El Dorado County Grand Jury disbanded


By Kathryn Reed

El Dorado County no longer has a grand jury.

Steve Bailey, the Superior Court judge who oversees the volunteer board, signed a court order Feb. 22 dissolving this year’s jury. The document says the reason is because the grand jury numbers dropped below the minimum of 12 and “that due to the lateness of the year, alternate jurors cannot be sworn in and trained and thereafter conduct meaningful investigations before the statutory discharge of the jury in June 2013 ….”

grand juryBailey is out of town this week at a conference and could not be reached.

He oversees the grand jury that looks into county matters, even though he is married into a politically charged family with deep roots on the West Slope.

There had been 19 active grand jury members, with 14 of them resigning this year.

Sources close to the situation told Lake Tahoe News one member of the grand jury was regularly meeting with former El Dorado County Supervisor Jack Sweeney to tell him what the grand jury was doing. This violates state Penal Code.

That individual essentially became a poison pill within the group, creating distrust and disharmony, and prevented others from doing the job they were tasked with.

Sweeney is good friends with Supervisor Ron Briggs. On Dec. 18, 2012, John Briggs, father of the supervisor, was before the Board of Supervisors representing the Briggs Family Trust. On a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Briggs recusing himself, the others agreed to purchase 5.2 acres from the trust on which a future courthouse is likely to be built.

Judge Bailey is the brother-in-law of the supervisor and son-in-law to the elder Briggs. And it is Bailey who watches over the grand jury, which looks into county matters, of which his in-laws are intricately involved in.

Judges receive regular training on ethics and are charged with determining whether a matter they are assigned creates an impermissible conflict of interest per the Code of Civil Procedure.

Ray Van Asten, who was foreman of the 2012-13 grand jury, told Lake Tahoe News he is one of the jurors who quit. But he would neither say why, nor talk about what led to others quitting.

“We are unable to say what happens inside the jury room,” Van Asten said.

It is not known what the grand jury was investigating.

“What they are looking at or not is not something I could talk about if I knew,” Suzanne Kingsbury, presiding judge of the El Dorado County Superior Court, told Lake Tahoe News.

She said in the 28 years she has lived in the county (she has been on the bench 17 of those years) she does not know of a time when a grand jury was discharged midterm.

“The purpose of the civil grand jury is to act as a public watchdog and examine the operations of cities, counties and special districts. I think that the role of the grand jury in our state is a critical one,” Kingsbury said.

Even so, there will be no grand jury report in June. It is possible that whatever this term’s jury was investigating could be taken up by the next grand jury that is seated.




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Comments (27)
  1. max planck says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    Hopefully our District Attorney, Vern Pierson, will look into what appears to be obvious in your face corruption. A scared trust has been broken and needs to be repaired. Or maybe this will be politics as usual. How sad the public watchdog has tainted itself.

  2. Steve says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    A grand jury is required by law in all California counties. This smells very poorly.

  3. copper says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    This is El Dorado County which so many hereabouts think should take over management of the “corrupt” City of South Lake Tahoe. There’s a big difference between corruption and simple ineptitude.

  4. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    The Baily/Briggs connection sounds nepotistic and reproachful. From this reporting it appears like the watchdog Grand Jury appointees don’t want to be associated with something possibly tainted although it was not disclosed when during this year those 14-members resigned. There’s a big difference between losing one or two a month over eight months and having 14-resign all at once or in a very short time period. Good for former Grand Jury Foreman Van Asten for maintaining the integrity of an appointee and not publically disclosing privileged and confidential information.

  5. S. Cofant says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    El Dorado County has been a Teapublican cesspool of corruption for generations. A quick research of the Briggs family of greedy wingnuts tells an ongoing story of sleaze, bigotry and good old GOP family values. They also have plenty of support in the foothills which are infested with knuckledragger gun nuts, tax evaders and hate radio lovers. That’s how we end up with “representatives” like the Gaines’ and McClintock.

  6. AROD says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    S. Covant you are right on the money. Have you ever tried talking with Rep Tom McClintock? Complete Tea Party idiot towing the Rebuplican line.

  7. John says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    There’s a big difference between corruption and simple ineptitude.


  8. Stan Paolini says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    for the looks of the comments meet the term: I WOULD RATHER BE RED THAN DEAD!

  9. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    Grand Jury disbanded? Nepotisim on the west slope?
    I wonder what the grand jury was looking into that got the judge to get rid of the lot of them ?Either by fireing them or pressuring them to quit. Now the Judge is unavailabe for comment?
    Strange days indeed. Old Long Skiis

  10. Bijou Bill says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    There would be very, very few people that would know more about the generational ways of crony deal-making in El Dorado Co. than you Stan Paolini. Why do you think the Grand Jury disbanded?

  11. "HangUpsFromWayBack" says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    In deed Honesty and fairness is something that’s been dying for some time,we all see it, smell it, feel it, but can’t change a thing.

    Morals are in the dumpsters and good people are left to wonder like helpless victims of society.

    People with money can get away with anything NOW DAYS!

  12. EDC says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    The 2011-2012 Grand Jury looked into a fire protection district in regards to Measure F. The people that wrote measure F are the same people that worked on Judge Bailey’s Campaign. Judge Bailey then hand selected who he wanted to sit on the 2012-2013 Grand Jury with the help of their foreman, Ray Van Asten, so that the new Grand Jury wouldn’t make issues worse for the judge. Nothing can be done about any of these issues because everyone in El Dorado County is in bed with each other. They all have dirt on each other so nobody is willing to stick their neck out and do what is right. Politics is a nasty game!

  13. Informed says - Posted: March 1, 2013

    EDC have you personally looked at the Judges filings for his campaign? If you had then you would know that niether of the two crooks you are referring to had anything to do with his campaign. The dynamic duo simply used his name to add credibility to thier resume. The Judge recused himself immediatly from the investigatin as soon as he was made aware of their mis use of his name. You should also take note that these individuals are currently being prosecuted for their mis-deeds with the measure. Your allegations are way off base.

  14. EDC says - Posted: March 2, 2013

    Informed. I seek clarification. If the consulting company didn’t work on the judge’s campaign, then why did they put the judge on their resume?

  15. sunriser2 says - Posted: March 2, 2013

    Now that this distraction is gone maybe the judge can decide on some of the cases that have been pending for years.

  16. Informed says - Posted: March 2, 2013

    EDC, have you reread the answer it was for “credability”, these two have always used underhanded means to further their lies. Now that they are caught and will be held to answer we will all know the truth. Which is you will not find a better Judge than Steve Bailey, he takes action and is not affected by politics.

  17. Tonto says - Posted: March 2, 2013

    What is most important for all to ask is what was the Jury investigating and who applied the pressure on the members to quit. There just happens to be a County Supervisor (Nutting) who has and is being investigated for his wrong doing and has applied pressure throughout his political life. What Judge Bailey did was what he is required to do and when the member numbers dropped he did just that. Better focus on the reasons behind this not the correct action taken by Judge Bailey, watch and see if the DA holds the Supervisor (Nutting) accountable. Of course don’t hold your breath as this won’t happen as the DA has already been bought off.

  18. Informed says - Posted: March 2, 2013

    EDC, They did it for “Credability” thinking that no one would check, however when Judge Bailey found out they were exposed.
    Alarcon and Dellinger are crooks and put several people on their resume that were not supporters. These two are slime and are part of the “Nutting Team” of slime politics in our county.
    Look up their names and you will see that they’re thick as thieves, current court cases are the real proof that all can read about.
    All one has to do is a little homework and you will see all their dirty deeds, name dropping is the name of the game with them and no one is safe.

  19. Informed Also says - Posted: March 5, 2013

    The Grand Jury was likely also investigating fire departments and fire districts and the county funding of them along with internal contracts held by these departments and districts. The termination of an undersized Grand Jury is likely OK. The question becomes, why did so many jury members quit? Suspicions arise with the knowledge that the Grand Jury was about to report that a county official/officials had, for whatever reason, given the Grand Jury misleading information that led to unnecessary investigation by them. The county’s termination of aid to fire funding was likely also on their minds. What better way to squelch a report critical of county official’s dealings than by whatever means, terminate the jury prior to the report. The question is, was any law broken if the Grand Jury was lied to by an official and do we have a case of jury tampering? Your speculation is as good as mine.

  20. John says - Posted: March 5, 2013

    “The Grand Jury was likely also investigating fire departments and fire districts and the county funding of them along with internal contracts held by these departments and districts.”

    Does it make you feel cool to throw completely unsubstantiated rumors out with no backup or even a basic hypothesis?

  21. Informed Also says - Posted: March 6, 2013

    John, my comments must have come close to the bull’s eye because, out of all the other comments concerning this matter, mine was the only one you required proof. Proof is the crux of the matter because, Grand Jury members are forbidden to publicly disclose their investigations except in their final report. In this case, there will be no final report, making the information it would have contained shuttered to history. It is doubtful that we will ever know the truth. When you consider that the Grand Jury is almost the last line of defense citizens have to combat wrong doing by government, this event was a sad day for El Dorado County. Have a nice day.

  22. EDC resident says - Posted: March 7, 2013

    John says – POSTED: MARCH 5, 2013

    “Does it make you feel cool to throw completely unsubstantiated rumors out with no backup or even a basic hypothesis?”

    Well John, it is NOT an unsubstantiated rumor. In early February of this year, 7 of the Grand Jury members made a visit to the Garden Valley, Mosquito, and Georgetown fire departments, with the intention of getting to the bottom of the allegations of the discontinuation of county funding has had on the aforementioned districts.

    What they found was that they were grossly misinformed by county officials, and said they would be writing a report stating the EDC’s need for stable funding from the county.

    Considering the backlash/embarrassment that this report would cause for the person/persons responsible for the lack of necessary funding, I’m not a bit surprised that the main person in question had his “buddy” take care of the problem before it bit him squarely in the a$$.

    You can believe what you want to John, I really don’t give a damn. I was present, you were not.

    Good day sir.

  23. Barry says - Posted: March 8, 2013

    What other issues did the grand jury not want to get involved in? Supposedly complaints have been made and inquiries made regarding the Public Guardians department and their illegal activities in their efforts to protect our senior citizens. Its about time for some legal action, but, wait, that would be the Grand Jury, which doesn’t exist right now.

  24. scadmin says - Posted: March 8, 2013

    If you have facts to support your assertion about illegal activities of the Public Guardian, you don’t need to tell the grand jury, you can report to local law enforcement. Should you be uncomfortable with that approach, the California Attorney General in Sacramento has a unit that deals with elder physical & financial abuse.

  25. sparrow says - Posted: March 12, 2013

    The grand jury needed to be dismantled. We need a fresh set of eyes for our community. I know from first hand experience that legal issues handled here are very bias and questionable. The good old boys network seems to be one sited and with the recent dealings with the South Shore Police department allegations, it seems appropriate for the Feds to get a handle on the judicial committee in town.

  26. EDC resident says - Posted: March 26, 2013

    Gee…what do you know? A Grand Juror states that things are not all that grand the county..