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The Roles of Grand Juries

August 27, 1986

I have been reading the articles on the Grand Jury with great interest. While there are significant problems with the current operations, various Grand Juries have made some valuable contributions as the "watchdogs of governmental operations." One specific audit was done two years ago on the "contracting-out" practices of Los Angeles County.

The report stated that the county has overstated its savings by failing to include indirect costs, such as preparation, monitoring of performance, administration and the use of county materials and supplies. They also cited the loss of control, the ability of contractors to hold government hostage and raise costs arbitrarily after the county sells off its equipment, eliminates the work force and has "gone out of a particular business."

Another issue cited was that county managers are rewarded with incentives and pay increases for the number of private contracts they develop.

As we all unfortunately know, politicians are often an arrogant breed. Once in office, they seem to forget that they are elected to serve the people's interests. With the high cost of being elected to office, they must often meet the needs of large campaign contributors rather than the needs of the people and the community. Naturally, these private contractors who "feed at the public trough" contribute more money than a working taxpayer, who is working to make ends meet.

This is actually a convoluted method of "public campaign financing" because these corporations are actually giving our hard-earned tax dollars back to the political leaders.

In the end, this Grand Jury audit, which took a great deal of time, energy and research, was really a wasted effort. However, it was not because of the Grand Jury. It was because the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors totally disregarded its contents and ignored the quality of the effort and the product.

There must be a "watchdog" for the people. However, when we muzzle our protector or disregard the barking, we have defeated our purpose. Reform--yes; elimination--no!


Los Angeles

Giarrizzo is general manager of Local 660 of the AFL-CIO Service Employees International Union.

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