I’m just finishing a year on the Grand Jury and thought it might be a good idea to record some of the unexpected concepts I didn’t know before.
1. It’s Nearly Impossible to Unseat an Elected Official
When elected officials misbehave but don’t commit a felony, it’s pretty much up to their own volition whether or not to serve out their terms. Other elected officials have to jump through many hoops (drawn-out impeachment proceedings, etc.) to force them out. I can’t comment on the situation we looked into but it’s public knowledge that ex- Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who was arrested in Minneapolis for actions in a public bathroom, served out his Senate term. He did this despite a public announcement that he’d resign. He plum ignored his own promise.
2. “Safety” Employees pull down the Bucks and Bennies
From a pay and benefits perspective, in our County, City Police, the Sheriff’s Department, and Fire Departments employees do very well. Not only are they typically paid up to twenty percent more per hour than other employees, but they tend to work considerable overtime and the retirement algorithms are stretched for them so that temporary pay—for example, overtime and bonuses—often translate into lifelong income.
3. County Employees who work with the GJ can be Two-edged Swords
County Counsel and staff assist the Grand Jury, helping with everything from administrative support to giving advice regarding to whom our reports should be addressed. The administrative staff is excellent but the higher-ups come with potential conflict. Some in the County look to them, to some extent, to manage the Jury. Since the County Counsel represents (is the lawyer for) many of the people who are being investigated, there’s a built-in conflict of interest that must be carefully managed on both sides.
4. County Employees Typically Cooperate with Grand Juries
While County Employees can disagree with a Grand Jury report, they can’t completely ignore a seated Grand Jury. Investigations are typically reported on in the press. Requests from the Grand Jury are taken quite seriously by County employees, who are quite forthcoming in interviews. Grand Juries have limited subpoena power, but it’s seldom required. In short, most of the time County employees help make the process work.
5. A Grand Jury is, at the end of the day, a Jury
Remember those movies that centered on a jury and how the interpersonal relationships come into play, quite separate from the facts of the case? Every Juror comes into their role with preconceived notions of how effective (or ineffective) government is, how overpaid or underpaid County employees are, and how forceful the grand jury must be. There’s no ‘minority report;’ each Report comes from the entire Jury. This makes each Juror listen carefully and work within his or her fellow Jurors’ opinions.
Causes Kevin Arnold Supports
Poetry Center San Jose, East Palo Alto Police Activities League (EPA PAL), Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Yale Writing Conference, Gold Rush Writers