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The recent spate of responses from the county and cities to this past term’s Napa County Grand Jury reports leaves me frustrated.

In many cases, the government entities that were investigated by the jury take umbrage with the jury when responding to its findings and recommendations. More than one newspaper report has characterized the jury as being misguided or off the mark.

Given that the 2018-2019 grand jury has been disbanded, I am legally unable to speak for the jury nor rebut the responses that have been issued. However, I do want to make one key point to Napa citizens to help them keep all of this in perspective.

The grand jury doesn’t “make stuff up.” In other words, the facts and findings that are reported in jury reports come directly from government employees.

So when a report says that Napa drinking water has “predictable taste and odor issues,” that was not just a grand jury opinion: it was a fact told to the grand jury by multiple Napa water utility employees.

When the grand jury reports that St. Helena has serious financial planning challenges and bad forecasting methodologies, that comes directly from city officials the jury interviewed and from the thousands of pages of documents that were provided for review.

And when the grand jury reports that city of Napa officials obstructed the progress of Napa Pipe for many years, I can assure you that numerous interviewees told the jury precisely that. However, much to the grand jury’s chagrin, all these claims have been denied by the responding entities.

The reality is that the entities under investigation do not like to be “called out” by a grand jury of everyday citizens, so they issue terse denials.

Unfortunately, the grand jury is sworn to secrecy and all interviews are conducted under the cloak of anonymity. So while the grand jury would love to tell the public precisely who told the jurors certain information, that is just not possible.

All I can do instead is encourage county citizens to read the grand jury reports online and form your own opinions. Ask questions of your elected and appointed leaders. Take the government’s responses with caution. And consider applying for next year’s Napa County Grand Jury.

Kort van Bronkhorst, Foreperson

2018-19 Napa Grand Jury

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