With all the drama surrounding our government these days more and more people are hearing about Washington’s “grand jury.” Politics aside, Fresno County has its own that serves as a critical element in the oversight of local tax dollars and governmental agencies.
“Just a bunch of old people with nothing else to do?” That’s the usual description for Grand Jury members – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Service in this capacity is an eye-opening experience and is not just for retired people. Have you ever become aware of a situation involving a local public agency that made you wonder who, if anyone, was at home?
Or how about an elected official who has been using his or her public position for very personal purposes? Better yet, how about the “Special Assessment District” that is funneling tax dollars into a certain family’s coffers?
These are but a few of the potential areas of investigation that could be undertaken by our Fresno County civil grand jury.
Why volunteer? Are you interested in a future in a civic organization or getting involved in politics? This experience on your résumé could set you apart from those who may have yet to demonstrate their ability and conviction to serve in a public capacity.
I spent almost 40 years in a local law-enforcement agency and found that there was no greater satisfaction than ending my career knowing that I had served my community honorably.
I was looking for another avenue to continue “giving back” when a friend suggested that I consider volunteering as a grand jury member.
I am a passionate traveler and scuba diver, so I thought the time demands would restrict my constant visits to dive in all parts of the world.
That, however, has failed to materialize since your personal activities can still be enjoyed without having to miss a beat of your Grand Jury responsibilities because of email and the internet. The head shot of me with this article was taken in Belize in November of 2017.
As I wrote this article, I must admit I wanted to slant it toward a college-type student who would want the opportunity to accelerate their world view. The phrase “with age comes wisdom” isn’t always correct because I have seen many young adults who were far wiser than their years.
I also thought about the plethora of stay-at-home parents, and the 35ish up-and-coming professionals in our city. Both could not only learn about the inner workings of their government but could make valuable connections with the many civic leaders we routinely interact with.
And how about those 47-ers (and holding) who could use their expertise from running a business while conducting an investigation of a local government operation?
If you know people who fit the bill, maybe you could give them copies of this article and encourage them to explore this exciting opportunity.
The grand jury is a civil grand jury – the members don’t do criminal indictments or investigate crimes. They focus on public agencies like the Police Department, Sheriff’s Office or any public agency like Public Works, Fresno Area Transit, public schools and special districts within our jurisdiction.
They can’t investigate pending legal matters like a divorce, child custody or probate matters. The list is long and our view is wide so we accept all complaints. But we do not investigate all that we receive. We usually meet once weekly with time off for the holidays or personal activities.
I like to say that the grand jury serves as a watchdog over (your) taxpayer dollars also. We get complaints from those inside agencies who want to have wasteful practices stopped.
If you are a resident of Fresno County for at least one year; 18 years or older and a U.S. citizen you can apply by going online (www.fresno.courts.ca.gov/jury/grand_jury) and printing out an application.
Al Maroney is the foreperson of the 2017-18 Fresno County Civil Grand Jury and a retired Fresno Police Department Captain. He can be contacted at al@Fresnocograndjury.com.