Past grand juries brought indictments

Douglas County's last two grand juries found many areas to improve in county offices.

One panel met from December 1988 through February 1990, while another sat from July 1993 to June 1994.

The 1990 report said the county's management wasn't keeping pace with its growth and recommended a more businesslike approach to running the county.

The jury didn't find any large-scale fraud or criminal activity, though one of the reasons the jury was convened was to study ways to prevent an embezzlement scam involving a former parks administrator.

That investigation yielded two criminal indictments from a scam that, according to the jury report, had been going for several years.

The 1993-94 grand jury reviewed the 1990 panel's recommendations to see if they were implemented. The group returned one criminal indictment stemming from a murder.

The grand jury also checked into 27 written complaints. Several involved county offices, such as the public works department, which was the topic of nearly half the complaints. Other subjects the jury tackled included the master plan process and trash disposal.

District Judge Dave Gamble said he expects the 2000 grand jury to have a general focus on county government. He and District Judge Michael Gibbons have asked for the jury to be convened.

Grand jury members will be pulled from Douglas County's regular jury pool. Fifty people at a time will be chosen to answer questionnaires. Once 36 willing prospective jurors are found, 17 will be picked for the jury and 12 will be chosen as alternates.

From then, the jury begins calling the shots.

East Fork Constable Paul Gilbert served as a facilitator for the 1990 and 93-94 grand juries. His duties included arranging tours and access to the places the jurors wanted to see and acting as an impartial manager for the group.

Gilbert noted the juries can decide whether they even want his help.

If they do, "I'm here when they're here," he said. "But anything that transpires in the grand jury has to be confidential."

Gilbert said the 1990 and 93-94 juries met once a week, usually in the evening, and established subcommittees to look at different issues. The jury can meet as often as it wants, and can also decide whether to release the identities of its members or keep them confidential until its work is done.

"The jury pretty much runs itself," Gilbert said. "It's a different animal if you're used to courts. Here the jurors are in the driver's seat."

The jurors can hire outside attorneys, investigators and accountants to assist in their studies. The jury can also subpoena people and directly question them. Everyone is sworn to secrecy.

The jury can issue interim reports that can be released with approval of the district judges. The jury can also issue majority and minority opinions on its findings if the members disagree, similar to a supreme court ruling, Gilbert said.

When the jury's work is done, it will issue a final report detailing its investigation and any recommendations.


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