Grand Jury Functions
The “civil” grand jury is an investigative body created to serve as a voice of the people and a conscience of the community. Jurors are not appointed by politicians but are volunteers who act as independent eyes and ears of the residents of Ventura County. Although the responsibilities of a juror are many and diverse, the three predominate functions include:
1. Government Oversight. In accordance with California Penal Code Section 888, the grand jury “…shall be charged and sworn to investigate or inquire into county matters of civil concern….” This mandate pertains to civil issues within the boundaries of Ventura County and includes cities, tax-supported agencies and districts, and any agencies or districts created by state law. It does not include federal or state agencies operating within the county.
To ensure that the best interests of the residents of Ventura County are being served, the grand jury may examine all aspects of county and city government as well as special districts and joint powers agreements. As part of the grand jury’s “watchdog” function, it conducts investigations in response to complaints filed by county residents (public complaints) as well as those originating within the grand jury itself (internal investigations).The grand jury reviews and evaluates policies, procedures, and practices of government to determine their efficiency and effectiveness. The grand jury is authorized to inspect and audit books, records, and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent. Additionally, the grand jury is required to inquire into the conditions of all jails and detention facilities within the county.
2. Accusations. California Penal Code Section 919c states: “The Grand Jury shall inquire into the willful or corrupt misconduct in office of public officers of every description within the county.” If, after appropriate investigation, willful or corrupt misconduct is suspected, the grand jury may present a written accusation to the district attorney. In practice, this function is seldom utilized.
3. Reporting. The grand jury issues reports as individual investigations are completed. They are made public via the media and by posting on the grand jury website. Problems identified in the reports require recommendations for resolving them. Elected officials must respond to the recommendations in writing within 60 days, elected boards within 90 days. As they are received, responses are posted with the reports. At the end of its term of service, the grand jury compiles all reports into a consolidated final report.