Douglas County grand jury gets underway

MINDEN - Douglas County's 2000 grand jury has started working.

District Judge Dave Gamble said the panel, which includes 17 jurors and 12 alternates, was sworn in last week and given its charter of investigating county government. The jury is expected to meet over the next year to review county operations and investigate complaints that are submitted by residents.

Gamble and District Judge Michael Gibbons recommended convening a grand jury this year as a routine review of county government, not in response to any suspected wrondoing. The last grand jury met in 1993 and 1994.

The jurors can decide if they want their names released, a decision that is expected in coming weeks. Gamble, who interviewed the prospective members along with Gibbons, said he was pleased with the responses he got.

"There wasn't a lot of 'we'll straighten this county out.' They wanted to see if they could help. I think that was a really healthy attitude," he said.

Gamble said the panel reflects all segments of Douglas County.

"I was really pleased with the people we got," he said. "It's a wonderful cross section from the Lake and the Valley, all kinds of occupations and backgrounds."

Residents who want a grand jury inquiry can request one by filling out forms available from Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Reed. The requests must be signed and notarized, and they will be reviewed by the judges to ensure the subjects fall within the grand jury's purview. The jury can then decide whether to investigate.

Gamble said a handful of complaints have already been submitted, which he said is average considering plans for the grand jury have been circulating since April. The grand jury selection process started in June, and the county included $100,000 in the current budget to pay for it.

The jury's deliberations will remain secret while it is meeting, but a report of its findings will be published. East Fork Constable Paul Gilbert will act as a liaison for the panel. Though the district judges have supervisory power over the jury, Gamble said the group is expected to stay autonomous, and the judges won't get involved unless they're asked.

The jury selection process involved polling more than 200 residents to find out if they had the time and interest to serve on the panel. The judges met with the prospective jurors to explain the process, answer questions and interview them, then make the final selections.


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