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COUNTYWIDE FOCUS

Grand Jury Rejects Flynn's Request

September 15, 1993|KAY SAILLANT

The Ventura County grand jury has rejected Supervisor John K. Flynn's request to investigate two of his fellow board members for alleged violations of the state's open-meeting laws.

Grand jury members declined to look into the matter because Flynn had gone to the media with his allegations last month, the grand jury said in a statement. He publicly announced that he had asked the jurors for the investigation, and then made copies of the letter available to reporters.

In rejecting Flynn's request, the grand jury stated: "As you know, the grand jury is charged with conducting its investigations and making its findings in absolute secrecy.

"In as much as the information has been made public through a press release from your office, the 1993-94 Ventura County Grand Jury will take no further action on this matter."

Flynn said in a statement that he believes Supervisors Maggie Kildee and Vicky Howard, who are both members of the county's budget subcommittee, violated the Brown Act on July 10 by meeting privately in Kildee's home with four other members of the subcommittee.

The two supervisors have maintained the informal gathering was not a meeting of the 12-member budget subcommittee, and therefore was not governed by the open-meeting laws.

Flynn denounced the grand jury's decision to reject his request.

"As the watchdog of county government, the grand jury should be visible leaders in making meetings public," he said in a press statement. "Instead of taking a leadership position, the watchdog of government has chosen to remain in the doghouse."

The grand jury has broad discretion to decide whether it will investigate a complaint, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Don Coleman, special counsel to the grand jury.

"Apparently, they have decided to exercise that discretion," he said.

Coleman noted that the grand jury usually operates in secrecy. "Perhaps the grand jury felt that the rather public fashion in which the letter was sent to them inhibited their ability to conduct an investigation."

Supervisor Howard said she was not surprised by the grand jury's decision because there was no violation.

"I was never worried about (a pending investigation)," Howard said. "If the grand jury wanted to spend their time investigating this, that's fine. But they wouldn't have found any violation."

Supervisor Kildee concurred: "I'm sure the grand jury does what it believes is right to do. I believe there was so secret meeting and there was no problem."

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