Here we reproduce news and opinion articles in the print and electronic media since October 8, 2008, about each of our 58 county grand juries. Most are about grand jury reports. Our posting of these articles does not purport to reflect the opinions of CGJA or our members. We hope that this feature is a resource to grand juries, grand jury advisors, CGJA chapters, the media, and the public. Sponsored by the California Grand Jurors' Association, www.cgja.org/
When it comes to managing real
estate loans, the city of Woodland is doing a poor job, the Yolo County Grand
Jury found in a report released Wednesday.
The Grand Jury called for a
series of actions to more effectively manage its affordable housing loan
program, including developing and implementing policies, preparing annual
reports and generally "make it a priority to maintain trained administrative
services necessary to effectively manage its affordable housing loan
Jane Naekel, forewoman for the
2013-14 Grand Jury, reported the body undertook the investigation after
receiving a complaint the city was not properly executing its duties on a loan
it made in 1995 to Leisureville Community Association.
The city manages and
administers a portfolio of affordable housing loans in excess of $24 million,
according to the report.
However, it has "not
established a viable system for tracking or reporting on these loans."
"Between 1995 and 2013,
the city neglected to manage the LCA loan which requires the city to review and
approve annual budgets and semi-annual performance reports, to participate in
the selection of the management firm responsible for managing the complex, and
to receive residual receipts of operations to offset the interest of the
loan," the Grand Jury reported. "The city was made aware of the
deficiencies in managing the LCA loan in July 2013 and responded by initiating
actions to remedy the situation."
According to the report, the
city is in the process of determining the full extent of its responsibilities
and establishing protocol for managing its portfolio of affordable housing
"While the city is taking
positive steps to ensure the LCA loan is managed as specified in the loan
documentation, the Grand Jury recommends that the city create a database of its
real estate loans, develop policies and procedures for managing the loans and
report annually to the City Council on the status of its loan portfolio,"
the jury stated in its report. "These additional steps would help to
ensure that similar problems would not occur with other loans in its portfolio
now or in the future."
Leisureville is located at 1313
E. Gibson Road, and is a cooperative formed in 1995 with all residents buying
into the cooperative and that 51 percent or more of those residents meet
In 1995, with the assistance of
the city of Woodland and the Yolo County Housing Authority, Leisureville Community
Association purchased the Leisureville Mobile Home Park. The purchase was made
with a combination of commercial and federally supported loans. The total loan
from the city was $1.2 million. Payment on the principal of the loan is delayed
and interest continues to accrue, until 2025 when the original loan, plus
accrued interest, is due.
According to loan documents,
Woodland is required to receive and approve Leisureville's annual operating
budget prior to adoption by the Leisureville Board of Directors; review and
approve management contracts; receive and review semi-annual progress reports
from Leisureville; and accept annual payments for residual receipts to pay
toward accrued interest.
In turn, the LCA's primary
areas of responsibility to the Woodland include submitting budgets for review,
submitting semi-annual financial reports, obtaining approval for management
contracts, remitting residual receipts each year to offset accrued interest and
repaying the entire loan plus interest to the city by 2025.
"The city excuses its
negligence by saying that typically, real estate loans have a term much longer
than the typical city employee stays in a position," according to the
Grand Jury. "Nonetheless, the city has a responsibility for developing
systems and processes that extend beyond the employment of any given
The Grand Jury noted that the
same complaints it received were also reported to Woodland and beginning in
July 2013, the city submitted a claim for residual receipts for 2012-13 and began
insisting on annual budgets and mid-year reports from Leisureville.
The City has also taken steps
to stabilize the management of the Community Development Department such as
transferring the affordable housing duties, including management of the real estate
loan portfolio, to the Community Services Department which had been previously
known as Parks and Recreation.
"After reviewing the LCA
financials, the Community Development Department staff recognized that the LCA
may not be able to make a 'balloon' payment of approximately $3 million
(principal plus accrued interest) in 2025. The city manager and the mayor, in a
letter dated Sept. 5, 2013 to LCA's Board of Directors, informed LCA that the
city may reconsider refinancing the loan subject to approval by the Woodland
City Council in 2025."
"The Grand Jury has seen
no guidance in the rules or regulations, or in the contract, that suggests the
mayor or city staff have the authority to make these adjustments and
promises," according to the Grand Jury.
As a result of its inquiry, the
Grand Jury is recommending:
• That by Sept. 1, 2014, the
city create a database of its portfolio of affordable housing loans to ensure
that the provisions of the loans are met.
• That Woodland direct the
Community Services Department, the current agency administering the city's loan
portfolio, to develop a policy and procedure manual for real estate loans,
identifying who is required to manage loans and how, and on whose authority, a
loan can be modified. This policy and procedure manual should be completed by
Jan. 31, 2015.
• That Woodland develop an
annual report to the City Council regarding the real estate loan portfolio. It
should include an updated database, the value and status of each loan and
important outstanding issues. The first report should be presented by Sept. 1,
• That the city make it a
priority to maintain trained administrative services necessary to effectively
manage its affordable housing loan portfolio over time.
Lew Avera of San Clemente, left, and Bette Flick of Costa Mesa have served as the Orange County Grand Jury foreman in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Avera believes that the Orange County Board of Supervisors debate about cutting the juror stipend from $50 to $15 is "discouraging." He adds, "People don't depend on (the stipend). Most people who serve are retired. Fifty dollars appeals to people because it sends messages that it's a very important service to the county."
CINDY YAMANAKA, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE / STAFF WRITER
Published: May 20, 2014 Updated: May 21, 2014 6:28 a.m.
Grand jurors say a plan by the Orange County Board of Supervisors to slash their pay is retribution for past investigations, but the board says it’s Sacramento’s doing.
Supervisors on Tuesday considered an ordinance to cut grand jury pay by 70 percent, taking the daily rate from $50 to $15 – the minimum amount mandated by state penal code. The item, introduced by Supervisor Shawn Nelson, was discussed, then tabled. The review came just as new jurors were selected to start service.
The proposal follows heated discussions nearly a year ago when supervisors and grand jury members squared off when Supervisor Todd Spitzer introduced reducing juror pay as a way to save several hundred thousand dollars in the county’s $5.4 billion annual budget.
At that time, the board asked for a review of recruitment, compensation and retention, but it was never conducted. The board noted Tuesday that should be done before any action is taken.
“I think we blew this one when we applied last year,” Spitzer confessed. “We suffered criticism because it made us look like we were retaliating. The daily stipend could make the difference between someone applying and not applying, especially if they‘re retired. I’m very concerned if we can’t get citizens to apply.
They truly do a very important public service.”
The grand jury consists of 19 county residents, often retirees, who serve for 12 months starting in July. It is empowered to bring criminal indictments and conduct civil investigations of county and city governments. Many who serve say they do it as a way to give back and add that serving provides insight into law enforcement and county agencies. Jurors in Los Angeles County get $60 a day and jurors in San Diego County are paid $25.
On Tuesday, Nindy Mahal was selected to the grand jury for the third time, which included an era supervisors called “rogue” following a report titled, “CalOptima Burns While Majority of Supervisors Fiddle.” That 2013 study rankled supervisors and caused Supervisor John Moorlach to characterize the study as “sensational and tabloidish,”
“A Call for Ethical Standards: Corruption in Orange County,” released in April also drew supervisors’ outrage.
The CalOptima report cited the departures of 16 senior executives within 18 months after Supervisor Janet Nguyen joined its board. The jury recommended that more than one supervisor serve on CalOptima’s board, and that county staff members be removed from the board. The supervisors rejected both recommendations.
Nguyen said she had to hold a press conference to defend herself following the grand jury’s allegations. “I pleaded to them not to release the report. I wanted to come and speak to them,” she said. “You were supposed to be objective. I don’t respect the 2012-13 report.”
Still, Nguyen distanced the report and the proposal to cut juror’s pay. “This has nothing to do with going against the grand jury.”
But Mahal, who has a background in accounting and finance, recalled events differently. “We kept trying to arrange a time to meet her and we’d show up and she would have just canceled.”
Like Mahal, dozens of current and past grand jurors called the supervisors actions to cut their pay conspiratorial.
For Mahal being a juror has changed his life. “I was born in India and it’s such a corrupt country,” he said. “The grand jury is a very important institution. It keeps the Board of Supervisors, city and county officials and law enforcement in line. They are aware that someone is watching and they know they can’t escape in their misdeeds.”
Supervisors “can’t control the grand jury,” said John Moohr, president of the Grand Jury Association. “The only thing they can control are the fees.”
Nelson said if it were up to him, he’d give the grand jurors $100 a day. He plans to look for legislation to set an appropriate fee for reimbursement. He added the state took $78 million from the county last year, and that the discussion of lowering the grand jury’s pay coincided with that.
“It’s easy to assume there was a grand conspiracy,” Nelson said. “We’re responding to a state mandate that is improperly funded.”
Contact the writer: 949-492-5152 or firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/lagunaini
figure to be digging deeper and deeper into their checking accounts to pay for
local jails and detention facilities.
comes from a just-released report by the San Diego County Grand Jury.
With the state under
federal court orders to reduce prison populations, non-violent "low
level" felons have been sentenced to county jails since late 2011, under
the AB 109 “prison realignment” law.
Those lockups, say
grand jurors, are now getting so full that more space, beds and detention
facilities were never designed for long-term-stay people,” grand jury foreman
Gregory Ny said in an interview Tuesday. "We've got people that are going
to be incarcerated for as long as ten years. And with that comes increased
issues of housing, medical treatment."
It all adds up to
“significant” unknown future costs, Ny warned: “It's not like building a
warehouse or building a home or hotel."
Some $300 million is
being spent to rebuild Las Colinas Women's Detention Center in Santee, to
triple its current capacity to 1,250 inmates.
The first phase is
scheduled for completion this summer; the second and last phase, next year.
Meantime, space is
being added for 400 more beds at the men’s "re-entry" facility on
East Otay Mesa.
Given that the state
hasn't reimbursed the counties for the full cost of the transitioning more
offenders to local custody and probation, there are questions as to what extent
the governor and lawmakers will help subsidize the counties' jail construction
"We go up a lot
of times and talk to 'Sacramento',” says Jan Caldwell, spokeswoman for Sheriff
Bill Gore. “ They're well aware we have issues here -- as do other counties in
California. So if they're going to give us this 'population', we need the
financial tools to deal with it."
projects also carry added costs for hiring and training new deputies to manage
the rising head counts -- 250 more female deputies will be needed at Las
Colinas alone, at a time when recruiting efforts aimed at women are falling
short of goals.
sometimes to find women who want to work in law enforcement,” Caldwell told NBC
7. “They might have other careers, they have families, young children, other
things that come into play here."
One encouraging note
in the grand jury report: Inmate deaths in our local jails have trended down
over the past five years, from 12 in 2009 to 8 last year.
Of the five-year
total of 49, 16 were listed as suicides and three as homicides.
changes to security, financial reporting
The county airport at
Gnoss Field is well-managed, beloved by many, resented by some, could use some
improvements and is not going away, says the Marin County Civil Grand Jury.
"We see no reason to
close Gnoss. In fact, there is no option but to keep the airport," the
grand jury said in a report released late last week. "The Federal Aviation
Administration has spent millions of dollars supporting the airport, and the
county ... is obligated to keep it in place."
The report was mostly
positive. The grand jury did make minor recommendations mostly focused on
security improvements. The report also recommended that the county improve
accounting of its enterprise fund to make sure the airport's revenues and expenses
are reported within that fund and not the general fund.
An airplane climbs past
parked aircraft at Gnoss Field on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Novato, Calif.
Plans are to extend the runway 1,100 feet to the north. (IJ photo/Frankie
The 120-acre airport north
of Novato is home base for 300 aircraft, most of them privately owned, and it
hosts about 95,000 take-offs and landings per year. An ambitious $17 million
plan to improve the airport by extending the runway 1,100 feet is currently
under consideration, though the plans depend largely on federal funding.
The airport provides
"the advantage of convenience, the ability for some businesses to handle
travel needs, and a lot of fun for those who enjoy the world of flying" to
those who use it, the report said. In a previous grand jury report, the number
of people using the facility was defined as less than one-tenth of 1 percent of
The report suggested that
Marin residents "visit your airport," and praised the facility's
employees and manager for their knowledge and experience. The grand jury
described the airport's physical condition as "adequate."
The airport has four
security and safety issues, plus one financial problem, the report said. The
airport has only one full-time employee, the manager, who works five days a
week, and two part-time employees, the grand jury noted. It recommended
increased staffing to provide seven-day-a-week, 24-hour coverage.
Second, the grand jury
recommended improving the airport's fencing and its video surveillance system
to improve security. The report did note that the Transportation Safety
Administration has determined that the probability of a major incident at a
general aviation airport like Gnoss is relatively low.
Parts of the report were
tongue in cheek, particularly in regard to the fencing issue. "Although
the Grand Jury members decided not to try to scale the fences ourselves, we
believe that a person with reasonable agility and a desire to enter the airport
could do so at virtually any spot along the periphery," the report said.
The grand jury also
recommended keeping gates and door locked at all times, locking hangar doors in
unattended areas, posting emergency numbers and ensuring easy access to phones
in various locations.
Third, "We recognize
that there is potential to use the airport in times of disaster, but failed to
find any evidence that the airport is ... included in the county's emergency
plans," the report noted.
Hence, the grand jury
recommended that Department of Public Works staff complete an emergency
response plan using the template provided by the Department of Homeland
Fourth, the report noted
that the runway will likely need repairs before the proposed 2018 date of a
possible runway extension. It recommended that the county inspect the runway
and make needed changes including resurfacing as necessary.
Noise is a concern of
those living in neighborhoods near the airport, and 90 people signed a petition
asking for a review of the noise from planes taking off and landing, the report
"The airport website
shows altered landing and takeoff patterns to minimize over flights of the
neighborhoods," the report said, adding that "several interviewees
told the Grand Jury that the current airport manager speaks to each pilot
reported to have flown over homes and provides directions to avoid doing
With noise in mind, the
grand jury recommended that the county keep in touch regularly with residents
of the Rush Creek and Bahia neighborhoods in the vicinity "to address
noise complaints and efforts undertaken by the county to reduce
While the report had many
recommendations, none seemed to reflect serious problems. Much of the report
took an upbeat tone, with one section suggesting that residents "some Saturday
or Sunday, load up the family and drive out to Gnoss Field to watch a few
takeoffs and landings."
Dan Jensen, the airport's manager, said he had not yet had time to
digest the report and had no comment, though "we'll definitely provide the
grand jury with a response."