BL SPECIAL REPORT
With the 2019-20 San Benito County Civil Grand Jury being seated this week, the Board of Supervisors approved compensation to the jurors for committee meetings on July 23.
The Civil Grand Jury, though founded by the county, is an independent group of volunteers mandated by the California State Constitution to research and investigate government departments, agencies, and officers. Former grand jurors have been at odds with the county after a 2015 ordinance eliminated compensation for committee work.
That ordinance was approved by supervisors after the grand jury exceeded their $19,500 budget by $5,500. Former grand jury foreman Bob Marden has stated previously that supervisors created the ordinance after the 2013-14 Civil Grand Jury turned in a report critical of the board’s hiring of County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa.
The grand jury has spent $22,900 in the last four years, according to figures provided by Espinosa at an April 16 meeting.
The county set compensation of $15 for every meeting, the state minimum, including committee work, with a maximum of eight meetings per month.
Though the amendment states the meetings must be a minimum of two hours, Supervisor Jim Gillio added that with a majority vote by the grand jury, an exception can be made after Marden (who also sits on BenitoLink’s board of directors) argued that meetings and interviews with department heads and staff don’t always take two hours.
Supervisor Mark Medina asked about setting up multiple interviews at the same time, and Marden said that while grand jurors attempt to set up multiple interviews, it’s not always possible because of conflicting schedules.
“Their time and their calender determines whether or not we’re able to [meet],” Marden said.
Grand jurors will also be reimbursed for mileage and travel expenses for training or investigations.
Before leaving the podium, Marden thanked the county for its efforts.
“For the first time in a long period of time, people in this community can see the actual reports of the grand jury which have been missing from the website,” Marden said. “And you can also see and read the responses that are being given to the jury reports.”
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