Outgoing grand jury releases five reports
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — On Friday, June 23, San Luis Obispo (SLO) County welcomed a new grand jury. Fifteen new jurors and four returning members were sworn in on Friday to the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.
The grand jury’s main function is to scrutinize local government, ensuring honesty, efficiency, and proper use of county funds. Composed of citizens, it investigates public offenses and addresses civil concerns within the county, as mandated by Penal Code Section (PC) § 888. A new grand jury is introduced every year in SLO County and composed on 19 citizens. Its term runs with the county’s fiscal year, July 1 to June 30, 2024. All members on the jury must be a citizen of SLO County for at least one year.
The grand jury system traces its roots back to Norman England, where sworn neighbors presented crimes to the court. The Fifth Amendment (1791) mandated grand juries for serious crimes. California’s grand juries investigated prisons, audited county books, and pursued community interests. SLO County impanels a civil grand jury annually to oversee local government.
The District Attorney’s Office typically guides the grand jury during this process. The civil function involves investigating local government agencies and officials to assess their conduct. Grand juries can issue reports with findings and recommendations, which must be addressed by the agencies or officials involved. The grand jury has discretion in deciding what to investigate and can request the district attorney to pursue criminal charges if needed.
The outgoing members were recognized for their service, and their five reports investigating during their year are available for review by the public. The five reports included investigations on the Paso Robles groundwater basin, criminal activity, and safety concerns at the Oklahoma Avenue safe parking site, investigating election accuracy, mental health services at high schools, and inspections of county detention facilities and select public safety facilities.
The Paso Robles groundwater basin report titled “Can One Wet Year Wash Away the Paso Robles Basin’s Water Worries?” takes a deep dive into the history of the basin and the record-breaking rain season in SLO County.
While the snow and rainfall have replenished reservoirs in SLO County and improved the basin’s water levels, the jury says long-term precipitation trends suggest continued dry years. Therefore, the county still has to address over-pumping and depletion of the basin. This coincides with the Sustainable Groundwater Management (GSP) Act. While the GSP aims for water sustainability by 2040, ongoing well failures need to be acknowledged.
All five reports can be viewed in full here drive.google.com/drive/folders/1wRDwZBxzEXm7CdbJVCd8AtTgwwfAnN9R
The scope of the grand jury’s authority extends to the investigation of various city and county agencies, including the California Men’s Colony. Numerous reports issued by the grand jury are prompted by complaints received from members of the community.
These oversight bodies, consisting of dedicated volunteers, are present in all 58 counties across California. The incoming grand jury will carefully review the reports produced by its predecessor, aiming to identify and address any unresolved matters that may still require attention.
Learn more about the SLO County Grand Jury at slo.courts.ca.gov/general-information/jury-service/grand-jury