When Douglas County's 17 grand jurors turned their report over to District Court judges Dave Gamble and Michael Gibbons on Thursday, they ended a year of weekly meetings, field trips, and interviews in their examination of government including county offices and the school district.
"They did what we asked them to do: Give us a good report on county government," Gamble said. "It's always amazing to me how willing citizens are to work their tails off for several months. These folks put in a tremendous amount of work."
Grand jurors were selected in July 2007. The county budgeted $100,000 and jurors were paid $40 for each day of service.
According to statute, the grand jury is an autonomous group of citizens empowered by the district court and state to investigate the workings of county government and make recommendations for corrective actions.
Jurors have the power of subpoena, may compel testimony, hear evidence in secret and may indict to initiate criminal prosecution of crimes within the county.
The grand jury indicted Karen Bodden who was convicted by a jury of murdering her husband. They also indicted Robert Michael Hernandez, the stepson of Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira, on a charge of eluding a peace officer with bodily harm. Hernandez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in Nevada State Prison.
Jurors formed three committees to study Douglas County schools, the jail and juvenile detention center and the county's emergency management systems.
They sifted through 17 citizen complaints filed against government entities including the sheriff's office, public administrator, district attorney, Carson Valley Swim Center, two water utilities, and a housing subdivision.
"I was really pleased with the serious attention the jurors gave to citizen complaints," Gamble said. "We didn't have very many and not many resulted in recommendations. I imagine there will be some complaints about that, not everyone will be satisfied. They tried to follow up to the extent that they could. They were very thorough in their investigations."
Gamble said the grand jurors were adamant in their report that attention be paid to the issues, some which were raised in 2000.
"It seemed frustrating to them that people didn't pay serious attention to what the jury said before. I think the county and the various people about whom the recommendations are made would be foolish not to pay attention to what the grand jury said, " Gamble said.
The judge said he felt the community would insist the recommendations be followed.
"Word will get out," he said, "through the Internet and the newspaper and all the normal means of communication. We have a very active community. I suspect people will be held to task."
The panel recommended the county not wait so long for the next jury.
Citing the "opportunities and challenges" facing the county, jurors recommended the next group be impaneled in 2011 "to review changes in the county and implementation of the grand jury's recommendations."
The jury closed its report with a special thanks to Constable Paul Gilbert, also echoed by Gamble.
"Paul really acts as the court assistant," Gamble said. "He is with them meeting in, meeting out, and helps them obtain everything they need. He won't even accept the minimal stipend we offer him. He is just the epitome of a public servant."