Interview with Judge Gail Dekeron
“Bay Times” Exclusive
One of the most powerful and influential positions in the city is that of Civil Grand Juror. Currently, the Civil Grand Jury of the City and County of San Francisco is seeking applicants, and has reached out to the LGBT community as part of that effort. Judge Gail Dekreon, a member of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, shared more with us about San Francisco’s Civil Grand Jury.
Bay Times: Please give a brief synopsis of what the Civil Grand Jury is, and what it is responsible for in San Francisco.
Judge Gail Dekreon: California’s constitution mandates that each court annually impanel a “watchdog” grand jury with the duty to investigate the operations of the City and County’s officers, departments, and agencies. The Civil grand jury consists of nineteen members randomly drawn from a pool of applicants who volunteer to serve for one year from July through June.
Each jury determines which issues related to the governance of the City & County of San Francisco it wishes to investigate with the goal of making recommendations to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of government services. Each jury chooses its own methodology. In recent years, the jury has divided itself into several investigative committees, which then select the City and County offices, departments, or agencies that will be investigated. During the investigations, jurors may inspect and audit books, records and financial expenditures; interview civil servants and others who may have pertinent information; inspect government facilities; and issue reports with findings and recommendations.
The entire grand jury meets once per week, generally in the early evening. Investigative committees meet as frequently as needed. Most investigative committee work takes place during regular business hours. Members receive $15.00 per diem for each meeting attended during their term.
The Presiding Judge of the Superior Court reviews the reports issued by the Grand Jury to make certain they meet legal requirements. The reports are then sent to the affected department heads, who are required by law to respond. The reports are published for the public and the Board of Supervisors is required to hold public hearings on each report.
Bay Times: Why is it important to have a diverse group of applicants, and why has it been challenging to get a group of diverse individuals from the community to apply?
Judge Gail Dekreon: We are very pleased with all of our grand jurors, and we want to insure that they represent all of our citizens in our wonderfully diverse community of San Francisco. The challenge of achieving a diverse group of grand jurors is the time commitment of one year; this can be difficult for many people because it is like a second job. We want to emphasize that the grand jurors can decide how often to meet and when. They make their own schedule, and it can be as flexible as they want.
Bay Times: What is the term of service?
Judge Gail Dekreon: The term of service is one year, July 1, 2014–June 30, 2015.
Bay Times: Is there any flexibility with people’s work and school schedules?
Judge Gail Dekreon: Each jury sets its own schedule and sets the number of reports that will be issued in the one year term. There is always flexibility to accommodate work and school schedules.
Bay Times: What types of reports have previous Grand Juries completed?
Judge Gail Dekreon: In 2013, the Civil Grand Jury issued the following reports, which can all be found at civilgrandjury.sfgov.org/report.html:
Building a Better Future at the Department of Building Inspection
Auditing the City Services Auditor: You Can Only Manage What You Measure
Use of Nonprofit Community-Based Organizations: Measuring Outcomes
Log Cabin Ranch: Planning for the Future
Golden Gate Park’s Homeless Population: Are San Francisco’s Policies Serving Us Well?
Optimizing the Use of Publicly-Owned Real Estate
Are the Wheels Moving Forward?
Bay Times: Where can people obtain an application, and what is the deadline for applying?
Judge Gail Dekreon: The application deadline is April 30, 2014, and applications can be obtained from the Jury Office at 400 McAllister, Room 007, and online at: civilgrandjury.sfgov.org/index.html