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AMADOR COUNTY GRAND JURY

FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT

Authority for Review

Grand Jury jurisdiction provided by Penal Code Section 925.

Background

Periodic review of County agencies.

Method of Review

Interview with Amador County Superior Court Judge
Interview with Superior Court Secretary
Survey of facilities and equipment of grand juries in 32 California counties
Analysis of Amador County Grand Jury operations

Findings

The Grand Jury is composed of 19 people. The full panel of 19 members meets twice a month. The 1996-1997 Grand Jury was impaneled in July of 1996.

As of February 1997 the Grand Jury has a designated county office that is large enough for committee meetings but cannot accommodate the full panel. The full panel is required to reserve a meeting room in advance and receives no priority for use of the room. Before being assigned office space, committees met in various locations throughout the year, some without complete privacy.

Grand Jury investigations consist of face-to-face interviews, inspection of facilities, and review of documents. The six investigative committees meet once every two weeks, or more often if required. Each member is appointed to three committees.

Grand Jury interviews are sometimes recorded on personal tape recorders. Members who do not have access to a tape recorder must take handwritten notes during interviews.

Grand Jury members use their own computer equipment for transcribing interview notes, minutes, correspondence, and drafting and editing reports. Members with incompatible software and computer systems must retype documents. In addition, not all members own a personal computer. In February 1997, the Grand Jury received an older "loaner" computer system and printer from the County Data-Communications Department.

The 19 members of the Grand Jury use the copy machine in the Superior Court Clerk's Office. On occasion clerks and grand jurors require the copier at the same time. Grand Jurors use the copier frequently to reproduce reports and other documents for distribution to the jury.

The Grand Jury has a locking file cabinet for storage. The filing cabinet is completely filled with confidential and non-confidential material. Individual Grand Jurors also keep their documentation at home.

At the outset of the 1996-1997 term, the only items of equipment provided to the Grand Jury by the County were the filing cabinet and minimal office supplies.

The telephone number for the Grand Jury is answered by the Superior Court Secretary. Messages are then forwarded to the Foreperson. The Grand Jury's present office does not have a telephone. Currently members make jury related telephone calls from their homes or places of work. Mail is received through a post office box.

Members are compensated at the rate of 10 dollars for each day of service, regardless of hours worked. Generally this does not exceed three hours per day. Mileage is compensated at 31 cents per mile, one way only.

A survey questionnaire regarding facilities and equipment was sent to grand juries in 32 California Counties. The survey showed that most grand juries have designated meeting areas with a majority of these being county facilities.

Of counties with populations less than 80,000, the equipment provided for Grand Jury use included, in progression from most to least common, the following: filing cabinet, computer, typewriter, copy machine, fax machine, mail box, TV/VCR, phone, tape recorder, laptop computer, answering machine, laser printer, locked closet, collating copier and internet access.

The survey also showed that monetary compensation for each day of service was 10 to 25 dollars and reimbursement for mileage ranged from 20 to 32 cents one way. One grand jury received hourly compensation when over four hours were served in a day.

Conclusions

The Amador County Grand Jury requires facilities sufficient to accommodate the 19 member panel as well as all equipment and files.

The computer "loaned" to the Grand Jury has been a great asset. Reports can now be uniform and all members have access to an efficient means of transcribing reports.

By having its own collating copy machine the Grand Jury would operate more efficiently and not burden the clerk's office.

The Grand Jury requires a tape recorder for assisting with interviews.

A paper shredder would help maintain confidentiality and provide a uniform means for discarding confidential documents.

A bookcase would allow the Grand Jury to remove and store the non- confidential books and records presently stored in the locked filing cabinet thereby freeing more room for confidential materials.

The Grand Jury would benefit by having a laptop computer. The laptop could be easily transported to meetings and interviews for taking notes and minutes. This would reduce repetitious entering of handwritten notes and provide a uniform standard for exchange of computerized documents between members.

A telephone with FAX and answering machine in the Grand Jury office would increase public access and enhance confidentiality. The public would have direct telephone access to the Grand Jury. The Superior Court secretary would no longer be burdened with receiving and forwarding Grand Jury messages. Members would not have to conduct Grand Jury business over personal telephones.

The county is best served by a Grand Jury that is able to operate efficiently and with confidentiality. An efficient Grand Jury is also more economical to the county.

Recommendations

Provide the Grand Jury with permanent facilities large enough for both office equipment and the 19 member full panel meetings.

Grand Jurors should be compensated on an hourly basis if they exceed four hours of service in a day.

Provide the Grand Jury with:

Response Required

The Amador County Grand Jury requests the Board of Supervisors respond within 90 days as required by Penal Code Section 933(c).
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