About the Civil Grand Jury
The Grand Jury is an official judicial body with independent authority that is not answerable to administrators or legislators. Its principal purpose is to protect the public interest. Appointment to the Grand Jury provides citizens a means to participate in the affairs of the local governments. The Civil Grand Jury is an investigatory "watchdog" body created to ensure that the best interests of all citizens of the county are being served by local government.
Penal Code Section 888.2 defines the required number of grand jurors. Nineteen members from the community are impaneled to serve as the San Benito County Civil Grand Jury each year.
In San Benito County, Grand Jurors are appointed to serve for a term of one (1) year, but not more than two (2) consecutive years.
The primary responsibilities of the Civil Grand Jury include examining all aspects of county government (including special districts), ensuring that all public monies are being handled judiciously, and all accounts are properly audited. In general, the Civil Grand Jury provides oversight to ensure that honest, efficient government is operating in the best interest of the people.
The Civil Grand Jury is authorized to:
- Investigate the operations, accounts, and records of county government or any incorporated city or joint powers agency located within the county;
- Inspect and audit books, records, and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent;
- Investigate and report on the need for increasing or decreasing salaries of county-elected officials;
- Inspect financial records of special districts in San Benito County;
- Examine the books and records of any nonprofit organization receiving county or city funds;
- Inquire into the conditions of jails and detentions centers;
- Inquire into any charges of willful misconduct by public officials or employees;
- Read letters from citizens or agencies and make inquiries and recommendations about those matters referred to the grand jury and;
- Study the reports of the previous grand jury to review and measure prior recommendations for improvement.
Additional information regarding state-wide civil grand juries, related California Code sections and the status of current legislation is available on the California Grand Jurors' Association (CGJA) website at: http://cgja.org/. Membership of the CGJA is comprised of current and former grand jurors from throughout the state. The CGJA is dedicated to promoting the understanding of the unique practices of grand juries in California and to educating the public and prospective grand jurors about the beneficial oversight function of this system.
After the Civil Grand Jury is sworn in, the Presiding Judge appoints a Foreperson (presiding juror) responsible for the general oversight, direction and collegiality of the jury.
The jury organizes its structure by appointing other positions necessary to its functions. The jury also forms committees and establishes areas of investigative interest, goals and timelines. Typical committees include Audit/Finance, Cities/Special Districts, Edit, Education, Health and Social Services and Law Enforcement.
Each juror typically serves on 2 or 3 committees, based on their availability, and each committee will meet 2 or 3 times per month, depending on the research and investigations undertaken. The committees meet with county, city and local agency officials, visit government facilities and conduct independent research on matters of interest or concern.
Generally, once or twice each month, the full jury will convene a plenary meeting at which each committee will report and provide updates on their research and investigative progress and findings. The full jury will discuss and study the issues and vote on how to proceed. All actions and investigations require a majority vote by the jury.
The Civil Grand Jury's legal advice is provided by the San Benito County Counsel’s Office. When warranted, the Civil Grand Jury may also seek advice from the Attorney General.
Jury members are paid $15 per day for attendance of regular Civil Grand Jury meetings, along with reimbursement at the current Federal mileage rate for mileage to and from jury meetings and site visits. No additional compensation is provided. Please see the San Benito County Board of Supervisor’s Ordinance No. 987 here for more information.
The Civil Grand Jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and enforcement of the law. The concept of juries dates back to Norman times in the 800's.