New Madera County Grand Jury sworn in by Judge Dale J. Blea

Madera County citizens have been selected for the 2017-18 Grand Jury to serve as the governmental watchdog for residents of the county.

The new 19-member jury was sworn in June 30 by Madera County Superior Court Judge Dale J. Blea.

California’s Constitution requires the annual appointment of a grand jury - a group of citizens with the purpose of investigating public complaints about county government, and making recommendations on how to improve the operations of a wide variety of county departments.

The Mountain Area is represented on the jury with three residents from North Fork, two from Oakhurst and one from Coarsegold. The City of Madera is represented with 13 on the jury. Eight members of the jury were held over from last year, and 11 are new this year.

Jeannie Turpenen, of Madera, will serve as foreperson of the new jury during 2017-18. She was a member of the grand jury for three years prior to this year.

“We’ll take a few weeks to get organized before we start our work,” Turpenen said. “We have an orientation on July 10 given by the Madera County Grand Jury Association, and a more formal training session on July 25 and 26 presented by the California Grand Jury Association. I look forward to taking on the new responsibilities as serving as the jury foreperson.”

The complete list of members of the 2017-18 grand jury are:

Robyn Gracey (holdover) - Madera

Barton Kullberg (holdover) - Madera

Bob Owen (holdover) - North Fork

Shari Stoops (holdover) - North Fork

David Swain (holdover) - Madera

Bruce Welser (holdover) - Oakhurst

Rodney Hatzman - Madera

Anthony Tucker - Coarsegold

Steven Kohout - Madera

Tracy Herzog - Madera

Christine Wall - Madera

Karen East -Madera

David Haberstich - North Fork

Sharon Rippetoe - Madera

James Lee - Oakhurst

Howard Smith - Madera

Cynthia Ibrahim - Madera

Linda Hatfield - Madera

Seven reports by 2016-17 grand jury

The term for the 2016-17 Madera County Grand Jury ended June 30, and the seven reports produced by the jury have been accumulated and printed as required by law.

The seven investigative reports produced were on use of the Cal-Card program, Maintenance District 6 (Lakeshore subdivision in Bass Lake water district), the county Juvenile Detention Facility, Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), Department of Corrections (Madera County Jail), Valley State Prison, and the county Public Guardian/Conservator department.

Members of the 2016-17 jury were Bob Owen, Janice Gomes, Pat Kjose, Robyn Gracey, Ralph Capone, Jeannie Turpenen, Shari Stoops, Darlene Bennett, Edna Norman, Steven Wade, Foreperson Jan Peirsol, Vernon Tallmon, David Lopez, Bart Kullberg, Armida Martin, Bruce Welser, David Swain.

Some investigations and reports of the grand jury are initiated by citizen complaints. Those include 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 Council meetings and a variety of public meetings within the county.

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.

Required by State Constitution

The grand jury system has been in existence in California since 1879, when the State Constitution was adopted. Every county in California has at least one grand jury, and in some cases, the larger counties have more than one - a grand jury that deals with civil issues, and another for criminal issues.

In criminal cases, the grand jury is presented with evidence of a crime and decides if there is enough evidence to permit a case to be brought against a defendant.

Some of the grand jury investigations are triggered by public concerns. These may be brought to the grand jury through letters, phone calls, and personal contact with members of the grand jury. The concerns of these issues are then brought before the jury in order to determine if an investigation should be carried out.

A complaint form can be found online.

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 information relevant to an investigation, and to ensure the utmost freedom to jury members in the deliberation process.

Current and past grand jury reports can be seen at www.madera-county.com, clicking on departments, then clicking on grand jury.

Details: Bonnie Thomas, Madera County Superior Court Executive Officer/Jury Commissioner, (559) 416-5570. P.O. Box 534, Madera, Ca. 93639.