The board on Sept. 1 extended the term of service through the end of the calendar year, since the civil panel’s work came to a grinding halt in March, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Due to COVID, the grand jury had a difficult time completing their investigations within the time frame they would normally be allotted,” said Jennifer Sutton, of the County Counsel’s Office.
The 19-member grand jury, which is charged with ensuring honest, efficient government in the best interest of the citizens of Colusa County, was impaneled at the beginning of the last fiscal year, July 1, 2019, to examine various aspects of local government agencies and investigate citizen complaints.
The grand jury should have released its report of their investigations by June 30, but was not able to complete its work due to the pandemic.
Sutton said COVID-19 also made it impossible for the court to subpoena new members for the 2020-2021 grand jury to start new investigations, due to social distancing and stay-at-home/safer-at-home recommendations.
While Colusa County Superior Court has the jurisdiction to extend the time frame for the grand jury to work, the court cannot change the term the grand jurors are seated from a fiscal year to a calendar year.
But the Presiding Judge and County Counsel thought it would be best if the Board of Supervisors extended this year’s term through Dec. 30, at which time they will seat a new grand jury that would also have an extended term.
The two 18-month grand jury service terms would then allow for the grand jury to return to its normal 12-month schedule on July 1, 2022, officials said.
“In order to wrap this all up with a bow and not have this before the board again for a couple of years, the idea is that this grand jury term would be extended through the end of the year,” Sutton said. “Then we would switch to a calendar year term, which would then be extended six additional months to get the county grand jury back to a fiscal year term, and still meet the requirements to have a grand jury.”
Sutton said most counties have had to make some kind of adjustment due to complications from the pandemic.
“If we don’t do it this way, we will end up with one term that is six months long, which would not be sufficient to get anything done,” she said. ♣