Thursday, February 20, 2020

[Solano County] Solano Grand Jury members talk about the job

Blog note: Wonderful article on grand jurors talking about their experiences. Part of an effort to recruit grand jury applicants for 2020-21. Who better to recruit new grand jurors than those who have walked the walk!  
FAIRFIELD — Just the thought of serving on a jury sends some people into excuse-making mode.
Then, there are those such as Judy Calpo and Wayne Goodman who volunteer to serve on a jury — the Solano County grand jury.
They stopped by the Fairfield Civic Center Library on Monday afternoon to chat about life on the grand jury. Goodman returned in the evening for another presentation on life on the grand jury.
Calpo hails from Rio Vista: Goodman from Vallejo. He is disabled, she is retired.
Then-Rio Vista Mayor Marci Coglianese approached Calpo knowing Calpo was active with community causes. After some thought, Calpo decided to “give this a whirl.” That was 15 years ago. (Jurors do not serve consecutively. They must apply and be chosen for the open seats via a lottery.)
Both joined to make a difference in the county they call home.
Goodman was upset with the 2007 Vallejo mayoral election, which was decided by a slim margin, a recount and charges of fraud.
“I couldn’t fix it or help it,” he said. “I wanted to be part of the process to help make things better.”
They, along with the 17 other grand jury members, look over complaints filed via paper forms and online. The grand jury is required to respond to the complaints, acknowledging they received them, nothing more.
The current grand jury has six committees, The complaints are given to the appropriate committee chairperson, depending on the civil issues, who look it over and bring it to a committee meeting.
The jurors can accept, reject or defer.
If accepted, the grand jury members gather the facts and compose a report, which undergoes several steps of scrutiny before the information is released to the public.
Goodman and Calpo have also found items they thought need to be investigated.
He was inspired by a newspaper article to look at a Vallejo neighborhood with a hazard dump. A tour of the facility and an investigation discovered deficiencies. Recommendations followed.
Calpo looked into the county’s 311 system where people could call and ask a question and the receptionist would forward them to the appropriate department. It wasn’t advertised so people didn’t know about it, she said.
The amount of resources and space devoted to it was not on par with the results. Again, recommendations were made.
They have seen changes as a result of their recommendations.
Calpo and Goodman get $20 day per diem and mileage.
Grand jury members are asked to serve a minimum of 20 hours a month. It usually require more hours.
“We spend a lot of hours doing what we do,” Goodman said.
“There’s a lot of research on your own time,” Calpo said, demonstrating the size of a report she had divvied up between committee members.
There’s lot of learning, too.
Goodman was familiarized with the term escheatment, identifying a customer’s deposit (checking, savings, etc.) and time deposit (CD) accounts that are considered abandoned and remitting the funds to the appropriate state if the customer cannot be contacted to re-activate the account.
He also noted the grand jury helped the county find about $35,000 in unclaimed checks.
Goodman will continue the public outreach program at 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday at the John F. Kennedy Library, 505 Santa Clara St., Vallejo.
Fairfield Daily Republic
February 4, 2020
By Amy Maginnis-Haney

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