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San Joaquin County Grand Jury reviews school districts, morgue, Lodi jail

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Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:52 am, Wed Jan 30, 2013.

The San Joaquin County Grand Jury released reports on Monday ranging from allegations of California Open-Meeting Law violations by the Oak View School and San Joaquin Delta Community College districts and problems with the county morgue, to a compliment about the Lodi jail.

Earlier this month, the grand jury released reports critical of the Stockton Fire Department and Woodbridge Sanitary District.

Oak View School, a K-8 school with about 400 students serving Acampo east of Highway 99, needs to work on its transparency with the community, the grand jury ruled.

Jurors investigated a complaint alleging that one Oak View board member failed to recuse herself from a closed session involving the hiring of a family member and a complaint against a staff member initiated by a family member of the trustee.

Grand jurors also investigated 24 board agendas, 23 of which addressed student suspensions. The grand jury reported that the board violated the Ralph M. Brown Act by discussing a new multipurpose building and general business in closed session.

"This is hard to answer because there are a lot of extenuating circumstances," Oak View board president Stan Seifert said on Tuesday. "In the time I have been on the board (36 years), that district has never conspired to do anything to anyone."

Seifert admitted that occasionally a board member might have briefly stated something about the roofing material for the new multipurpose room, but the comment was not related to making any board decisions.

"That's a gray area," Seifert said. "Now we don't do it."

Although the grand jury didn't find a conflict of interest regarding a member of a board member's family, it presented the perception of a conflict of interest. The jury recommended that Oak View establish a board policy addressing trustee recusals when family members and friends are involved in the agenda item.

It's difficult to avoid getting caught up with friends as part of the agenda, Seifert said.

"In a small district, how can you not know them?" he said.

Here are some other findings from the grand jury:

Lodi Jail

The building on West Elm Street is in good condition. The jail, which detains suspects for up to 96 hours after arrest, excluding holidays, has 10 double-bed cells (20 beds), a safety cell and two intoxication cells.

The dispatchers do a good job of fingerprinting and photographing suspects, feeding them, conducting 30-minute safety checks, preparing court documents, processing inmate property and completing medical questionnaires.

San Joaquin Delta College

The district board of trustees violated the Brown Act on at least two occasions. Two trustees disclosed confidential information in open session, and three board members conducted what is known as a "serial meeting" to get arrange a deciding vote on an agenda items, according to the grand jury.

A "serial meeting" is where one governing board member talks privately to another, and the second trustee talks to a third one. In the case of Delta College, which has a seven-member board, four constitutes a majority.

Delta College trustees have not followed the grand jury's recommendation to censure three trustees for allegedly trying to get a fourth and deciding vote. They also didn't censure two board colleagues regarding the allegation that they reported closed-session information to the public.

"I think they were incorrect," Delta College trustee Taj Khan, of Lodi, said of the grand jury. "I believe they were misled."

Morgue

The grand jury ruled that the county morgue is small and outdated for a county with more than 640,000 residents. Built in the 1930s and converted into a morgue in the mid-1980s, the building can fit 23 bodies and six more in temporary storage, according to the grand jury. The building, which has dry rot and asbestos, is "deplorable," the report reads, and jurors advise the county Board of Supervisors to tour the morgue.

Sheriff's spokesman Les Garcia said the flooring has been replaced, and a second ventilation system was added.

"We've done everything possible to contain the asbestos and make things safe for employees," Garcia said.

Sheriff Steve Moore has talked with Stanislaus County about operating a joint morgue in Ripon, but the project fell through because of the economy. It would take two to three years to build a new morgue, Garcia said.

North San Joaquin Water Conservation District

The grand jury fielded a series of complaints, most of which jurors said lack merit.

The water district board has conducted three town hall meetings as the jury recommended, conducted Brown Act training and approved competitive bidding for projects. Development of job descriptions along with policy and operations manuals are pending approval, jurors noted.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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