Grand jury releases first report in seven years

MINDEN - Douglas County's grand jury released its report Friday, almost a year after convening and seven years since the last jury met.

Douglas County District Court Judge David Gamble said the 128-page report was finalized Thursday, with some minor changes.

The 17-member jury and several alternates produced a detailed and thorough report, Gamble said Friday.

"It's a fundamentally good report. One of the best I've seen. They didn't pull any punches. They called it as they saw it and asked to make corrections," Gamble said.

Douglas County department heads have been contacted and made aware of changes suggested in the report, Gamble said.

"Many are already in the process of making changes," he said.

Divided into three sections, the report includes an examination of citizen complaints, criminal complaints, including drug indictments and an audit of major divisions of county departments.

Several county departments were commended including the East Fork Swimming Pool District, Minden-Tahoe Airport and the Douglas County Clerk-Treasurer's office, but several recommendations for improvement were made.

Those include establishing an ombudsman and a formal complaint process, both for county employees and the public.

The jury said the county's risk management was the "most disappointing area in county government," and found no department has a program in place to deal with risk issues.

The grand jury also recommended the county manager and the emergency management division plan, prepare and coordinate a full-scale training exercise involving all county agencies that have emergency responsibilities in disasters.

More volunteers should be used by the county, according to the report.

Also, department heads throughout the county should have more training to prevent sexual harassments and hostile work places.

"While a number of problems were identified, the jury is confident that the proper measures are being taken to correct them," the report states. "The community is well-served by its county government."

Grand jury members met once a week its first few months and then convened several times toward the end, sometimes three and four times a week, Gamble said.

Jury members were given a $15 stipend, which increased to $30 toward the end of the session. Costs associated with the grand jury remained within budget, Gamble added.

It has been seven years since the county convened its last grand jury, Gamble said. While there were no specific instances that called for a grand jury, Gamble and District Court Judge Michael Gibbons thought it necessary to have an overall audit of major Douglas County departments.

Gamble said the reaction from county officials so far has been on target.

"We've had good cooperation from the county departments and it is reflected in the report," he said.

As far as the jurors, Gamble said he could not ask for a finer group.

"The service they give is a tremendous sacrifice. A major undertaking. Much commitment was required," he said. "They really pulled together as a group and they're owed a great amount of gratitude."

Jury members included Susan Anderson, William L. Arnold, Nancy K. Cauley, Betty L. Cleary, Carole Freeman, Diane Gross, Janet Hawkins, Gerald Hoover, Louise Johnson, Susan Joseph-Taylor, Jeffrey Knowles, John McCall, James M. Peak, Philip M. Rhodes, Timothy J. Slater, Carolyn R. Treanor and Patricia Welze.


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