Guest opinions: Sparks fly as county manager, grand jurors disagree on report
Original post made on Jul 31, 2013
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 12:00 AM
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm
Virginia is right and John is wrong. And so is the other John
on Jul 31, 2013 at 3:12 pm
Another letter from a GJ Foreperson,
County manager tries to shoot the messenger for exposing budget secrets
By tim johnson
I write in response to San Mateo County Manager John Maltbie's Op-Ed in the July 23 Daily News criticizing the grand jury that examined whether the county's structural budget deficit was real or manufactured.
I was the foreperson of the 2012-2013 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury. My term has expired, however, so I write this as a private citizen.
In an effort to distract attention from the serious issues raised by the grand jury's structural deficit report, Mr. Maltbie has attacked the grand jury process while failing to address the merits of the report.
Before addressing Mr. Maltbie's comments regarding the grand jury process, let's see what Mr. Maltbie did not say.
The Grand Jury's report made 10 "Findings," including the following:
The County's structural deficit is created solely because the county chooses not to recognize all anticipated revenues in a given fiscal year.
County officials had the facts in hand prior to the June 5, 2012, election to know that there would be an actual surplus for the 2012 fiscal year but did not publicize this fact.
County officials had the facts in hand prior to the Nov. 6, 2012, election to know that there was an actual budget surplus for the 2012 fiscal year and that the budget for the 2013 fiscal year was balanced, but did not publicize these facts.
County officials did not adequately inform the public of the county's true financial condition prior to the June 5 or Nov. 6, 2012, elections.
It is important to note that Mr. Maltbie did not dispute any of the grand jury's findings, including these.
Instead, Mr. Maltbie criticized the grand jury's "secrecy," the juror selection process, and the lack of financial disclosure by jurors.
Grand juries originated in England in the 12th century. Their investigations and deliberations have always been conducted in secret. California law requires that civil grand juries conduct their business in secret -- there is no choice in the matter. Mr. Maltbie's call for openness in grand jury proceedings seeks to overturn 900 years of history and law and would seriously undermine the grand jury's ability to serve as the public's watchdog over those in power.
Individuals must apply for grand jury service. From the applications received, the supervising judge chooses 30 applicants from whom 19 are selected by lottery in open court. The names of those chosen are made public. The process is designed to select qualified jurors and to weed out those with an "agenda" other than to serve the public interest.
Based upon the advice of the grand jury's attorney, a chief deputy county counsel, grand jurors do not fill out financial disclosure forms. That said, scrupulous attention is paid to actual or apparent conflicts of interest. Where such a conflict exists, the affected grand juror(s) do not participate in any way in the relevant investigation, deliberations or report. Jurors recused themselves from two reports this year. No juror had a conflict with regard to the structural deficit report.
There's an old saying in the practice of law that goes like this: "If the facts are against you, pound on the law. If the law is against you, pound on the facts. If the facts and the law are against you, pound on the table." I leave it to the reader to decide what Mr. Maltbie is pounding on.
Timothy A. Johnson Jr. was the foreman of the 2012-2013 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury.
on Jul 31, 2013 at 3:16 pm
[Post removed. It doesn't seem that this story is directly related to this topic about the grand jury's role and the grand jury's charge that the county is misleading the public about its structural budget deficit. Also, please don't copy and paste text from another publication. That is a violation of copyright. You can post a link. However, in this case we would remove it because it is not relevant to the topic.]