Friday, May 31, 2019

[Santa Barbara County] Grand jury report offers insight into Cuyama school district embezzlement

A Santa Barbara County grand jury recently released its report on a school district in Cuyama, concluding that inadequacies in the district’s business office may have contributed to the “mysterious disappearance” of district funds in the spring of 2018. 
In the report released on May 20, the jury details issues it found in the Cuyama Joint Unified School District’s business office, including out-of-date job descriptions, disparate and unrelated duties assigned to the chief business officer, payroll errors, and recurring financial audit findings. The jury also found that the district’s board of trustees failed to regularly update board policies and procedures, and that a high turnover of superintendents negatively impacted the district’s critical functions. 
The jury listed eight key problems found in the school district’s business office and ways to mediate them, many of which Cuyama Superintendent Stephen Bluestein said he agrees with and plans to implement. 
“No, I don’t think it’s inaccurate,” Bluestein told the Sun, adding that many of the jury’s findings echo concerns that have long been shared by educators, parents, and community members in Cuyama.  
The grand jury report formalizes what many district officials were already working to do, Bluestein said.
Issues like the district’s lack of ongoing job and software training, he said, have already been addressed through similar means suggested in the jury’s report. Software training is ongoing, and the board of trustees is already working to update 10 to 12 of its policies at each meeting in an effort to bring the district’s business office into compliance. 
Although Bluestein said it’s not necessarily unusual for superintendents to leave every four to five years, as they have in Cuyama, he said he plans to solve that issue himself. 
“I want to be here for a long time,” he said. 
In the coming months, Bluestein said he aims to work closely with his business office staff and the community to continue addressing the issues and remedies outlined in the grand jury report. 
The investigation into Cuyama Joint Union School District was initiated in part because of the disappearance of district funds, which Bluestein said was discovered in spring 2018, before he came on as the district’s superintendent in July of that year. 
On June 14, 2018, Cuyama Joint Union School District officials contacted the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office regarding a former employee suspected of embezzling school district funds, according to Public Information Officer Kelly Hoover.  
Hoover said that because the investigation is still ongoing, she could not release the amount that was allegedly embezzled or any further details. 
May 30, 2019
Santa Maria Sun
By Kasey Bubnash

Nevada County Grand Jury tackles need for affordable housing in addressing homelessness

Homeless advocates in this county — and nationwide — agree the Housing First model is the best approach to ending homelessness — and is a model that must be followed to receive state and federal funding.
But, as the 2018-19 Nevada County Grand Jury noted in its newest report, “Investing in Housing for People Experiencing Homelessness in Nevada County,” the current availability of low-income housing is “virtually non-existent.” The state-mandated Housing Element Report cited the need for 300 such units, but only 56 have been built in the county between 2009 and 2015, the report stated.
The grand jury, a volunteer investigative body charged with inquiring into and reviewing the conduct of county government and special districts, acknowledged the county’s 10-year strategic plan to address homelessness, but added the strategies offered must be developed into a specific implementation plan.
Among its recommendations, the grand jury encouraged officials to form a collaborative entity, such as a Joint Power Authority, that would establish county-wide rules and programs to facilitate low-income housing. In the absence of such an entity, the county should take the lead in coordinating with the cities, the grand jury report stated.
There are many obstacles to building low-income housing, including zoning, building codes, development fees, permit fees, permit procedures, and site improvement requirements, the report stated.
The county and cities “should identify building requirements that can be modified and made more flexible in order to construct a variety of units including modular homes, prefabricated homes, tiny homes, multi-unit apartment complexes, and secondary dwelling units,” the report stated.
It added supervisors should explore reinstating a housing policy that provides residential developers with incentives to reserve a certain percentage of homes or units in a development at prices affordable to low-and moderate-income households. Other incentives could include adjustments to impact fees and the use of general funds to assist in building housing, the report stated.
Among other recommendations, the grand jury suggested the county assess the personnel requirements needed to prepare funding applications and oversee programs. The report acknowledged the work being done to build a navigation center and Housing First units in Grass Valley and recommended the county continue to partner with stakeholders to secure funding and begin construction.
The county should allocate ongoing funding to support the winter warming shelter and include more flexibility in the operating agreement. And the county “should explore the risks and benefits of designating and maintaining an approved camping area,” the report stated.
May 29, 2019
The Union of Grass Valley
By Liz Kellar

[San Mateo County] From the Daily Journal archives: Grand jury finds San Mateo County Event Center seismically compliant

Blog note: from 5 years ago. Interesting media feature. Reminds us that some in the media remember.
The San Mateo County Event Center is compliant with the earthquake safety standards in place when each of its seven buildings were built over the past several decades but that doesn’t necessarily mean they meet the most modern seismic requirements, the civil grand jury concluded.
In its report “Is the San Mateo County Event Center Earthquake Safe?” released Wednesday, the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury investigated the facility’s seismic safety based on building codes.
Although California building code is periodically updated based on modern seismic risk analysis and safety designs, only a new or extensively renovated facility must meet the latest version. The event center buildings have not been significantly renovated since their construction so therefore do not necessarily meet the 2014 performance standards.
May 29, 2019 (article originally appeared May 29, 2014)
San Mateo Daily Journal
By Michelle Durand

[Trinity County] Grand Jury report clears county elections department

Blog note: great to see an article on the Trinity County Grand Jury!
A newly released report by the 2018/19 Trinity County grand jury clears the Trinity County Elections Office of errors and wrongdoing alleged by members of the public over the past year.
Signed by the grand jury foreperson Lynn Plew on May 8, the report notes that “news of attempted voter registration hacks, mounting political partisanship in our county and tales of cybersecurity breaches have raised insecurities about the U.S. elections system,” prompted the 2018/19 grand jury to undertake an investigation into what measures are being taken in Trinity County to secure the integrity of the electoral process and accuracy of election results.
May 29, 2019
The Trinity Journal
By Sally Morris

Monterey County Grand Jury releases election security report

With election security and Russian election meddling in the national news, a Monterey County Civil Grand Jury looked at how secure Monterey County's 2018 election was.
The Monterey County Civil Grand Jury investigation centered on looking into the November 2018 elections and future elections. Their results showed no significant evidence of voter fraud or outside influence.
"I'm delighted that the grand jury has looked at all the departments in this year. Specifically the elections department," said Mary Adams, the Monterey County Board of Supervisor for District 5. "To be sure that they are looking at the functioning and that we weren't one of the places around the country that could possibly have been tampered with."
The report also presents issues including old equipment that needs to be replaced, some of which are specifically used by handicapped voters. The report noted that there is also a lack of volunteers that help to run voting facilities.
However, the biggest concern is over outside companies that are responsible for mailing voter ballots. This led to a problem in Gonzales in November where some voters received their ballots a week late.
The Grand Jury also provided recommendations to fix these problems while maintaining voter security. Suggestions from the jury are to track and keep close supervision on outside companies. They are also hoping to test more voting options, like voting online.
The jury also recommends expanding the budget to upgrade voting equipment and procedures. A budget that must be approved by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.
“Now I think it'll be up to us, through budget process, to take a look at those recommendations and see what we can implement," said Adams.
Some of the recommendations from the Grand Jury could take some time. If they do pass, they will look to be implemented in 2022.
Action News reached out to the Monterey County Election’s Office, no one was available to comment. They are currently working on providing a response to the Grand Jury’s report.
May 28, 2019
By Kyla Linville

[Nevada County] Grand Jury Report: Investing in Housing for People Experiencing Homelessness in Nevada County

May 28, 2019 – Homelessness is a significant national, state and local issue. The 2018-2019 Nevada County Grand Jury (Jury) responded to a complaint relating to homelessness, prompting the Jury to investigate the subject and report its findings.
The number of people experiencing homelessness in Nevada County (County) is much higher than any count would suggest. The preliminary 2019 Point-In-Time (PIT) count is 404 but stakeholders agree this number should be at least doubled to represent the true number of individuals who are currently considered homeless. The majority of the people counted are long-term residents of the County and are not a transient population from out of the area.
The Housing First model of providing people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing has been endorsed by both the Federal Government and the State of California. Housing First is an evidence-based approach with proven outcomes that has become the best practice. Counties, municipalities, and community groups must endorse the Housing First model to be eligible for significant new federal and state funding that is being allocated to address homelessness.
In December 2018 the Nevada County Board of Supervisors (BoS) approved and adopted the Ten Year Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness – 2018 (2018 Ten Year Plan). There was broad agreement by the participants in the development of the plan that the primary cause of homelessness in the County is the lack of affordable housing and the solution to ending homelessness is to have more affordable housing units.
The Housing First approach will present challenges to the County since the current availability of low-income housing is virtually non-existent. The strategies offered in the 2018 Ten Year Plan must be developed into a specific implementation plan with goals, priorities, planned outcomes, timelines, responsibilities, accountabilities, and key measurements to meet the very real challenge of insufficient low-income housing units.
The BoS and elected officials from throughout the County should form a collaborative entity, perhaps a Joint Powers Authority, with the mandate to establish county-wide rules and programs to facilitate the development of low-income housing. In the absence of a collaborative entity, the County should take the lead to determine how to provide low-income housing and invite developers and builders to participate. The County should coordinate with Grass Valley, Nevada City, and Truckee (the Municipalities) to develop a list of incentives for developers to construct low-income housing.
Homelessness is a community issue that financially impacts every resident of the County. For example, there are real costs associated with law enforcement act medical/emergency room visits, clean-up of trash and human waste, damage to the environment, as well as increased risk of fires. Numerous studies across the country have shown that the public cost per person is cut in half when housing is provided. Every citizen in the County should be motivated to contact their elected officials and encourage them to fund low-income housing for those experiencing homelessness as a method to reduce overall County costs.
Federal, state, and local funds for social services primarily flow into the County as opposed to the Municipalities. The County is the only entity that can take the primary leadership position in addressing the homelessness issue. The BoS and Nevada County Chief Executive Officer (CEO) should embrace this role. Homelessness should be a regular agenda item for BoS meetings.
Frequent updates on strategies and projects in a public forum will raise awareness and possibly garner support from a portion of the population that is not informed about the issue. Continued partnership with community service providers for outreach and education to the general public is vital.
The housing crisis, both nationally and state-wide, has resulted in substantial funding being allocated to address homelessness and more is on the horizon. Monitoring existing and new sources of funding and preparing the required applications are time-consuming activities, as is the management and oversight of existing and new programs. All require a high level of expertise and close collaboration with multiple parties to be successful. The CEO should conduct an assessment of the personnel required to capitalize on the opportunities being presented and submit an incremental staffing plan to the BoS. The bolstering of resources and the outsourcing of specific functions should be evaluated to place the County in the best position to be competitive and successful in securing additional federal and state funding.
Providing citizens experiencing homelessness with permanent housing is a best practice that has been proven to reduce the overall cost of caring for these vulnerable citizens. Development of adequate numbers of such housing units in the County will be a long-term project and there will be a continuing need for traditional emergency shelters, winter warming shelters, and other overnight options.
The Jury acknowledges that significant progress has been made in addressing homelessness in the County and specific highlights are provided in this report. The Jury was encouraged to see action taken by the BoS in January 2019 to purchase a five-acre parcel on Old Tunnel Road in Grass Valley for $233,900. This parcel is slated for an estimated 10,000+ square-foot Day/Navigation Center and 40 housing units. Two significant state funding applications for this project have been submitted and results are pending.
Emergency shelters (Hospitality House is the largest in the County) offer a place for people to sleep but they must vacate the facility during the day. This creates the lack of a daytime destination for people experiencing homelessness which often leaves them back on the streets. The Jury fully endorses aggressive movement on development of the Day/Navigation Center on Old Tunnel Road as a first step toward giving citizens experiencing homelessness a destination during the day and access to critical services. The County should continue to partner with relevant stakeholders to secure funding for and commence construction of the Day/Navigation Center as a top priority. The Nevada County Building Department should streamline construction requirements to open the Day/Navigation Center in the shortest time possible.
A warming shelter is a short-term emergency shelter that operates when weather conditions become dangerously inclement. Their primary purpose is the prevention of death and injury from exposure to the elements. The Jury was gratified to see the County, Nevada City, the Nevada City Police Department, Sierra Roots, the Salvation Army, the Veteran’s Hall, and neighborhood constituents come together, pool their expertise and resources, and finalize a plan to open shelter options for the winter of 2018-19.
Current agreements were only in place for the 2018-2019 winter with no long-term plan. The BoS should allocate ongoing funding in its annual budget to support the operation of winter warming shelters. Existing agreements should be renewed by October 1, 2019 and should include more flexibility on the part of operators as to when weather conditions, both forecasted and actual, warrant opening.
Arresting people for sleeping outdoors was deemed illegal in 2018 by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In Martin vs. City of Boise, the court found “the Cruel and Unusual Punishments clause of the Eighth Amendment precludes the enforcement of a statute prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to alternative shelter.” Law enforcement is required to adhere to this decision. The County should explore the risks and benefits of designating and maintaining an approved camping location for overnight options. The analysis, findings, and conclusions should be shared with the public.
There are citizens in the County who are actively working to facilitate and expand programs and services for citizens experiencing homelessness. Their dedication and commitment are commendable. There are vocal citizens on the other end of the spectrum who are opposed to any projects or programs related to the homeless occurring near their residences or businesses. There are many citizens in the middle who lack awareness of the magnitude of the issue, have never been personally affected by homelessness, and do not recognize the cost and risk to the County of failing to house people. Regardless of where an individual citizen lands on the spectrum, investment now in permanent housing solutions will not only alleviate human suffering but will save the County money. Every citizen should support these objectives.
May 28, 2019
By Nevada County Civil Grand Jury

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Tuolumne County Grand Jury Raises Concerns About Jail

Sonora, CA — After releasing details about the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority a couple of weeks ago, the Grand Jury has now released findings related to the county jail, and Sierra Conservation Center.
In its eight page report about the jail, the jury notes that it is already understaffed by four deputies, and with a new jail coming online soon, more will need to be hired. It also states that there appears to be a lack of adherence to security protocols at the facility. In addition, safety concerns raised in last year’s report about an extension cord running down a hallway, and collecting gray water in drums, have not been addressed. It also recommends having more education and rehab services available to reduce the recidivism rate.
The only finding of concern listed about the Sierra Conservation Center is that its wood shop does not have a first aid kit.
May 29, 2019
By BJ Hansen

[San Diego County] Report Finds Room for Improvement of Mental Health Treatment at County Jails

A grand jury report released Tuesday found San Diego County’s detention facilities to generally be clean, albeit slightly aged for their current use, and found no evidence of inmate mistreatment or negligence on the part of the Sheriff’s and Probation departments but recommends improvements in mental health treatment for inmates.
According to the 2018/2019 grand jury’s report, inmates in the Sheriff’s Department’s seven facilities and the Probation Department’s three facilities usually had access to medical, dental and mental health care. However, at some facilities, access to care depended on when providers visited the specific facility.
The panel inspected both adult and juvenile detention centers for the report.
“This year the grand jury focused on mental health issues in jails, including the issue of suicides,” the panel said in a statement. “The grand jury was impressed by the programs for rehabilitation and reentry for inmates returning to society.”
The county’s detention system has drawn national attention over the last year due to a spate of in-custody deaths and suicides, including four deaths across a six-week span earlier this year. Since 2008, more than $7 million in lawsuit settlements has been paid to families of inmates who died in custody.
More than 120 inmates have died in a county jail since 2007, 30 of which were suicides, according to the report. Last year, four inmates committed suicide at jails around the county.
The grand jury found that the San Diego Central Jail, Vista Detention Facility and the South Bay Detention Facility are outdated for their current use as jails for long-term inmates. The three facilities were originally built for booking and holding people who committed misdemeanors and inmates awaiting a court hearing.
Assembly Bill 109, which went into effect in 2011, diverted certain convicted felons to county jails rather than state prisons, where they had traditionally been held. Because of AB 109, the three facilities named in the report are now considered inadequate because they were never intended to hold inmates with long-term sentences.
The San Diego Central Jail is also the county’s largest mental health facility, with nearly 200 beds reserved for inmates in need of significant mental health care. The Central Jail also holds many inmates who are declared mentally unfit to stand trial. According to the grand jury, many inmates with significant mental health issues would generally be sent to a state facility, but those are already strained and have little room for new patients.
Roughly 30% of the county’s inmates are currently on some sort of prescribed psychotropic drug, according to the report and San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore. While inmates’ mental health is generally screened at the Central, Vista and Las Colinas jails, the panel found that the county struggles to retain and recruit psychiatrists and psychiatric care professionals.
The grand jury recommended that the Sheriff’s Department replace vent covers at South Bay Detention Facility, which an inmate used to hang himself last year, as soon as possible. The department was also advised to consider centralizing its mental health treatment to a dedicated facility rather than the county jail system.
Both the Sheriff’s and Probation departments are advised to study and consider transportation options for families of inmates at the four county detention facilities in Otay Mesa. Public transit is lacking to the area, the report found, with Metropolitan Transit System bus services terminating more than five miles away and the closest trolley station more than 10 miles away.
May 28, 2019
Times of San Diego
By Debbie L. Sklar

Sunday, May 26, 2019

[Solano County] Fairfield to prepare formal response to grand jury report

FAIRFIELD — The city will issue a formal response to a grand jury report issued Thursday that cited some areas where the city could be exposed to potential conflict of interest, the interim city manager said Friday.
The grand jury looked into the matter after a citizen complaint and issued an 11-page report offering five recommendations – one of which was divided into three parts.
Interim City Manager Sean Quinn said the city will prepare a formal response and take it before the City Council on June 18 before submitting it to the grand jury.
The response will concentrate on three main areas, Quinn said. Those areas include portions of the report the city believes to be inaccurate, portions of the report that simply require a bit of clarification and portions where the grand jury offered good suggestions that the city will use to make some changes, Quinn said.
Quinn served as the longtime city manager before returning to the post on an interim basis while the city looks for a permanent replacement for former city manager David White, who accepted a city government position in Berkeley. Quinn said these types of grand jury reports into city policies and practices are fairly common.
“They do quite a few things where they look at city operations,” Quinn said. “I think grand juries are very important and it’s always good to have someone from the outside come and take a look at your operation.”
May 24, 2019
Fairfield Daily Republic
By Bill Hicks

[Solano County] Solano grand jury raises concerns about safety of high school campuses

FAIRFIELD — The 2018-19 Solano County grand jury expressed concerns about the safety at the Fairfield-Suisun School District’s three traditional high school campuses, noting two incidents it called “tragic and harrowing experiences for the schools and the community.”
It recommends that the district annually assess whether upgrades or additional security cameras are necessary, and to assess and prioritize the mental health needs of the students on an ongoing basis.
“The Solano County civil grand jury is concerned about school safety in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District’s three high schools. All of the high schools have the state-required Comprehensive Safe School Plan (CSSP) to follow in any event dealing with safety issues,” the report summary states. “It is the required document that addresses school safety procedures in emergency situations. Additional concerns at the sites include the role of security cameras and the impact of student mental health issues on school safety.”
District officials are reviewing the report and recommendations.
“We are in the process of writing our response to the grand jury,” said Tim Goree, executive director of Administrative Services and Community Engagement.
He said there was nothing in the report that seemed alarming.
“My sense, as I’m starting to talk to people, is we are already doing some of this,” said Goree, meaning addressing or implementing some of the issues mentioned in the report’s recommendations.
The comments were released Thursday in a seven-page report. It was one of two reports released. The other was an analysis on the potential for conflicts of interest in Fairfield. The reports are dated May 21.
The grand jury report on the Fairfield-Suisun School District references the Aug. 24 shooting that occurred near Armijo High School.
“This incident resulted in the death of a high school student. The situation became a school safety issue when the suspected shooter ran from the primary scene of the shooting and climbed a perimeter fence onto the high school grounds,” the report states. “Once the suspected shooter got onto school property, he was able to mingle with a crowd of students that were attending a football game. He later joined a different group of students in the gymnasium.”
The report credits the school administration’s quick response by locking down the campus and to implement provisions of the Comprehensive Safe School Plan. Students were ushered into the gymnasium, which was followed by a person-to-person evacuation.
The suspect was ultimately identified and arrested, the report notes.
The report also references the Nov. 8 incident in which the police responded to an initial report of a student with a semi-automatic handgun near Fairfield High School. It was later determined to be a BB gun.
“The student was expelled as a result of his actions,” the report states.
Grand jury members toured the campuses in October and November, investigations that led to a pair of findings and recommendations.
The first finding in the report states, “Security cameras play a critical role in safety at the three high schools by recording and monitoring student activity throughout the campus.”
The recommendation is to “Conduct annual evaluations to determine if more cameras or upgrades are needed to provide surveillance of all critical areas on campus.”
The second finding was: “The mental health issue is a crisis that needs immediate attention. Schools currently have limited capacity to address these issues. Schools utilize their resources to employ more staff to increase academic results. School staff have seen their responsibilities shift away from the overall personal, social and emotional development of each student towards an academic focus, which creates a widening gap in support services like mental health.”
The grand jury recommended that the district “Assess and prioritize mental health issues on a continual basis to address the mental health needs of the students. Allocate resources to focus on mental health concerns. Provide staff training to promote a greater awareness of student mental health issues and techniques to address the problems that exist.”
The principals at Armijo, Fairfield and Rodriguez high schools have 60 to 90 days to respond to the grand jury report.
May 23, 2019
Fairfield Daily Republic
By Todd R. Hansen

[Solano County] Citizen complaint leads to grand jury criticism of adherence to Fairfield policies

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield city officials do not follow some of their own policies, including an administrative policy manual that is “necessary to protect the interests of the city, city employees and the public from unethical conduct and conflict of interest violations,” according to a 2018-19 civil grand jury report issued Thursday.
“Grand jury feels strongly that employees receive up-to-date and specific guidelines and procedures they can rely on, and there is oversight of those policies. Other inconsistencies in the Administrative Policy Manual were noted beyond those specifically addressed in the Findings and Recommendations,” a concluding comment in the report states.
Interim City Manager Sean Quinn was in back-to-back meetings Thursday afternoon and unavailable for comment.
The grand jury report issued five findings, and seven recommendations – two for the first finding and two for the fifth finding, which states that, “Several sections of the city’s current Administrative Policy Manual are incomplete and inaccurate.”
“Information provided to new employees is lacking in accuracy and refers to the Administrative Services Department and the Director of Administrative Services, which are nonexistent. In its current for, the manual cannot be totally relied upon by employees,” the report states. “It is further lacking in detail to protect the public and the city from potential conflict of interest activity by its employees.”
The comments were part of an 11-page report dated May 21. It was one of two reports issued. The other is about safety concerns at the Fairfield-Suisun School District’s three traditional high school campuses.
The grand jury initiated its investigation in response to a citizen complaint.
“Based on the information gathered by the grand jury, it became apparent there are certain city policies that are not followed. Additionally, there is a gap in the city’s wording of certain policies making those policies difficult to ascertain and unable to be carried out by city staff,” the summary in the report on Fairfield states.
“Expansion and updating of the city’s Administrative Policy is necessary to protect the interests of the city, city employees and the public from unethical conduct and conflict of interest violations,” the summary added.
The report strongly identifies the importance of not having even a perception of conflict, but does not give a single example of where conflicts may have been found.
Quinn – who stepped in on an interim basis after the departure of David White, under whose watch the concerns raised by the grand jury would have happened – has 60 to 90 days to respond.
Copies of the report were sent to members of the City Council and to the Solano County Board of Supervisors.
May 23, 2019
Fairfield Daily Republic
By Todd R. Hansen

Friday, May 24, 2019

[San Luis Obispo County] SLO County Grand Jury releases report highlighting jail system, public health

The San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury released its annual report Thursday, highlighting issues that the jury believes should be addressed within the county.
The 2018-2019 Continuity Report reviews responses that were required as part of previously published Grand Jury Reports. Traditionally, it’s prepared by each year’s Grand Jury.
This year’s report involved six investigative reports from the 2017-2018 Grand Jury, which required responses from various agencies.
The 2018-2019 Grand Jury reviewed those responses and then prepared the report, which examines the county’s Psychiatric Health Facility, County Behavioral Health Services, San Luis Obispo County Detention Facilities, overall public health, potential health risks from the Dunes, and recidivism rates, which is the rate of prisoner re-entry into the jail system.
In its report on the Psychiatric Health Facility, the previous Grand Jury found it to “be a 16-bed antiquated facility that does not meet the crisis needs of the county’s mentally ill population and committed staff members.”
The report says the county’s Health Agency responded to six findings and agreed with one, partially disagreed with four findings, and disagreed with one.
In the report on San Luis Obispo County Detention facilities, the Grand Jury had specifically focused on housing, food, and transportation of prisoners. The Grand Jury says studies were also conducted on the medical and mental health treatment of inmates.
It recommended that the sheriff’s office construct a psychiatric hospital on the jail campus or somewhere else in the County. The Sheriff’s Office responded saying the recommendation hasn’t been implemented yet but will be in the future with its Behavioral Health Unit.
In its public health investigation, the Grand Jury recommended establishing a Vector Control program, which would control the mosquito population. That recommendation has since been partially implemented. Public Health says it doesn’t have enough funding for mosquito abatement, but that it has begun mosquito surveillance.
The report also included open recommendations from previous grand juries. One recommendation was to repurpose vacant buildings within the County Jail’s honor farm as a residential detox service.
The Grand Jury noted at the end of the report that it recognizes and appreciates county leaders for showing dedication to improving county services.
The Grand Jury does not have any enforcement powers. Its mission is to shed light on various issues.
May 23, 2019
KSBY San Luis Obispo News
By Lindsay Zuchelli

[San Diego County] San Diego Grand Jury Urges More School Safety Training, Resources

The jury recommends that the county to prioritizes funding for safety training, equipment and infrastructure improvements.

The San Diego grand jury recommended that the region’s school districts increase funding for more training and resources toward school safety.
In a report –“School Safety in San Diego County: How Prepared Are We for Another School Shooting?” — released on Tuesday, the panel recommended that all county school safety plans focus on active shooter situations, reports the Times of San Diego.
“Although the probability is low for a school shooting to occur, it is imperative that our schools be reasonably prepared for the possibility of such an event,” the report said.
It noted several school shootings that occurred in San Diego in recent years, including an attack in 2001 at Santee’s Santana High School which left two students dead and 13 people injured.
The report also examined how other schools prepared and responded to some of the more recent school shootings like Sandy Hook or Parkland.
Based on other districts’ safety plans and interviews with education officials, the grand jury found that San Diego County campuses have done well to prepare for active shooter situations, but noted that there is room for improvement.
For example, while some campuses have conducted drills related to intruders, they aren’t necessarily armed intruders. Or, natural disaster safety drills may be more common than drills for active shooter incidents.
Some of the recommendations given in the report include:
  • Prioritize funding for training, equipment and infrastructure improvements
  • Include substitute teachers and all other adult campus workers in active shooter training
  • Conduct “vulnerability studies” at all school sites that account each campus’ unique layout
  • Collaborate with school officials, law enforcement, first responders and mental health practitioners
The grand jury urges these recommendations to be incorporated by March 1, 2020 in the following school districts:
  • Bonsall Union Elementary School District
  • Cajon Valley Union School District
  • Carlsbad Unified School District
  • Chula Vista Elementary School District
  • Escondido Union School District
  • Rancho Santa Fe Elementary School District
  • San Dieguito Union High School District
  • San Marcos Unified School District
  • San Diego Unified School District
  • San Ysidro Elementary School District
  • Sweetwater Union High School District.

May 23, 2019
Campus Safety Magazine (national, based in Massachusetts)
By Katie Malafronte

[San Diego County] La Mesa residents push for police oversight board at community forum

Blog note: this article references a 2016 grand jury report.
LA MESA —  Several dozen La Mesa residents met Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of creating a community oversight board for the La Mesa Police Department.
The forum, put on by the civic engagement group La Mesa Conversations and held at the city’s Masonic Lodge, drew a crowd of about 75 residents and a handful of activists and community leaders from around the county, including the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties and the local branch of the NAACP.
“If you want effective policing, you need trust, you need accountability,” said Andrea St. Julian, a lawyer and member of Women Occupy San Diego who was one of four panelists. “The best way to get those two things are by having a citizens oversight board of some type.”
According to Janet Castaños, a board member of La Mesa Conversations, the idea of creating a police oversight commission or review board — like San Diego’s Community Review Board on Police Practices, or the county’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board — sprang up after a white La Mesa police officer was recorded twice throwing a black 17-year-old girl to the ground at Helix High School in January 2018.
“They completed an internal investigation and found no fault with the officer, that he followed proper policy,” Castaños said last week. “Well if that’s OK, then maybe there’s something wrong with the policy.”
Councilwoman Akilah Weber, who was elected to her first term last year, said she and other council members were disappointed earlier this year when the outside firm hired to investigate the Helix incident presented its findings.
A lawyer from that firm said he was not allowed to share specifics of how the investigation determined that the officer did not use excessive force, that his actions were not racially motivated and that he did not lose his temper during the incident.
After that meeting, Weber asked Police Chief Walt Vasquez to speak to the council about the department’s use-of-force policy, which he did last month.
Weber also asked city staff around that same time to study how smaller cities and communities have implemented community review boards, she said in an interview Tuesday night. She expects the council will receive the results of that report at one of its July meetings.
In an email Wednesday, Councilwoman Kristine Alessio said that until the City Council has time to study the staff report, it would be “hard to opine” whether La Mesa needs an oversight commission.
“I’m in favor of proposals that strengthen the relationship between police departments and the communities they serve,” Alessio wrote in an email. “But ... without seeing the report it’s hard for me to say what sort of proposal I’d be for or against.”
Alessio said putting the matter up for voters to decide “could be a valuable tool to determine community support for any proposals,” but that it isn’t “absolutely necessary.”
Councilman Bill Baber said he sees no need for an oversight board, but said an advisory panel might be an option.
“Our police officers have a dangerous job, I won’t vote for anything that makes their job more difficult,” Baber wrote in an email Wednesday. “However, if the Chief wants to convene a committee of citizens to give him advice on neighborhood issues, that’s probably helpful.”
Weber, who is also on the board of La Mesa Conversations, said Tuesday night that the council must listen to whether the community wants an oversight commission, but Tuesday’s forum had “an amazing turnout, and it definitely sounds like (an oversight board) is something the community is interested in.”
Mayor Mark Arapostathis and Vice Mayor Colin Parent did not immediately respond to emailed questions.
Panelist Jamal McCrae, a La Mesa resident and former San Diego County sheriff’s deputy, said he believes creating an oversight commission is important, “not to police the police, but to show the community that La Mesa P.D. will do everything in its power to be transparent, to restore faith in the police force.”
La Mesa resident Jack Shu, another of the panelists who was also a former law enforcement officer in his role as a state parks superintendent, said that society gives police officers “a tremendous amount of power” and “huge amounts of discretion.”
“And actually I like them to have that discretion, because most of the time our law enforcement folks use that discretion wisely and do the right thing,” Shu said.
But he believes law enforcement leaders have a tendency to protect that discretion, and protect the misdeeds of some officers, rather than be accountable. He said he believes an oversight commission or review board is the best way to hold police to account when they do make poor decisions.
The new push for community oversight of police revives recommendations put forward in 2016 by the San Diego County Grand Jury.
In the grand jury’s report on police oversight boards in the region, it recommended that La Mesa and six other cities — El Cajon, Escondido, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Chula Vista and Coronado — establish citizen review boards or commissions, or create regional review boards to serve more than one city.
According to the report, the grand jury had received complaints from citizens in several cities without oversight boards who “felt there was inadequate resolution of their grievances.” The report did not specify if any of those complaints came from La Mesa residents.
In their response to the grand jury report , La Mesa’s mayor and police chief said the city had no immediate plans to establish an independent citizen oversight commission.
“Citizen complaints against La Mesa Police Department personnel are taken seriously and reviewed at all levels, including the Chief of Police,” Arapostathis and Vasquez wrote in the letter dated July 26, 2016. “La Mesa does not have a history of complaints about Police behavior that have not been resolved through existing channels and procedures.” 
May 22, 2019
The San Diego Union-Tribune
By Alex Riggins

[Tuolumne County] Letter to the editor: Community Economic Development – What next?

Blog note: The Tuolumne County Grand Jury focus on the TCEDA has received the most media attention in the state over the past year than any other grand jury report.
Now that both the 2018 and 2019 Grand Jury investigations have brought the 10-year TCEDA saga to a final conclusion, what next? What can be done now that the slate has been wiped clean but there is still a need for an advocate to help grow and maintain our local economy for the next generation of entrepreneurs and business owners?
Our county leaders’ plan is to essentially wash, rinse and recycle that same old approach that got us stuck into this economic cul-de-sac in the first place. We don’t need more government and more spending without clear measurable objectives. I recommend they not create a new economic development department for the next 12 months. Turns out it didn’t matter much the past 10 years.
The City of Sonora has a better plan. Hire an outside expert to gather input from local business owners and other stakeholders then let them decide how to implement the recommendations. No need for another permanent government employee collecting $100K-plus in salary and retirement benefits per year.
Next, let’s elect new supervisors in 2020 who will make sound economic development decisions that would include reducing governmental spending, executive hiring and costly regulations and fees. We need supervisors who will conduct quantifiable Return- on-Investment (ROI) analysis vs. the good-old-boy “subjective analysis” as highlighted by Supervisor Gray’s response to the Grand Jury report.
Lastly, more governmental transparency is still needed. The Grand Jury has noted that this has not been totally settled. They looked at the TCEDA’s nonprofit arm, the Economic Prosperity Council of Tuolumne County, and determined “the public should be able to see the findings from a review of potential conflicts of interest that was conducted by the County Counsel’s Office.” The results are considered attorney-client privilege. Sounds very similar to their response to my Public Records Act lawsuit which initially discovered the government’s lack of transparency. According to the report “the public has a right to evaluate whether any conflicts existed.” It is unfortunate that the jury will not pursue the matter due to the potential legal costs to taxpayers. Maybe this needs fresh new eyes from a higher authority.
The bottom line is that whatever changes are made in the coming months by our leaders, they will have to regain trust from the public. A good start would be new leadership. What happens next is up to us. Follow the news — information is power — shop locally, get involved and vote.
May 22, 2019
The Union Democrat
From Ken Perkins, Sonora

[Kern County] Thousands not paying their red light tickets

Blog note: this article references a grand jury recommendation.
Caught in the act. Traffic cameras catch drivers running red lights, but thousands of people in Bakersfield don't actually pay their tickets.
According to the Bakersfield Police Department in 2018, there were 14,344 red light tickets issued. Only 5,488 people actually paid the ticket, that's 8,856 unpaid tickets for running a red light.
"If you're found guilty of a red light violation, you have to pay the fee," BPD Sgt. Nathan Mcauley said.
McCauley says the main reason people don't pay is that they simply don't want to, and if you decide not to pay you could be driving illegally.
"I guess it's optional if you're willing to face the consequences as well as having a suspended license, or not being able to register your car, its a choice, it may not be a good one but it may be an expensive one because if you want a license again your fees and things might be increased," McCauley said.
BPD wants the community to know you can go to traffic court to be put on a payment plan, even get a reduction in your ticket.
It's also important to note a grand jury report is hoping to add more red light cameras.
May 21, 2019
Bakersfield Now Eyewitness News
By Lexi Wilson

[San Diego County] Train for Active Shooters, County Grand Jury Urges 11 Local School Districts

The San Diego County grand jury recommended Tuesday that the region’s school districts increase funding for training and resources to prepare for and prevent school shootings.
In a report released Tuesday titled “School Safety in San Diego County — How Prepared Are We for Another Active School Shooting? the panel recommends that all county school safety plans address how to handle active shooter situations.
“Although the probability is low for a school shooting to occur, it is imperative that our schools be reasonably prepared for the possibility of such an event,” the report says.
The report noted several San Diego County school shootings have occurred in recent years, including including a March 5, 2001, attack at Santee’s Santana High School, which killed two students and injured 13 other people; a March 22, 2001, shooting at El Cajon’s Granite High School that injured three students and two teachers; and an Oct. 8, 2010, shooting at Carlsbad’s Kelly Elementary School, which injured two young girls.
The report also examined the preparation for and response to more recent school attacks that have gained nationwide attention, including the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and last year’s Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Gathering from a review of recent school shootings, school district safety plans and interviews with education officials, the grand jury found that county campuses have generally done well to prepare for potential active shooter situations, but concluded there is room for improvement.
In particular, the report finds that some campuses have conducted drills related to intruders, but not necessarily armed intruders, and that active shooter incidents don’t always receive the same focus in school safety plans as natural disasters like earthquakes and fires.
Among the recommendations detailed in the grand jury’s report are calls for prioritized funding for training, equipment and infrastructure improvements on handling shootings’ conducting “vulnerability studies” at all school sites that take into account each campus’ unique topography and layout; and including substitute teachers and all other adult campus workers in active shooter training.
School safety plans should be a collaborative effort with school officials, law enforcement, first responders and mental health practitioners, the report states.
The grand jury recommends that its recommendations be incorporated by March 1, 2020, by the following school districts:
  • Bonsall Union Elementary School District
  • Cajon Valley Union School District
  • Carlsbad Unified School District
  • Chula Vista Elementary School District
  • Escondido Union School District
  • Rancho Santa Fe Elementary School District
  • San Dieguito Union High School District
  • San Marcos Unified School District
  • San Diego Unified School District
  • San Ysidro Elementary School District
  • Sweetwater Union High School District.
May 21, 2019
Times of San Diego
By Ken Stone

[Marin County] Split San Rafael council approves flavored tobacco ban

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
Tobacco retailers in San Rafael have 18 months to comply with a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco approved this week by a divided City Council.
The 3-2 decision came on the fourth motion proposed Monday after council members heard more than three hours of public comment and debate and then voted down three variations of the ban. It came down to balancing the rights of adults with the public health crisis of youth tobacco use.
Councilman John Gamblin said a decision on a prohibition is better left in the hands of state and federal legislators and voted no on the first three motions Monday. In the spirit of compromise, Gamblin proposed an option that allowed an 18-month grace period for retailers to comply, assuming that Senate Bill 38, a proposed state ban on certain flavored products, would take effect before then.
Council members Andrew McCullough and Kate Colin were in favor of an exemption for adult-only stores and cast dissenting votes.
“I would support a ban, but only if an exemption came with it,” said McCullough, explaining that he thinks it’s “important to protect the retailers who are playing by the rules” by not selling to minors.
Mayor Gary Phillips and Councilwoman Maribeth Bushey were unwavering and passionately in favor of a ban.
“The experts … are here telling us this one thing: this particular type of product is so dangerous that we need to completely outlaw it,” Bushey said.
Ted Turina, who owns VIP Vape in downtown San Rafael, was stunned with the decision and said he’s going to need to take time to figure out how to adjust.
“That was a twist I don’t think anybody thought was going to happen,” he said.
The debate comes as the state is pushing for flavored tobacco bans. Additionally, the Marin County Civil Grand Jury recently released a report calling on Marin educators and health officials to crack down on what they call an epidemic. Rising incidence of teen vaping is fueling the call to action.
So far, the county of Marin, Larkspur, Sausalito, San Anselmo and Corte Madera have approved similar bans of flavored tobacco. The ban applies to tobacco products and vaporizer pods or cartridges that have added flavors, including menthol. Fairfax and Novato have a ban, but exempt menthol products.
During the deliberation, protesters held signs that read “Prohibition has never worked” and “Help us legally quit smoking.”
The council chambers were divided with anti-tobacco group members and health officials on one side and ban opponents on the other. Vape retailers and users said flavored vaping products help adults quit smoking. Opponents of the ban said since switching to vape they have improved blood circulation and lung health. They provided research from the Royal College of Physicians that recommends vape products as an effective tobacco cessation tool.
Before the vote, Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County public health officer, laid out the rationale for the ban, including statistics from the California Healthy Kids Survey that show youth vaping has increased from one in 10 to one in three students.
Willis said that in order to keep the products from getting to kids a comprehensive ban is needed and any exemption would undermine the work of the county. He also noted e-cigarettes are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a means of quitting smoking, even though they are often touted as a safe smoking substitute.
“The fact is, is that flavoring is a contributor to new people choosing to use tobacco and becoming addicted and we can address that through policy,” Willis said.
As of December, there were 54 tobacco retail licenses issued in San Rafael, said Ethan Guy, principal analyst for the city’s community development department. These including liquor stores, pharmacies, grocery stores and smoke shops.
Hoping for an exemption, Turina said his shop is 18 and older to enter. Customers have to be 21 or older to purchase vape products. They have an ID reader and employees are trained to spot fakes. Additionally, the store doesn’t carry brands that appear to market to youth, he said.
In his presentation, Guy said if a ban was adopted it’s estimated that the city would lose about $25,000 in sales tax revenue with an exemption, and up to $100,000 with a full ban.
A statewide ban would result in a $237 million loss in excise taxes and $54.5 million in sales taxes, according to an analysis by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
Dr. Jason Nau, a physician at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael and chairman of the San Francisco Marin Medical Society’s Marin Committee, said an exemption is not acceptable.
‘We’re in the middle of a vaping epidemic,” he said. “We need to consider the loss of tax revenue on the sale of tobacco products as a public health victory. The long term societal costs are much greater to our children.”
The ordinance will be on the consent calendar at the next meeting for a second reading. Under the ordinance, pharmacies would be prohibited from selling all tobacco products. The ban takes effect Jan. 1, 2021.
May 21, 2019
Marin Independent Journal
By Adrian Rodriguez