PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA

Letters

Grand Jury

EDITOR:

Functions of the EDC Grand Jury:

Contrary to the May 1, 2013 article, “Grand Jury applications sought,” the primary function of each California County Grand Jury is defined by state law; a) To weigh allegations of misconduct against public officials and to determine whether to present formal acquisitions requesting their removal from office (California code 922), and b) To act as the public’s “watchdog” by investigating and reporting upon the affairs of local government (e.g. California Code 919, 925 et seq.). The Grand Jury is also empowered generally to investigate and report upon, among other things, housing, imprisonment of unindicted persons, prison conditions, certain land transfers, cities and joint powers agencies, salaries of county officials and the administrative needs of county offices.

The Grand Jury’s role as a vigilant “watchdog” has a long and well-respected heritage, which serves the people of other California counties well. But since the El Dorado County Grand Jury investigation of our former district attorney in 2002, the EDC Grand Jury has been subtly morphed into a management consulting group. The statement (Mountain Democrat May 1 issue) that “The jury has no enforcement authority; it can only make recommendations through publication of a final report” is an intrinsic conflict of interest. The people do not yield their sovereignty to the bodies that serve them and the Grand Jury’s duties are defined by the rule-of-law, not county officials. Not only can the Grand Jury recommend indictments, it can solicit the assistance of the California Attorney General and beyond if the local courts are uncooperative.

The 2013-2014 Grand Jury has an opportunity and a duty to focus on misfeasance, nonfeasance and malfeasance by those who should become the subject of the Jury’s watchdog function. Jurors who focus on their primary functions will not likely make county counsel, the Board of Supervisors, or their presiding judge happy. Serving on the Jury is a reward unto itself. Every member of the Jury who understands that no one in America including the President can be left untethered from the rule-of-law will enjoy the satisfaction of a very important job well done. Hopefully the 2013-2014 Jury will do the right thing rather than the easy thing. Determining the real reasons for the resignations of the 2012-2013 Jury is a starting point.

KEN SCHONIGER
Pollock Pines

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