Kathleen Williams: Contribute to our community in a big way — join the Grand Jury
Each year many citizens of Nevada County dedicate their time, talents, and knowledge to serve our community on the Grand Jury. Their commitment to the jury’s goals and the knowledge they bring is nothing short of amazing.
These are people from all types of backgrounds. In the two years I have served, I have met and worked with people whose backgrounds include local business owners, law enforcement, software and hardware engineering, medical, customer service/hospitality, corporate business and finance, full-time parents, ex-government employees, scientists, veterans, students, and attorneys … the list goes on.
Each juror brings their own unique perspectives, life experiences, skills, and approaches to analyzing and assessing the issues we face. We work collegially as equals, and together we end up learning a great deal about our local governments and how they function.
The jury’s primary role is that of watchdog, which is the oversight of taxpayer-funded operations in the county. This oversight ensures our local government, municipalities, and other tax-funded entities not only run with greater efficiency, but are also held accountable.
The jury objectively identifies issues and improvements to make the public’s interactions with local government easier and more transparent. Through the jury’s intake of citizen complaints, its own self-initiated investigations, and interviews, the jury works on behalf of Nevada County citizens to ensure tax dollars are being spent efficiently, effectively, and appropriately.
The Grand Jury follows a strict code of conduct and behavior. Once sworn in, we are held to rules of confidentiality for life. Jurors must be impartial, non-biased, and not use political or personal agendas as a purpose for joining. The Grand Jury is an arm of the California Superior Court and follows the California Penal Codes specific to grand juries.
The Grand Jury is again asking citizens of Nevada County to join one of the most interesting and important volunteer opportunities around. Being a member of the Grand Jury entails a good deal of time and commitment to investigation, meetings, and report writing.
Depending on the time of year, this could run from 10 to 30 hours per week. The reports are the culmination of the jury’s investigative research. Through the reports, the jury makes recommendations to local government and agencies for improvements, identifies gaps or deficiencies, and recognizes them for services well-run. The reports contain the only information that is released to the public.
To read past reports produced by the Nevada County Grand Jury, go to http://www.nevada.courts.ca.gov/general-information/grand-jury/grand-jury-reports .
Training is provided through our professional organization, the California Grand Jurors Association as well as experienced jurors from previous years. Jurors and alternate jurors both participate in the training.
Grand Juror requirements include: U.S. citizen at least 18 years old who has lived in Nevada County for at least a year and can read and write English; not an elected official, serving on a public agency board or serving on a trial jury; never convicted of a felony; will submit to a backround check and take an oath of office.
We are especially interested in citizens who are comfortable with writing, working collaboratively, and who have computer skills using standard office software. Your voice, knowledge, and opinions, however, are most important.
The jury now uses remote meeting tools which will make it easier for citizens in the Truckee area to participate more fully. There is a small stipend paid for meetings attended and mileage reimbursement for those who travel to the Rood Center for in-person meetings.
To find out more about the California Grand Jury system in general, go to https://cgja.org/californias-civil-grand-juries-0. At this site you can download the California Grand Jurors Association’s free booklet, “California’s Civil Grand Juries.”
If you have an aptitude for investigation, a passion for research, a desire to learn about local issues, and an ability to commit the time needed, go to https://www.nevada.courts.ca.gov/. Click the Grand Jury link and then click the “Apply” button near the top right side of the screen. This site also explains the selection process.
We will hold an orientation in late May/early June for those interested. The “jury year” begins on July 1 and ends on June 30, 2023. Please apply using the link above or call 530-265-1730 for more information.
Kathleen Williams is the foreperson of the Nevada County Grand Jury for 2021-22. She is a former business systems analyst, professional writer/editor, and small business co-owner. She lives in Grass Valley.
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