Grand Jury releases sunny 2001 report

Other than to criticize the Board of Supervisors for spending upward of $100,000 in a failed attempt to force redistricting Plan 5 onto Butte County voters last summer and chastise the Sheriff’s Office for a “stone age"-era Evidence Facility and women’s county jail wing, the Butte County Grand Jury’s 2001 report is almost entirely upbeat.

And even while chiding the board (or rather, its three-member majority), the Jury’s report was pretty toothless. It recommended that board members be held “accountable” when they vote to ignore the advice of the county counsel, as happened in the widely publicized battle over redistricting.

Supervisors Kim Yamaguchi, Bob Beeler and Curt Josiassen voted to move ahead with Plan 5 last August, even after County Counsel Bruce Alpert advised them against it. The resulting litigation ended in December, when a Superior Court judge ruled against them, but court fees topped $100,000.

The Grand Jury also recommended that the board adopt a formal code of ethics and included a sample code in its report. The report was released June 28.

After a tour of the Butte County Jail, the Grand Jury called the Sheriff’s Evidence Facility, which is housed in the jail, a “disaster waiting to happen.” The jury found “evidentiary items stacked floor to ceiling and in the aisles, with everything imaginable.”

The jury also found “serious inequities” in the men’s and women’s sides of the Butte County Jail. The men’s side, the jury noted, has “large, bright common areas,” while the women’s side is “taken up with cot-type beds and eating tables. … It is run down and shabby, generating a completely demeaning atmosphere.”

The jury recommended that the Board of Supervisors make an unannounced visit to the jail and Evidence Facility and “come up with a plan to correct this inequity.”

Other than that, the jury’s annual report is pretty sunny. It found that neighbor complaints about the Rock Creek Flood Control Project are unfounded and commended Supervisor Mary Anne Houx for her spearheading of the massive project. It complimented Paradise officials for working to revitalize a downtown shopping area and a successful “Reverse 911” emergency notification system. And it found little to complain about the county’s accounting procedures and the way in which public defenders are selected and paid.

The Grand Jury, which is made up of 19 private citizens, has the power to point out problems with local government but little power to change the rules.