Thursday, January 30, 2014

Madera County grand jury informational meeting planned

The Madera County chapter of the California Grand Juror’s Association is scheduled to present information about the Madera County grand jury and the California grand jury system to the public Feb. 19 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m at the Chowchilla Branch Library.

The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn about the responsibilities and procedures of the grand jury.

Association members are people who are serving or have served on the Madera County grand jury. Their mission is to educate the public and encourage participation on the grand jury.

There will be light refreshments.

The library is at 300 Kings Ave.

Friday, January 24, 2014

(Orange) County seeking grand jurors

January 23, 2014 | 1:06 p.m.
Because of a shortage of candidates, the application deadline to serve on the Orange County Grand Jury has been extended to Wednesday.

"We have received far fewer applications than in the past 10 years for the 19 grand jurors, who are required by law to serve in Orange County," Charles Margines, assistant presiding judge of the county's Superior Court, said in a news release. The one-year term begins July 1.

Applicants must be at least 18, a U.S. citizen, an Orange County resident for at least one year, able to communicate adequately in English and possess sound judgment and a sense of fairness, according to the release.

The grand jury performs civil oversight of local government by reviewing and evaluating county and city agencies, jails, schools and special districts within Orange County and writes a final report with its findings and recommendations.

The grand jury also considers evidence for possible indictment of individuals in felony cases and reviews complaints submitted by citizens.

Superior Court judges interview qualified applicants. Final selection from the top 25 to 30 applicants is accomplished by a random drawing of candidates who equally represent each of the five county supervisorial districts, as required by law.

Grand jurors receive a stipend for each day of service as well as reimbursement for mileage.

The application and more information are available online at http://www.ocgrandjury.org, by calling the grand jury hotline at (714) 834-6747, or at the jury commissioner's office at 700 Civic Center Drive West in Santa Ana.

—Bryce Alderton,0,1466993.story

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Benefits for San.Joaquin board intact

Not enough votes to alter policy of mosquito district

Zachary K. Johnson

STOCKTON - Health benefits for the San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District have been controversial, drawing criticism from a local taxpayers group and attention from a county civil grand jury since the board of trustees voted to give itself the same benefits available to district employees in 2009.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the board was poised to put the benefits to another vote, but after a long discussion, it failed to get enough votes to either affirm the controversial benefits or change them. By default, the benefits will remain unchanged at least until the board is set to take up the issue again, at its next scheduled meeting in March.

The district and trustees have justified the benefits as something to provide an incentive for people to serve on the governing board, saying trustees have responsibilities beyond the once-a-month meetings that pay a stipend of $100 each. They also noted the district's finances are solid, in spite of increased responsibilities as the district has worked to prevent the spread of the West Nile virus from mosquitoes to people, a new threat that emerged over the past decade.

Most trustees at Tuesday's meeting defended the benefits, though not all members spoke in favor of them.
"This board has done a tremendous job over the years. We don't get inundated by mosquitoes anymore," Trustee Jay Colombini said. "We're doing what we're supposed to be doing, are doing it fiscally responsibly, and we're building up our reserves."

But the trustees don't put in 40 hours a week of work for those benefits, which cost money to provide, Trustee Chester Miller said. "It's a very large amount of money for what I consider to be a very part-time job."

This district pays up to 100 percent for employee-only health coverage and up to 92 percent of family coverage. These are for the lowest-cost plans the district provides. Employees make up the difference if they enroll in a higher-premium plan. Dental and vision benefits are also free for employee-only coverage. The terms are the same for trustees, though not all trustees take the coverage.

The district has an annual budget of about $7 million. It costs roughly $600,000 to provide health care coverage, and only about 1 percent of that cost is to pay for coverage for trustees, district officials said.
"Percentage-wise of the overall budget, this is peanuts," Trustee Jack Snyder said. Trustees supporting the benefit also said it could be used to attract talented members to the board and noted that the district is not alone among irrigation, fire and other districts in the county and state that provide health care coverage to trustees.

What percentage of the budget it costs and what other districts do are not the issues, said David Renison, president of the San Joaquin Taxpayer's Association, which has been critical of the benefits. "They are using community service for personal gain, and it's an outrageous betrayal of public trust."

Renison was among the members of the public listening to Tuesday's meeting, as were two members of the county's civil grand jury. The jury issued a critical report on the district last year. One recommendation was that trustees revisit the insurance policy.

The 11-member board is appointed by city and county governments. On Tuesday, the eight trustees present voted 5-2 with one abstention to keep the benefits unchanged. Colombini and Snyder were joined by Trustees Gary Lambdin, Michael Manna and Gregory O'Leary in keeping the benefits unchanged. Miller and Trustee Omar Khweiss voted against it. Board President Marc Warmerdam abstained from the vote. Trustees Jack Fiori, Francis Groen and Joy Meeker were not present.

But there was confusion over whether that was enough to pass. It was a majority vote of those present, but not of the board as a whole.

The board moved on to other items before its legal counsel came back with the answer that a six-vote majority was needed.

The board voted to bring the issue back again at its next meeting, which is in March. Officials said most the board's actions pass with unanimous voice votes, and that close, roll-call votes are rare.

Contact reporter Zachary K. Johnson at (209) 546-8258 or Follow him at and on Twitter @zacharykjohnson.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

(Ventura County) Grand Jury seeks volunteers for 2014-15

Watchdog group seeks new volunteers

The Ventura County civil grand jury will have an open house from 3 to 6 p.m. Wed., Feb. 5 at 646 County Square Drive (third floor), Ventura.

Attendees can learn what grand jury service consists of, view the chambers, meet jurors and have refreshments.

Application for new jurors to serve from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015, will be available at the open house.

The civil grand jury is an all volunteer public watchdog group that investigates complaints from the public, researches and writes reports, and makes recommendations about all aspects of local and county government.

The civil grand jury does not pursue criminal cases or give evidence in court.

To qualify for service, applicants must be citizens 18 years of age or older, have lived in Ventura County for at least a year immediately before serving, have average intelligence and good character, and know sufficient English.

Applications will be accepted until April 15.

For more information or an application, visit www.grandjury. or call (805) 654-5025.

The Camarillo Acorn, 01/17/14.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mariposa County Grand Jury Releases 2013-2014 Investigative Report on Personnel Issues in Human Services

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 09:09
January 8, 2014

This years Grand Jury launched an investigation into the Human Services Department after hearing of Mariposa County Planning Director Jim Rydingsword's planned resignation, formal complaints and a letter of concern.

This investigation centered on personnel issues impacting delivery of services provided by the department.

All Human Services employees were invited to participate in an anonymous survey. With 108 employees there were 53 responses with 11 of those not indicating what division of Human Services they work in. 3 of the 53 responses came from senior management (75% return rate), 9 from supervisors (56% return rate) and 41 from line staff and lead workers (47% return rate).

The survey inquired into nine areas of the Human Services work environment: training, communication, appraisals, organization, management, recognition, career advancement, satisfaction and aspects of their division within Human Services. The employees could also provide a written response to each statement. Also included in the survey were three questions: (1) How would you rate your overall experience working for Human Services? (2) Would you refer others seeking employment to Human Services, and if not, why not? (3) If you had an opportunity to make any single change at Human Services what would they be?

Former employees, line staffers, supervisors, deputy directors and the current acting director John Lawless were also interviewed.

From the surveys and interviews the Grand Jury found that management and staff provided very different responses, with management liking their jobs and staying with the department while staff has high turnover and dissatisfaction. There are areas of poor relationships between management and staff and there is low moral and happiness at Human Services.

The Grand Jury recommends: (1) Human Services make it a priority to address and resolve the personnel issues. (2) that personnel conflicts have policies and procedures immediately written and implemented along with no employee retaliation. (3) the Board of Supervisors when hiring a new Director for the department make sure the person has the capacity and determination to lead the effort to build a new organization showing more respect for the employees.

The Mariposa County Supervisors have ninety days to to respond with a written response after they receive this report.

The Grand Jury also requests the Acting Human Services Director provide a written response to the reports findings and recommendations.

Find the report at:

Monday, January 6, 2014

(Riverside County) Grand Jury Report: Better Oversight Needed Of Indigent, Disabled County Residents

Posted by Toni McAllister (Editor) , January 03, 2014 at 05:19 PM
Riverside County workers who oversee the affairs of elderly and developmentally disabled residents are overloaded with cases and are operating under dated guidelines, according to a county grand jury report that the Board of Supervisors will review Tuesday.

The 19-member grand jury completed an inquiry that included interviews, an analysis of policies and procedures and inspections of numerous records in the Public Guardian's Office, a branch of the Department of Mental Health with a $1.5 million annual budget.

Public guardian "deputies" are often appointed to act as conservators for indigent residents without close family to support them. The grand jury report indicated that clients are mostly physically incapacitated seniors, but also include mentally ill or disabled adults and others with health vulnerabilities but no means to help themselves.

The office has 10 case workers, or deputies, three supervisors and a clerical staff of five, according to the grand jury report.

Jurors noted that deputies are routinely called to investigate reports of abuse and to find suitable living arrangements for clients who have no assets and are dependent on Medicare or Medi-Cal.

The grand jury report found public guardian deputies carry caseloads as high as 196 conservatees.

"Sworn testimony indicated that caseloads are unmanageable," the report states. "It was revealed that there were tasks that additional clerical personnel could do that would free up the deputies, (who) said that they must prioritize tasks, according to importance, and that consequently some tasks are left undone or are delayed."

Jurors found that deputies are operating under policies and procedures that haven't been updated in 25 years. The office's policy manual did not contain an index that would "facilitate" finding topics at a glance, and was missing some probate and penal code amendments that have become law since 1988.

Public guardian staff complained of having to use antiquated office equipment and told jurors that their last staff meeting was conducted in April.

The grand jury issued the following recommendations:
-- have a limitation on the number of caseloads to ensure a more efficient operation;
-- update the policy manual to "reflect current practices," with an index to enable quick referencing of information;
-- permit the hiring of more clerical workers;
-- secure additional funding to expand the number of deputies on staff
-- obtain "scanners, printers, headphones and ergonomic furniture" for the benefit of employees; and
-- hold monthly staff meetings.
The county Executive Office has 90 days to respond to the jury's findings and recommendations. --City News Service

Thursday, January 2, 2014

(Santa Barbara) Grand jury criticizes city of Lompoc inaction

December 30, 2013 11:29 am  • 

The city of Lompoc “has engaged in conduct detrimental to its citizens’ best interests” by not adopting an audit policy for nonprofit organizations receiving taxpayer funds, the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury said in a report released today.

“Lompoc citizens are poorly served by this dilatory governmental behavior. Until the city adopts an effective non-profit audit policy, taxpayers will continue to be placed at risk for further unnecessary financial harm,” the report says.

Despite agreeing to do so, the city of Lompoc has not implemented a requirement for organizations receiving city grants and loans to submit annual audits.

The grand jury notes that the city agreed to do so in its September 2012 response to a Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report entitled “A Failure of Oversight.”

The report, released in June 2012, examined the Lompoc Housing and Community Development Corporation, or LHCDC, and concluded the city and its Redevelopment Agency were lax in enforcing restrictive covenants and other agreements with LHCDC, an independent housing agency. Lompoc lost approximately $1.8 million when LHCDC properties became insolvent, according to the report.

The entire report can be found on the jury’s website at

The Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury is government watchdog organization made up of civilians.