Citizens interested in assuring county and local governments are operating openly and efficiently are being sought to serve on the Santa Barbara County grand jury after the County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 29 adopted a resolution presented by 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann proclaiming February as Grand Jury Awareness Month.
The civil grand jury, an arm of the Santa Barbara County Superior Court, is composed of 19 volunteers who serve a one-year term providing oversight of more than 70 government-run entities to ensure effectiveness and efficiency, said Rande Downer, foreman of the 2018-19 grand jury.
“Serving on the civil grand jury is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences that anyone can perform,” Downer said.
During their term, jurors may visit cities and special district offices, interview various individuals and receive presentations from county, city and special district officials as they investigate issues of concern raised by county citizens.
After receiving a citizen request for investigation, the grand jury will review and assess the request and may assign it to an investigative subcommittee, Downer said.
The subcommittee is then responsible for conducting a thorough examination of the issue and developing a comprehensive final report.
Grand jury reports include findings made during the investigation and recommendations for improving problem areas within the governmental agency in question, Downer said.
The final report is presented to the presiding judge of the Superior Court and the agency that was investigated as well as published for public review, he said.
Agencies that are investigated by the grand jury are required to file a response to the findings and recommendations in the report.
To qualify for a grand jury seat, an individual must be a U.S. citizen who is 18 years of age or older and has lived in the county for at least one year.
Grand jurors must be of sound judgment, have no felony convictions and have a working knowledge of the English language.
Grand jurors can expect to serve about 20 to 30 hours per week and will receive a per diem of $25, along with reimbursement for mileage, Downer said.
The civil grand jury conducts most of its meetings at the County Courthouse complex in Santa Barbara.
However, Downer said the court wants to increase participation by residents from the Santa Maria and Lompoc areas, so the county has acquired video conferencing technology to allow North County jurors to participate without frequently traveling to Santa Barbara.
Anyone interested in volunteering or who would like more information about being a grand juror can contact the Jury Services Office in Santa Maria at 805-614-6464 or in Santa Barbara at 805-882-4530.
Citizens may contact the grand jury by calling a recorded message line at 805-568-2291, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling Downer at 805-264-5272 or writing to the Civil Grand Jury at 1100 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101.