New Madera County Grand Jury impaneled

John Rigby, 59, a life-long resident of Madera, will serve as foreperson of the recently impaneled 2015-2016 Madera County Grand Jury.

The jury is made up of 19 citizens of Madera County, and 10 members, including Rigby, and the 2014-2015 foreperson Leanne Thomson, of Madera, are carry-overs from last year’s jury.

The other eight carry-overs are Linda McConnell, Stephen Mitchell, and Ben Savage of Coarsegold, Darlene Bennett of Chowchilla, Stephen Wade of Oakhurst, and Madera residents Karen East, Gilbert Gonzales, and Armida Martin.

The nine new members on the jury include Oakhurst residents Edward Estes, and Hale Farley, Coarsegold residents Nancy Lyday, Paula Glick, and Patricia Kjose, and four Madera residents - Janice Gomes, Ron Dominici, Jeananne Peirsol, and Robert Shonkwiler.

Rigby has been substitute teaching in the Madera Unified School District for five years after a 25-year career selling architectural and industrial coatings.

Rigby said last year’s jury worked well together and he expects this year’s jury will make another good team.

“We are looking forward to any issues that may arise that the jury will ecclesiastically investigate,” Rigby said.

California’s Constitution requires the annual appointment of a grand jury - a group of citizens with the purpose of investigating public complaints and county government, and making recommendations on how to save county taxpayers money.

Written complaints submitted to the grand jury are brought before the jury for review, to determine if an investigation is warranted. All grand jury business is conducted in secret, and all information and discussions are considered highly confidential. The secrecy is required to protect the innocent accused, encourage disclosures by citizens with with information relevant to an investigation, and to ensure the utmost freedom to jury members in the deliberation process.

Madera County Superior Court Judge Dale J. Blea is the presiding judge of the jury and officially impaneled the jury June 26.

2014-2015 final report

The term for the 2014-2015 Madera County grand jury ended June 30, and the five reports produced by the jury have been accumulated and printed as required by law. The “Final Report” was inserted in the July 9 issue of the Sierra Star.

The five reports produced were on the Madera Cemetery District, Madera County Veterans Service Office, Madera County Planning Division, Chowchilla Police Department, and the Madera County Department of Corrections.

Some investigations and reports were initiated by citizen complaints. Those include the allegations of the complainant as well as the facts discovered through interviewing witnesses, reviewing public documents and records, and by attending Madera County Board of Supervisor meetings, Madera City Counsel meetings and a variety of public meetings within the county.

Subject departments or agencies are required to respond to the reports by either agreeing or disagreeing with the facts and by addressing how or if they intend to comply with the recommendations in each report. All responses received before the publication cutoff date at the end of May are included in the final report, and placed on the grand jury web site. Responses received after the publication cutoff date are placed on the web site and included in the following year’s grand jury final report.

Members of the 2014-2015 jury included Karen East, Bill Benedix, Linda McConnell, Carolyn Kelly, Heather Kepler, Robert Owen, Steven Wade, John Rigby, Barry Crow, Armida Martin, Darlene Bennett, Mary Jo Stott, Bob Musick, Stephen Mitchell, Gilbert Gonzales, and Ben Savage. Jury foreperson was Leanne Thomson.

The reports are available to the public via the web site as they are completed throughout the year. Interested parties can access the web site by searching Google for “Madera County Grand Jury,” or by going to

Details: Madera County Grand Jury, (559) 662-7730.