SmallTownNews
Plumas supervisors finalize grand jury response

Debra Moore, Staff Writer

The Chester Progressive of Chester, California

The Plumas County Board of Supervisors approved a response to the 2012-13 grand jury report Jan. 7, shortly after being accused of breaking the law for not responding in a timely manner.

Marlene White, a member of the 2012-13 grand jury, told the supervisors that she was having a "hard time with the lack of a response."

Citing penal code, White said that the supervisors had 90 days to respond to findings in the grand jury report, but that six months had already elapsed.

White said that because there is no defined penalty for adhering to the timetable, any violation becomes a misdemeanor.

"A sitting judge can decide what the penalty will be," White said.

The lack of a prompt response frustrates grand jury members, they said, because it makes them question whether their work is taken seriously.

"Part of the frustration is that you put all this work in and it gets shelved somewhere," said Dennis Doyle, the former grand jury chairman.

But timeliness wasn't the only infraction that worried White as she turned to the matter of confidentiality.

One of the grand jury's findings concerned the disparity in salaries between the district attorney and the county counsel. Supervisor Lori Simpson asked White about the grand jury's investigation into the matter and why no one from the grand jury "stepped into the county counsel's office" to interview the staff.

"The research is confidential," White said. "If you do have inside information (about the investigation) that's a violation of the penal code."

Doyle said that knowledge of interviews — either people being interviewed or not being interviewed by the grand jury — constituted a violation.

Doyle stressed the importance of confidentiality.

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall noted that her own confidentiality had been breached by a former grand jury when her name and comments appeared in a report. But she encouraged the supervisors to return to approving a response.

"We're getting bogged down here," she said.

A few changes

County Counsel Craig Settlemire wrote the draft response to the grand jury report after asking for input from the supervisors. For the original draft, which the board considered Dec. 17, only Terry Swofford and Lori Simpson submitted written remarks for inclusion in the document. At that December meeting, Jon Kennedy said he had started to write a response several times, but never pressed the "send" button out of frustration with the process. Due to a lack of time Dec. 17, the supervisors delayed further discussion to Jan. 7 and planned to use the extra time to draft more comments.

Kennedy did just that, focusing on the portion of the response that dealt with the salary discrepancy.

He wanted to eliminate most of the original response language, which he described as "unnecessary."

Kennedy thought that trying to compare the salaries of the district attorney and the county counsel was comparing "apples and oranges."

District Attorney David Hollister, who was in the audience, addressed the board.

"I don't want a pay increase," he told the supervisors, rather, he said, his concern was that the pay disparity "is an indicator of how we're dealing with public safety in this county."

"We pay public defenders more than prosecutors," he added.

Hollister also addressed the needs of the probation and sheriff departments.

"I just really want you to focus on public safety," Hollister said before leaving the room to return to work.

Supervisor Thrall said that it wasn't the time to discuss the issue of priorities, but rather to focus on finalizing a response to the grand jury, which the supervisors did with some minor changes to the draft document.

The board of supervisors' response to the grand jury is available on the county's website by going to countyofplumas.com and selecting the grand jury page.



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