Grand jury out of money, takes county to court for more


By Kathryn Reed

El Dorado County’s civil grand jury has spent all of the money allocated to it – $40,442 – and now wants a judge to tell the Board of Supervisors to keep paying any bill that comes in through June 30 – the end of the fiscal year.

The county doesn’t want to give any entity a blank check.

The money issue is now tied up in court. Interpretation of the Penal Code is one of the controversies.

Penal Code Section 890.1 states: The per diem and mileage of grand jurors where allowed by law shall be paid by the treasurer of the county out of the general fund of the county upon warrants drawn by the county auditor upon the written order of the judge of the superior court of the county.

Penal Code Section 914.5 states: The grand jury shall not spend money or incur obligations in excess of the amount budgeted for its investigative activities pursuant to this chapter by the county board of supervisors unless the proposed expenditure is approved in advance by the presiding judge of the superior court after the board of supervisors has been advised of the request.

El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Steve Bailey is expected to make a ruling Feb. 15 based on the testimony that was given in January.

But Bailey in a July 2011 court order outlined how payments should be structured for this grand jury. It’s possible the ruling later this month will change that protocol.

Foreman Ted Long is allowed to sign all paperwork for members to get paid without anyone double checking his numbers or validating the work was done. Long is a former South Lake Tahoe city councilman who ran into controversy regarding finances while he served as president of the Clean Tahoe board. A nearly year-long police investigation that started in 2006 resulted in no criminal charges being filed against anyone. (Clean Tahoe was part of the 2007-08 grand jury report.)

The 19-member grand jury is entitled to $15 per day worked and the IRS mileage rate, which is currently 55.5 cents per mile, according to the Penal Code. But the county also gives it a fixed budget – like any body whose budget it oversees.

With six members residing in the Lake Tahoe Basin, it means more miles driven than most years because weekly meetings are in Placerville, as are other points of business for this oversight body. In previous years there have been one or two Tahoe residents on the grand jury, so mileage was less of an issue.

“The El Dorado civil grand jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law. It is an arm of the court and a representative of the public. Although it is an arm of the court, it operates independently of direct court supervision. It is a check against governmental authority. It is not a branch of the county, nor is it answerable to the district attorney,” the county’s website says in explaining what the grand jury is.

Still, it is the county that pays the grand jury’s bills, it is the District Attorney’s Office representing it in court, and it is Judge Bailey who is overseeing everything.

“The question is what to do when the grand jury thinks it needs more money,” Ed Knapp, county counsel, told Lake Tahoe News. “The board can augment the budget or it can express to the court why it doesn’t want to do it.”

All county department budgets keep being slashed. The grand jury’s was cut in half for this fiscal year.

Knapp said with the county looking at an $8.5 million gap to close by July 1, all entities in the county would keep being pinched.

But Long, who is on his third stint on the grand jury – having served last year and eight years ago, says the grand jury should not sustain across-the -board cuts like other departments because members need the latitude to do their job and shouldn’t have to ask the people they may be investigating to fund the operation.

Last week he sent a settlement proposal to Knapp and others about how to resolve the situation.

He told Lake Tahoe News fixed costs like the copy machine and phone are a known quantity, but sometimes there are outside expenses like eight years ago when an auditor was hired by the grand jury to look at South Lake Tahoe’s Redevelopment Agency. Long would like a reserve of $10,000 set aside each year for those surprise expenses. He’d also like an average of the last few years’ worth of budgets to help determine what should be allocated going forward for mileage.

The meeting room in Placerville is not set up for teleconferencing, but that could change.

Supervisor Norma Santiago said, “This would save the grand jury on their traveling expenses, which is one of the primary causes for the increase in expenses.”

She said other departments could also use the technology.

What’s being investigated?

While the grand jury investigations are somewhat secretive in that the members may not talk about what they are working on, but those being investigated may.

In fact, the Feb. 2 South Tahoe Public Utility District meeting has an agenda item that is for the board to be brought up to speed about what staff has been telling the grand jury.

Water meters are a big part of what the grand jury is asking about, according Dennis Cocking, spokesman for the district.

South Lake Tahoe is also under scrutiny. City Manager Tony O’Rourke said he has been questioned about refinancing the city-owned ice rink and “whether the city should be swallowed by the county.”

While O’Rourke believes in the function of the grand jury, he told Lake Tahoe News he would hope it would investigate corruption and more valid complaints.

Long said this year about one-third of the 12 active investigations are centered in the basin.

The report will come out in late June or early July.








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Comments (25)
  1. Dogula says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Ted Long’s in charge of another check book? Remember what happened when he was in charge of the Clean Tahoe checkbook?
    Funny how the same people keep popping up in positions of power in this county.

  2. Bob says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Teleconference is a good idea if they don’t spend $10,000 to investigate it first. Then give another $10,000 to one of their buddies to install it. Any public citizen aware of how to get the system up and going would probably show the county how to install it for practically nothing.

  3. Steven says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    I think the Grand Jury should investigate the county road dept. Why is the snow plow running today? We received at the most 2″ of snow. This is a total waste of tax dollars and is just a reason to pay the seasonal drivers. I’m sorry we don’t have snow to plow, but we don’t have money to waste either.
    Also, why does a county pick-up truck with 2 people constantly drive around our neighborhoods. I’ve been told this is a manager type person with a “helper”. This is also a total waste of money. Just a reason to pay the helper, I assume the manager is on salary. But we don’t need to waste money on gas for questionable activities. Yesterday these 2 workers spent an hour parked at the end of Washoan Blvd, doing nothing, and it wasn’t lunch.

  4. My2Cents says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    I am glad to hear that the Grand Jury is looking into STPUD’s inequitable water meter policies. A public agency establishing policy that they themselves acknowledge is “unfair” needs serious scrutiny.

  5. the conservation robot says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    I agree with Steven. Lets the roads ice up a bit, people need some excitement, they aren’t getting it on powder runs. What’s the worse than can happen? A few accidents?

  6. ME says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Gee the Grand Jury is investigating the Board of Supervisors, you think they want to give them more money to keep up the investigating.

  7. admin says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    This was sent to Lake Tahoe News by Ted Long: “I read your story on the Grand Jury and if I can be frank I found it it be rather thin and not well doe. I particley noted that after our long discussion on the hateful nature of Tahoe politics that you did exactly that. You. Your comments about the lean Tahoe controversy were just that, instead of pointing on such truths as Long as a city councilmember rewrote the city budget and played a critical role in refinancing the cities debt thereby saving tax payers millions, or long spear headed the Grand Jury 8 years ago to uncover 5 million dollars of lost funds for Tahoe redevelopment and returned the money to the city or long who has served 4 years as LAFO member tow as its chairmen actual has a hands on working ability with not only the cities but county and the little known special district or some other positive thing you chose by innuendo to subject that I some how mismanaged or was guilty of some issue with Clean Tahoe when fact none was found and the only issue that the DA followed was Stockton had signed some checks with my name. Perhaps you did not know but you are a part of that “hateful” body that we talked about, what was your point any way?
    I ask for no favors only the truth, my commitment to this city and county is for improvement and to make it a better place, funny 49 other cities so fit to elect me as president of the Sac. League of Calif cities and LAFCO but me on the State board.”

  8. SmedleyButler says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Ted’s only one of the notorius “Snake Oil Salesman” cronies that slither around Tahoe South politics. He’s a relative newcomer to how it works. Trying to bully the Lake Tahoe News people and their long-time local readers, however, was a bad move. It may be time for Ted to move on.

  9. Parker says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Well Lake Tahoe News, your spelling and grammar is definitely superior than Ted Long’s! So is the Grand Jury researching what happened to the document that would prove Ted Long actually transferred title of The Alder Inn to the embezzler Joseph Balius?

    Wow, someone actually appointed Ted Long to run a Grand Jury? Now that’s something that needs to be investigated!

  10. dogwoman says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    We got your back, Kae. Mr. Long has used the threat of a lawsuit against each newspaper in town, and against pretty much everyone who questions him and his bullying ways.
    I agree with Parker. It’s time for him to move on.

  11. Centurion says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    The Civil Grand Jury is another waste of tax payer money. They only investigate civil matters regarding organizations within the County. Any matters of substance are investigated by agencies with “police powers’. Most States have done away with them, they are useless. In this case Mr. Long is correct. The article is about funding for the grand jury, why the underhanded comment about the Clean Tahoe Program? It had nothing to do with the story.

  12. info says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    If there is no oversight, how do the taxpayers know their money is used for investigations and not pocketed? Long’s questionable history with public finances is absolutely relevant when he wants more money. If everything is on the up and up, then what is he all rattled about? People in leadership positions have a right to have their character questioned.

  13. Careaboutthecommunity says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    I am shocked to hear that Ted Long is involved in anything , but the LAFO. This is news in my book. I would rather someone else be sitting on the Grand Jury, how did this happen?

  14. Red Dog says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Mr. Long or long as he refers to himself hide behind titles in the hopes people have short or fuzzy memories and use their titles to abuse their perceived power or influence. A Civil Grand Jury like this one does nothing more than say they think there might be a problem with this or that but unfortunately we couldn’t get more information and we think someone with real authority or power should look into this further. THAT is an absolute waste of my money.

    It is undisputed that Long transferred title from Alder Inn, involved in Clean Tahoe financial boondoggle as he so confirms in his note above, but brushes it off as some slight administrative irregularity, he’s been involved with a multitude of issues but is now appointed to investigate the proper conduct of others? The epitome of kettle calling out the pot isn’t it? But give a little perceived power to the powerless and you’ll see them run wild with it, while those with actual authority take no action proving the powerless to be as they are.

    Time to shutter the Civil Grand Jury and cut their budget to zero.

  15. Honkylonk says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Thank you for publishing the handsomely crafted missive by the vaunted attorney, Ted Long, absolutely verbatim. It’s always entertaining to witness Ted’s verbal wizardry.

    Ted has the somewhat miraculous ability to become the skunk at any picnic he may come across. We ought to beware of providing any more public funds to the likes of Ted Long.

  16. Steven says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Isn’t long short on ……..? Who does he have pictures of to stay in government? And I thought his whole goal in the SLT council was to have some tennis courts built, indoors, so his daughter would have some place to practice.

  17. Alex Campbell says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Going back to the 92/93 GJ report filed against the Public Health Director. The Director two nurses and an ER doctor at Barton worked together to cancel Lake Tahoe Ambulance contract.The result was the taxpayers and or the county insurance company paid Lake Tahoe Ambulance a hefty settlement, Possibly Barton was included. Within 6 months the director was hired by The State.
    The 94/95 GJ report was such a disaster that Upton and company refused to print it. Next we had the Hal Barker and non Superior Court Judge Thomas Smith being appointed Presiding Judge over the Superior Court Judges.On Nov.25 1996 Judge Smith was found Guilty of Judicial Abuse and was publicly admonished by the Commission on Judicial Performance. It is possible that the Superior Court Judges refused to go along with Barker as Foreman.The Eldorado County GJ is feard and hated. If the pols would stop playing games there would be no reason for a GJ. Who appointed Long to the GJs

  18. Ted Long says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    I am not going any where, fun how all these folks with opinions never talked to me. I suggest you meet some of the folks my free legal clinic has helped or the fact that the ability of people to say any thing on blogs like this is exactly why we have a bunch of fools running for pubic office, watch the so called debates, its one thing to seek the truth its another to thinly disguise your ignorance. I am available at any time to discuss any issue with any one, let’s see how many takers we get. Good luck.

  19. lou pierini says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    Ted, I’ll debate you on any issue that this blog has brought up. As for your free legal clinic, do you have a valid state bar #? to give legal advice even if it’s free.

  20. Parker says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    You know what could really help people’s understanding of you Mr. Long is if you mailed out your autobiography to all registered voters! Oh that’s right. You did that and it got you a whopping 20% of the vote (to Ms. Santiago’s 80%)!

  21. Steve says - Posted: February 3, 2012

    Perhaps Mr. Long could explain the nature of the “pubic office” and the so-called fools running for it, as stated in his comment above. Is this a bold, daring, undiscovered new approach to politics or a local phenomenon?

  22. Ted Long says - Posted: February 3, 2012

    Boy isn’t this fun, in the old days the cowards and the like hide under hoods know they just need to create a blog name and can say what ever they want. Its one thing to disagree its another to make stuff up, for example yes,,my daughter played tennis, but we also have access to the bubble at the Ridge so she did not need a place indooors ,as a tourist economy the one thing we don’t have that most other snow resorts do have is enclosed tennis courts. Actual market surveys till us that there is a large percentage of ski families that select a resort so they can have tennis available. Seems to me its worth considering. But instead of a debate on the merits, the new Klu Klux clan simple tries to make me look bad. Have you noticed this town is dying? The first to suffer is a middle class, and by the way Lou my Bar no. is 42952, your girl friend saw name in court just the other day I am sure she mentioned it to you, guess you forgot. You see that not how its suppose to work, its easy to check my status with the bar and Lou knows that he lives with a lawyer, but instead he makes a silly statement to imply that I am not licensed the readers then are left with that impression and I get to look bad when all I am trying to do is my thing. Lets find out, Lou lets debate something how about the fact you charge people in need 120% interest at your pawn shop? Call me and let’s set it up, I will report back on the progress.
    My offer to actually talk to any one with a question remanin opoen.

  23. lou pierini says - Posted: February 3, 2012

    Ted. The flag is still flying so open up and lets compete. Just because you were in court doesn’t mean you have an active license. She is my wife buy the way. As usual a lot of style but no substance, some things never change.

  24. Parker says - Posted: February 3, 2012

    Yes, it does take courage Mr. Long to take deposits at The Alder Inn and then when you closed up shop, not refund the money! I know you conveniently ‘sold’ the business to someone who fled to Vegas. And it also takes courage to claim that after you were recalled in a Bay Area election to fabricate the fact you were late reelected. Wasn’t that in your exciting autobiography? And FYI, Mr Pierini is a succesful businessman. Unlike you with The Alder Inn!

  25. Dogula says - Posted: February 3, 2012

    I love Mr. Pierini’s shop. It’s the only place I’ll let my husband buy my jewelry.