Civil grand juries have been instrumental in rooting out waste and investigating city leaders suspected of breaching the public trust. Unlike criminal juries, civil grand juries do not deliberate the outcome of criminal defendants or convene for judicial trials.
Recent grand juries in Alameda County have conducted investigations into possible misconduct of public officials and the operation of government agencies within Alameda County. For example,
- In 2016, a civil grand jury investigated Fremont’s email retention policy, which prompted the City of Fremont to preserve emails for a two-year period instead of purging emails after one month periods.
- Also in 2016, the civil grand jury investigated complaints regarding the City of Oakland’s contracting process for awarding garbage collection contracts. The grand jury found that the city’s contracting process lacked transparency and that “franchise fees paid by the ratepayers were disproportionately higher than franchise fees paid to other Bay Area municipalities and special districts.”
- In 2014, the civil grand jury noted mismanagement of fire inspections in Oakland and recommended that the City of Oakland record liens against properties that fail to pay fire inspection fines.
California State Law requires that every county impanel a civil grand jury comprised of 19 residents to serve for one-year periods. Civil grand juries are responsible for examining county departments and public officials to determine whether improvements are needed. The range of issues reviewed by grand juries include health care, education, pensions, and special districts. Civil grand juries also routinely inspect county jails and review issues pertaining to school districts.
Each year the grand jury reviews complaints from county residents to determine what to investigate. All complaints are maintained in confidence.
To serve on the Alameda County grand jury you must:
- Reside in Alameda County for at least one year on July 1st;
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Be able to commit 8 -10 hours per week, and occasionally more time if needed;
- Have an ability to work well with others.
- Commit to keeping all grand jury deliberations secret.
The next grand jury term begins on July 1, 2018. In Alameda County, the deadline for applying for the 2019-2020 term is April 15, 2019. There is a particular need for applicants from Fremont, Hayward, Dublin, Livermore, Union City and Newark.
In addition to serving on the grand jury, you can fulfill your civic duty by submitting a complaint. All complaints are kept confidential. For further information, Alameda County residents may contact Cassie Barner (510) 208-9855 or visit www.acgov.org/grandjury/juror.htm .