The Riverside County Board of Supervisors officially received the grand jury report, which challenges its use of discretionary or Community Improvement Designation Funds. The county has 90 days to respond, but County Executive Officer Jay Orr and several supervisors clearly objected with the findings during their May 6 session.
Orr, a former deputy district attorney, stated that only seven of the 50 states have laws establishing civil grand juries. One of the concerns is that these proceedings have no judge or lawyers involved. “It’s very easy to seize an issue, and pick and choose evidence … often the rules of due process are lacking, [consequently] unsubstantiated testimony can lead to questionable reports.”
He stressed that Riverside County’s program and policies for allocating CID funds was based on similar programs in both San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
Both supervisors Jeff Stone (3rd District) and John Benoit (5th District) supported the program and the past use of the funds.
“What’s missing in the report is the real impact of the CID funds,” Benoit said. “This is not inappropriate. It is entirely well-justified and transparent county support for some great projects.”
Stone was equally appalled at the report’s assertions and claims that supervisors were using the fund for political gains.
“With the exception of public safety expenditures that the Board of Supervisors allocates, funds from CID have had more of an impact on our citizens than probably any other program,” Stone said.
“I am not ashamed of this program, I’m very proud of this program,” he concluded. “It works to get money to nonprofits quickly so they can help those in unfortunate times.”
However, in a press release last week, Bonnie Garcia, one of his opponents in the state Senate 28 District race, opined differently: “Jeff Stone has been picking the pockets of taxpayers for years and past behavior always dictates future actions. We don’t need another shake-down artist in the senate at a time when the institution is already under enormous scrutiny with three Democratic senators suspended from the body.”
Former county District Attorney Grover Trask has been retained to advise and guide the Executive Office as it develops its response.