Councilwoman seeks more training for grand jury
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Sep 27, 2012 | 1930 views | 1 1 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilwoman Annette Smith formally requested more training for civil grand jury members in a letter sent last month to Stanislaus County Superior Court’s presiding judge, the county’s district attorney and the county counsel’s office.

In the letter, Smith requested more training and oversight for the grand jury in the areas of report writing, interviews and the scope of responsibility and authority.

Smith, who was accused of wrongdoing by the body in June 2011 and again in a review of the matter in June 2012, wrote, “The role of the Grand Jury is to serve as a civil watchdog and ensure that government operations are open and honest.”

She said this week that she is still upset by the original report.

“The injustice of it is what irks me,” she said. “Any elected official that upsets the wrong person is subject to an imperfect process.”

“The grand jurors participate in two days of training and then practice law without a license,” she said.

“There has to be more than two days’ training, and they need guided supervision,” she said.

Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said the District Attorney’s office had received a copy of the letter but that the department would be taking no action on the matter.

Calls to Stanislaus County Court Administrator Michael Tozzi and Stanislaus County Counsel Jack Doering’s office were not returned Tuesday, Sept. 25. In past weeks, Doering and Shipley both said they had not received the letter.

In the letter, a copy of which was sent to the Irrigator, Smith also questioned the grand jury’s criticism of Sheriff Adam Christianson for wearing his uniform to election events and its use of the word “fiduciary” in a description of her connections with property owner and developer John Ramos.

She called the present system of training and guidance dangerous and unacceptable.

The original grand jury report called for Smith’s ouster, by either citizen recall or her resignation, stating that she should have recused herself from a vote regarding Ramos’ legal fees because she allegedly had a “fiduciary relationship” with him. It also stated that Ramos had written off expenses for Smith.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the term fiduciary to mean, “relating to or involving a confidence or trust.” Smith, however, wrote that Barron’s Law Dictionary stated the word to mean a person who had a legal duty to act on behalf of another person.

Smith rented a storage unit from Ramos and purportedly received refunds for overpayment of rent.

The report also criticized Smith for allegedly using abusive language in a confrontation with a resident and pressuring city staff members to fire former Community Development Director Rod Simpson.

Additionally, grand jurors recommended that former Mayor Becky Campo pay back money she received as mayor because she allegedly lived outside city limits.

They also advised the city to file a complaint with the California State Bar to chastise former City Attorney George Logan for alleged improprieties, such as failing to be in the room when the council voted to reimburse Ramos for $27,000 in legal fees in connection with a possible lawsuit regarding the 2011 move of the Del Puerto Health Clinic to the Keystone Business Park. The grand jury recommended that Ramos return that money to the city.

The report also admonished Councilman Dominic Farinha for awarding attorney’s fees to Ramos and allegedly trying to dismiss a city employee, meeting privately with Campo and Smith to discuss city matters and pressuring a city building official to expedite an inspection on his property.

The city’s formal response in September 2011 denied all of those major findings.

Smith filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the county late that month alleging defamation and civil rights violations against her.

Farinha submitted an individual response to Presiding Judge Ricardo Cordova through San Francisco-based law office Murphy, Pearson, Bradley and Feeney, denying the grand jury’s allegations against him.

Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31, or

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September 28, 2012
Ms. Smith should concern herself with her own qualifications and training, as the Grand Jury found she failed to comply with state law by taking ethics training every 2 years as she was required.

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