Thirteen members of last year's civil grand jury have formed what they're calling the Implementation Review Group, a panel of ex-jurors that wants to make sure public agencies and others are accountable for taking grand jury recommendations seriously.

Rich Treadgold of San Rafael, foreman of last year's jury, said the new group intends to "strengthen the system" by monitoring responses to grand jury recommendations, then advising the current grand jury on those failing to follow through. This will allow current jurors to focus their full attention on new investigations, he noted.

"We're not a shadow grand jury," he said. "We're just a group of citizens who happen to be ex-grand jurors and know the system."

The ex-jurors noted "there was a natural tendency" among some agencies that were the subject of jury inquiries "not to follow up" on recommendations even though a statement of compliance, explanation of non compliance or further analysis is required by law.

"We want to make sure all the responses to jury reports meet the statutory requirements," he said.
Paul Premo of Mill Valley, another member of the group, said that in addition to advising the current grand jury on the adequacy of responses, the review group may issue report cards.

"We're thinking of giving grades as to the sufficiency of the responses," Premo said.

Several members, for example, are working on a report detailing how agencies have responded to last year's jury call for reform of retiree health benefit programs.

Although members said there is nothing secret or clandestine about the review group, it's twice monthly meetings are not open to the public, although they may be at some point. "We're creating this entity as we go," Treadgold said. "We're just starting."

The panel has adopted a formal charter that, among other things, calls for publicizing "the positive impact" of grand jury reports on the community.

Ex-juror Peter Kiers of Greenbrae told the review group in a report last week that the impact of last year's jury proposal for reform of what critics call the supervisors' "slush fund" has been positive.

While more work is needed to get the controversial community grant program in shape, "I was favorably impressed with their collective efforts thus far to improve the program," he said. "I'm encouraged by the steps taken thus far."

At the same time, Kiers advised, the supervisors need to make sure that only "genuine one-time projects" with clear-cut objectives get grants, "fewer but more substantial awards" are offered, public agencies are regarded as ineligible and more transparency is employed.
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