole representative of the county's Board of Supervisors to sit on it.

The county's five-member Board of Supervisors appoints the 11-member CalOptima board.

Nguyen said the grand jury erred when it wrote that lobbyists with the Hospital Association of Southern California helped to rewrite the county's ordinance governing CalOptima to give more control to health-care providers and less to CalOptima's members. The grand jury cited the existence of "an email trail" documenting the hospital association's March 2011 involvement.

Actually, Nguyen said, the email trail shows the hospital association's involvement in a different revision of the ordinance that the Board of Supervisors approved in April 2011, which wasn't the one that changed the composition of CalOptima's board. "The grand jury mixed up two different actions," she said.

Pointing out that agenda reports about the two revisions – the one in April and the one in December 2011 that changed CalOptima's board – are available on the Board of Supervisors' web site, she said "it's clear that the grand jury did not even bother to conduct a full investigation or take the time to understand the ordinance that governs CalOptima."

The grand jury pointed to a $250-a-plate campaign fundraiser for Nguyen that the hospital association helped organize at the home of a hospital CEO. The fundraiser was held in February 2012, two months after the CalOptima ordinance was revised to restructure its board of directors.

Nguyen denied any connection between the ordinance change and the fundraiser. She also denied that the change gave more control to health care providers, pointing out that the same number of seats — three – were reserved for providers before the change and after it.
However, the change gave hospitals a permanent seat on the board, something they did not have before.

She described CalOptima's board before she joined it as "a rubber-stamping board" and said the organization was wasting millions of dollars and "created a culture of backroom dealing."

CalOptima is still paying $1 million a year to lease vacant space in its former office building even after purchasing another building two years ago for $30.2 million, which it now occupies. At Wednesday's news conference and in an op-ed in Tuesday's Orange County Register, Nguyen cited this as an example of waste.

However, CalOptima valued the building on its balance sheet at $39 million in November, suggesting it had appreciated by about 29 percent since the organization purchased it for cash in January 2011.

County Supervisor John Moorlach, who served on CalOptima's board for four years before Nguyen took his seat, defended the building purchase, saying the cash transaction reduced the organization's overall occupancy costs even though it had to keep its lease at the former building.

"I would challenge her to find any commercial real estate professional who will tell me to my face that it was not a very propitious acquisition at a very good time in the market cycle," Moorlach said in an interview.

Shawn Nelson, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said the grand jury report would have been more useful if the jurors had interviewed Nguyen. Nguyen has said the jurors scheduled an interview with her in August but canceled it.

"We started with 'he said, she said,' " Nelson said, and even after the report "we're still at 'he said, she said.' "

The Board of Supervisors will likely take up the issues raised by the grand jury at one of its meetings in February, Nelson said.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

San Bernardino County Grand Jury Association joins state organization

By Joe Nelson, THE SUN -

The San Bernardino County Grand Juror's Association was presented its new charter during its quarterly meeting on Monday, and is now a member of the state Grand Juror's Association.

The California Grand Juror's Association, composed of 25 chapters statewide that now includes San Bernardino County, works to improve the training and resources available to the state's 58 civil grand juries and to educate the public about the role grand juries serve.

"In year's past a lot of legislatures had wanted to diminish the power of the grand jury, but California is one of the few states that still has the civil grand jury" said Burrel Woodring, president of the San Bernardino County Grand Jury Association, during Monday's meeting at the Shandin Hills Golf Club. "Our job is to preserve that, and we can preserve that by joining with other grand jury association in the state organization."

Larry Walker, director of the California Grand Juror's Association's Southern California chapter and who is of no relation to San Bernardino County Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector Larry Walker, said the county Grand Juror's Association will be better served now.

"Having members at the county level helps the state conduct their mission," Walker said. "They have direct access to the committees and anything else going on with the state, and they'll get a better response."

Guest speaker Ron Cochran, a deputy chief for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, informed Association members on what his department has been doing to address jail overcrowding and the influx of prisoners being released due to AB109 - the state prison realignment plan which took effect in October 2011.

Cochran said the county jails, which are under the Sheriff's Department's oversight, have been releasing an average of 150 inmates a month under AB109, which shifted oversight of non-violent parolees from the state to county probations departments.

Since AB109 took effect in October 2011 4,000 inmates have been released from county jails, Cochran said.

"It's problematic for us," Cochran said.

He said legislation is being introduced that proposes to expand training and education programs for parolees in an effort to reduce recidivism rates and encourage them to become productive members of society.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Orange County Grand Jury Finds Serious Issues With CalOptima

California Healthline -

The Orange County Grand Jury has released a report raising serious concerns about CalOptima -- Orange County's Medi-Cal managed care plan, the Orange County Register reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.

The $1.5 billion CalOptima currently serves 427,000 residents who are young, disabled, elderly or low-income (Galvin, Orange County Register, 1/25).

The number of beneficiaries is expected to increase to 540,000 -- or 27% of Orange County's population -- when the Affordable Care Act takes full effect next year (Wood/Santana, Voice of OC, 1/24).

In 2011, county Supervisor Janet Nguyen -- who joined the CalOptima board two years ago -- allowed lobbyists from the Hospital Association of Southern California to rewrite the ordinance governing CalOptima, giving more control to health care providers and less control to beneficiaries, the Register reports.

The ordinance change also increased the number of county employees who sit on CalOptima's board from one to two.

Report Findings

The grand jury found that CalOptima "appears to be imploding," as the leadership "has been decimated by the departure of 16 senior executives" in the past 18 months.

The report noted that CalOptima "is jeopardizing its membership's access to quality health care and potentially putting the entire entity at risk."

Although the report did not name names, it criticized the move to let CalOptima’s ordinance be revised (Orange County Register, 1/25).

The grand jury also found that a confidential report to the CalOptima board was distorted to make it seem like there were more serious problems with the plan's management than actually existed (Voice of OC, 1/24).


The report recommended that:

County employees be removed from the CalOptima board, since county employees would be "reluctant to vote against a supervisor;" and
CalOptima's board include more than one county supervisor (Orange County Register, 1/25).

The grand jury gave CalOptima 90 days to formally respond to the report (Voice of OC, 1/24).

Response From CalOptima

Michael Schrader -- CalOptima's new CEO -- in a statement said, "I appreciate the interest of the grand jury in the agency, and welcome public scrutiny and review of our operations."

Nguyen disputed the report's findings, saying she was not interviewed as part of the grand jury's investigation and that the report "does not present a complete picture of the facts" (Orange County Register, 1/25).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Marin Voice: The best job in Marin -- serving on the civil grand jury

By Rich Treadgold, Guest op-ed column -

HOW WOULD YOU, as just a citizen of Marin, like to have a direct and immediate impact on the decisions made by the Board of Supervisors? This is the power of the civil grand jury.

Four months ago, the grand jury began an inquiry into the Community Services Fund program, a process that allots $65,000 annually to each Marin County supervisor. For the past 15 years the supervisors have distributed this money at their own discretion to any cause deemed worthy. Because such an arbitrary arrangement creates the impression of patronage and could easily be misused for political gain, and because it had been more than a decade since a civil grand jury had evaluated this unique practice of supervisorial grants, we citizen-jurors decided to conduct an inquiry into the fairness and effectiveness of the Community Services Fund.

Our four-month investigation included interviews with each supervisor, multiple meetings with members of the county administrator's office, consultations with the county treasurer and many discussions with numerous organizations and individuals who received grants. These conversations explored all facets of the Community Services Fund, including established and potential conflicts of interest. A comprehensive 50-page report, "Community Services Funds — A Revisit After 12 Years," was carefully compiled and distributed to local media outlets on Jan. 7, 2013. We found numerous systemic problems with the fund and recommended it be substantially redesigned or entirely eliminated.

A few days prior to our report being released to the public, the president of the Board of Supervisors set aside the public agenda of the weekly meeting and quickly proposed several changes to the Community Services Fund program. Then, without entertaining questions or discussion, the agenda was resumed.

Curiously, these newly proposed changes exactly matched six of the 12 recommendations in our forthcoming report.

On Jan. 8, the Marin Independent Journal published a front-page article summarizing our report, including our final recommendation that the Community Services Fund be eliminated if it was not changed to become much more transparent and inclusive. That morning, the president of the Board of Supervisors told the IJ that the board was evaluating our 12 recommendations. By the end of business that day the board president issued a public statement calling for an end to the program.

Two weeks later, one of the remaining three supervisors stated publicly that she, too, is in favor of overhauling the Community Services Fund program.

Obviously, this situation needs to be closely monitored to ensure that these public statements result in official actions by the entire board, but it is gratifying to the civil grand jury members to know we do give voice to public concerns to effect positive change in Marin.

When the civil grand jury asks tough questions, elected officials and government employees must pay attention.

You can play a role in this fundamental democratic tradition. Simply go to the Marin County Civil Grand Jury website, and download an application.

The interview process occurs around May and the new civil grand jury is impaneled on July 1. If you can devote about 20 to 30 hours a week and have a strong desire to make a positive difference at all levels of local government, Marin needs you. (The Community Services Fund report is available on grand jury website.) To learn all you need to know about the civil grand jury process, go to

Rich Treadgold of San Rafael is foreperson of the Marin County Civil Grand Jury.

Friday, January 25, 2013

(Orange Co) O.C. health plan for poor 'appears to be imploding,' grand jury says

CalOptima sees executives depart amid political turmoil.


CalOptima, the health plan for the poor that serves one of three children in Orange County, "appears to be imploding," the grand jury wrote in a report released Friday that puts the blame on a majority of the Board of Supervisors.

CalOptima's leadership "has been decimated by the departure of 16 senior executives" over the past 18 months, the report says. The $1.5 billion entity that serves 427,000 young, disabled, low-income and senior county residents is threatened by political turmoil, "jeopardizing its membership's access to quality healthcare and potentially putting the entire entity at risk," the grand jury said in the report.

The turmoil at CalOptima comes as the organization's membership is expected to grow by as much as 27 percent when President Obama's Affordable Care Act takes effect next year.

While not naming names, the report criticizes county Supervisor Janet Nguyen for her role in remaking CalOptima after she joined its board two years ago. Without naming the lobbying group, it says that lobbyists from Hospital Association of Southern California were allowed to rewrite the county's ordinance that governs CalOptima to give more control to health-care providers "and less to members and organizations representing members."

In a news release announcing the report, Raymond Garcia, the grand jury foreman, wrote that CalOptima's status as "a national model for county healthcare" has been undermined by "a series of unfounded internal allegations against senior management and a controversial ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors last year dramatically changing CalOptima's board structure."

As part of the ordinance change, the number of county employees who sit alongside Nguyen on CalOptima's 11-member board was increased from one to two. The grand jury report recommends that county employees be removed from the CalOptima board as "county employees are reluctant to vote against a supervisor."

It also recommends that the CalOptima board should include more than one county supervisor."

Nguyen wrote to Garcia this week asking that the report's release be delayed "until you have had the opportunity to interview me." Nguyen wrote that she had briefly reviewed the report and "it does not present a complete picture of the facts and the current state of CalOptima."

"Excluding me from the investigation is indicative of a flawed process considering that I was intimately involved in CalOptima and its ordinance change," Nguyen wrote.
Nguyen said the grand jury had scheduled an interview with her in August but canceled it.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer said Friday that he believes all five supervisors should sit on CalOptima’s board

“I do anticipate a significant change in governance structure” for CalOptima, Spitzer said, adding that his vote “changes the dynamic” on the Board of Supervisors with respect to CalOptima issues by breaking up the majority that had supported Nguyen’s changes.

In a statement, CalOptima's newly hired chief executive, Michael Schrader, said: "As the new CEO for CalOptima, I appreciate the interest of the grand jury in the agency, and welcome public scrutiny and review of our operations. We look forward to the opportunity to respond to the report. The required formal response to the specific grand jury findings and recommendations applicable to CalOptima will be presented at an upcoming board meeting."

Julie Puentes of the Hospital Association of Southern California said her organization has a policy of not commenting on “investigative reports and studies performed by government watchdog agencies.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

(Ventura Co) Apply now to serve on county’s civil grand jury - Open house will take place Feb. 6

- Thousand Oaks Acorn -

The Ventura County civil grand jury is accepting applications for new jurors for 2013-14.

Applications will be available at the grand jury open house from 3 to 6 p.m. Wed., Feb. 6 at 646 County Square Drive, Ventura. Attendees can learn grand jury service and view the chambers. Refreshments will be served.

The grand jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law.

Its goal is to ensure government agencies within the county are doing their best to serve the public in a cost-effective manner.

For more information, call (805) 477-1600 or go to

Grand jury applications can be filled out online and will be accepted until April 15.

Monday, January 21, 2013

New Deadline for Orange County Grand Jury Applications

by Tracy Wood, Voice of OC -

Orange County’s Superior Court, facing an unusual shortage of applicants to serve on the 2013-2014 grand jury, has extended the application deadline to Friday.

“We are far behind the number of applicants we normally receive by this time of the year,” said Glenda Sanders, assistant presiding judge of the Superior Court and chairwoman of the Grand Jury Recruitment-Selection Committee.

The deadline for applications was supposed to be Jan. 18. The 19 grand jurors ultimately chosen will serve from July 1 through June 30, 2014. They will be paid $50 per day to a maximum $250 a week, plus mileage.

Grand juries are the civil oversight of local government bodies, and their work includes evaluating the operations of government departments, schools, jails and special districts. In criminal cases, they can consider evidence for possible indictments, and they also review complaints about government operations filed by citizens.

To obtain an application or more information, visit the grand jury web site or call the grand jury office at 714-834-6747. Applications may also be obtained at the jury commissioner’s office, 700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Letter: Sutter grand jury report not why workers lost their jobs

January 18, 2013 11:21:00 PM

Sutter County received your refusal to correct an article, written by Nancy Pasternack, implying a grand jury report led to adverse employment actions against two county employees.

The 2010 grand jury report about conditions at the Sutter County Animal Shelter placed community focus on plans, already under way, to build a new shelter.

Pasternack's reporting of the findings raised awareness about overcrowding and health conditions at the shelter. She reported on subsequent events: the creation of the Sutter Animal Services Authority, veterinary services and disease management at the shelter, efforts to increase the number of adoptions and the beginning of construction of a new facility.

Unfortunately, her end-of-year article on the shelter wrongly implied that the grand jury report resulted in negative job actions against two county employees. This is not true.

Had the Appeal-Democrat covered the 2012-13 budget hearings, it would have understood that my reluctant decision to recommend elimination of the assistant community services director position, and the Board of Supervisors' adoption of my recommendation, was based on direction to reduce General Fund budgets by 10 percent (this on top of a previous 20 percent reduction).

It had nothing to do with the grand jury report. Likewise, no managerial duties were taken away from the lead animal control officer. Animal control officers are not in management positions. Both individuals maligned by the newspaper advocated for a new shelter long before funding was approved. Instead of ridicule based on guesswork, they deserve praise and, from you, an apology.

Danelle Stylos

Sutter County Community Services director

Read more:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Santa Cruz Grand Jury Takes Aim At Watsonville Again

By Brooke Holmquist, Central Coast News -

The Santa Cruz County Grand Jury did a follow-up investigation into the city's transparency after Watsonville responded to the initial report from 2011-2012.

The Grand Jury requested an independent performance audit of the city. The 2012-2013 Santa Cruz County Grand Jury has released the results of the audit.

The audit found that Watsonville is in poor financial condition compared to cities of similar size and demographics, and that its financial decision-making process lacks consistent written policies and procedures. Furthermore, some changes to its budget were not made public or approved by the city council. Also the audit found the budget expenditures that are in place city departments are outdated and inefficient.

The audit also contains recommendations for improvement. The full report, prepared by Harvey M. Rose and Associates, can be read at

The Grand Jury has requested that this report be presented to the city council at a future meeting.

Harvey M. Rose and Associates is a firm that specializes in public sector management consulting.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Orange County Grand Jury 'Urgently' Seeking Applicants for New Panel

by TRACY WOOD, Voice of OC -

The Orange County Superior Court, facing a Jan. 18 deadline for applications, is “urgently” seeking men and women to serve on the 2013-2014 grand jury.

“To date, the Court has received far fewer applications than in the past four years and is well short of the 150-200 applications usually submitted for consideration,” according to an announcement this week from Glenda Sanders, assistant presiding judge and chairwoman of the grand jury recruitment and selection committee.

Nineteen grand jurors will be selected to serve one-year terms and write reports evaluating local government bodies, including county departments and agencies as well as cites, schools and special districts.

Grand jurors also consider evidence for possible indictment in felony cases. They’re paid $50 a day to a maximum of $250 a week and are reimbursed for mileage.

Each qualified applicant is interviewed by two Superior Court judges and is screened through a background check by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Names of the top 30 applicants go into a pool, and by law 19 grand jurors are selected by random drawing.

To qualify, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old and a resident of Orange County for at least a year. In addition, applicants must be able to speak and write English and possess “sound judgment, good character, and a sense of fairness.”

To obtain an application or more information, visit the grand jury website or call the grand jury office at 714-834-6747. Applications also may be picked up at the jury commissioner’s office, 700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

(Marin Co) Grand jury calls for big changes in way supervisors dispense money from discretionary fund

By Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal -

The Marin County Civil Grand Jury issued a report Monday calling for significant changes to the county supervisors' practice of dispensing money from a discretionary spending fund.

"If these improvements are not adopted for fiscal year 2013-14, the grand jury recommends the program's termination and the return of unspent funds to the general budget," the report states.

The 2000-01 Marin County Civil Grand Jury also issued a report that criticized use of the fund. Last month, Supervisor Steve Kinsey proposed his own plan for revamping the discretionary spending program.

Since the early 1990s, each of Marin County's five supervisors has received a yearly allocation from the county general fund that they are allowed to award as they see fit to various charities, civic groups and selected projects within their individual districts. Awards are generally approved without discussion as part of the supervisors' "consent" agenda. If a supervisor fails to give away their allocation during a given year, the amount carries over to future years.
During the current fiscal year, the supervisors will divvy up the $349,405 in the so-called Community Service Fund.

Many of the recommendations made by the grand jury are contained in Kinsey's reform proposal; however, Kinsey would leave supervisors in charge of making individual grants. Kinsey could not be reached Monday for comment.

Supervisor Judy Arnold, who the grand jury notes has pushed for greater transparency in the fund's operation, said, "The grand jury brings up some very good points, and we're gong to be looking into them." Arnold declined to say, however, if she thinks supervisors should remain in charge of who gets the money.

The grand jury said that during its investigation of the last three years of grants it "uncovered one clear example of conflict of interest: a supervisor made a grant to a multi-county organization of which the supervisor was a board member."

Rich Treadgold, the grand jury's foreperson, said the jury could not specify which supervisor it was because it is prevented by law from naming any individual in its reports. Treadgold did say, however, that the supervisor in question is no longer on the board.

In its findings, however, the grand jury also states that "A review of Community Service Fund disbursements over the past three years did not indicate any evidence of improprieties or any other irregularities."

The report further states that "The grand jury fully recognizes that the Community Service Fund money is distributed for projects that for the most part appear to provide value to the community and that each supervisor sincerely strives to grant money to worthy endeavors.

"However," it continues, "at issue is not whether Community Service Funds provide value to Marin but whether they provide that value in ways that appear to, or in fact do, serve the political interests of the incumbents." It adds that "inevitably alliances are created and favor is likely curried as a result of such disbursements."

Judi Shils, executive director of Teens Turning Green, a Sausalito-based nonprofit, said, "I guess my response would be, 'Cut me a break.' I think the fact that they give grants that support local organizations and agencies is incredible. They certainly don't buy us. It's really sad to me that people have to criticize everything."

During the 2009-10 fiscal year, then-Supervisor Charles McGlashan awarded Teens Turning Green $10,000 in Community Service Fund money, which the organization used to mount a successful campaign to ban plastic bags in unincorporated Marin County.

The grand jury's report contains a long list of recommendations. The grand jury says:

• The process for applying for Community Service Fund grants should be made public along with information on which organizations have received grants and which have been denied; grants should not be made to the same entities in consecutive years.

• Supervisors should not request a grant for any organization of which they or a family member are an officer, director or policymaker; minimum and maximum amounts of individual grants should be established.

• Community Service Fund money not spent during a given year should be returned to the county general fund.

• County money should not be allocated to the Community Service Fund if there was a deficit in the general fund the previous year or if other county departments are asked to cut their budgets for the next fiscal year.

• Grants should be restricted to non-for-profit entities and should not be used for any recipient's ongoing program.

• The county Auditor-Controller should conduct spot audits of at least five recipient entities each fiscal year.

• Control of the disbursements should be removed from the supervisors and assigned to newly established district committees or an appropriate county administrative office.

Unless these steps are taken, the grant jury "recommends that immediate steps be taken to terminate the Community Service Fund."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Riverside County Seeks Grand Jury Applicants

By City News Service -

Riverside County residents interested in serving on the grand jury are welcome to apply between now and March 15, Superior Court officials said Wednesday.

The 19-member civil grand jury is in session year-round, investigating citizen complaints about government agencies and conducting inquiries of its own.

Applications are for the grand jury sitting from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2014.

Applicants undergo a background screening and interviews with a selection committee, comprised of judges, one of whom must nominate juror candidates.

To be considered, an applicant must be:

- an American citizen
- 18 years old or older
- a county resident for at least a year
- have "sound judgment and fair character"
- speak English
- be available for weekly hearings and meetings
- not currently serving as a trial juror
- not an elected official
- have no felony convictions

Panelists are not salaried but do receive a small per diem payment to cover expenses and are compensated for mileage.

Applications can be filled out online at Users need to select the "Divisions" tab on the court homepage and navigate to the application. They may also request a paper application by mail. It must be returned to the court by the March deadline.

More information is available by contacting court officials at (951) 777- 3163.