New ‘watchdog’ panel member married to city councilwoman

Menlo Park City Councilwoman Betsy Nash

By the Daily Post staff

The new group of civil grand jurors in San Mateo County — a panel that is supposed to investigate local government corruption — includes the husband of a Menlo Park City Council member.

Horace Nash, 65, of Menlo Park, is one of the 19 civil grand jurors named yesterday. He is the husband of City Councilwoman Betsy Nash.

Neither Nash could be reached for comment Friday.

Under state law, a civil grand jury conducts investigations of city and county governments along with special districts. They’re often described as the “watchdogs” of local government.

Residents can apply for the civil grand jury every spring. Then the judge, in this case Amarra Lee, will interview the candidates and put the names of the finalists into a drum. From the drum, the names of the 19 grand jurors are selected along with a handful of alternates.

A civil grand jury should not to be confused with a criminal grand jury, which issues charges against defendants in felony cases.

On the other hand, civil grand juries only investigate local government matters, and they have no authority beyond issuing reports that are intended to highlight problems in local government. Local governments aren’t required to follow the advice of a civil grand jury though they must respond to their reports.

Lee appointed 18 other people to the civil grand jury yesterday including:

• Lily Avida of Belmont;
• Randy Cali of Redwood City;
• Richard Garbarino, who lost his re-election bid to the South San Francisco City Council in November;
• Robert Giarrusso of San Carlos;
• Joy Kosobayashi of Menlo Park;
• Elwyn Loh of Redwood City;
• David Shaw of San Mateo;
• Susanna Tang of Menlo Park;
• Cristian Wedekind of Atherton;
• Dennis Wohrer of Redwood City
• Adrienne Bryant of East Palo Alto;
• Gail Fivis of Millbrae;
• Brett Gardner of San Carlos;
• Martin Johnson of Woodside;
• John Lewis of San Mateo;
• Marlene Scherer Stern of Woodside;
• John Wallace of San Carlos;
• Robert Weiss of Redwood City.

The term of this grand jury runs until June 30, 2022. Suggestions for investigations can be sent to the Civil Grand Jury, San Mateo County Superior Court, 400 County Center, Redwood City, CA 94063-1655.

3 Comments

  1. What good is a “watchdog” panel if one of the watchdogs is married to a person being watched?

    Seems like a conflict of interest. Isn’t there a law against this?

  2. As a former member of the 2008-2009 San Mateo County Grand Jury, I can tell you that this situation is not unique. This type of circumstance can present from time to time. People who apply to Grand Jury are people who are interested in government and helping it to work as best as possible for the people.
    Potential jurors come from various places, including clubs, organizations and civic groups. They can also be citizens who belong to no groups and know no one in governmental power.
    It’s been my experience to have worked with fellow grand jurors who had been involved in multiple organizations throughout the county. Some were even former mayors of cities.
    That fact alone did not preclude them from membership on the jury…
    When one applies to be a member of the grand jury, one fills out a multi page application, undergoes a background check by the sheriff’s dept. and then a personal interview with GJ Superior Court Judge before your name is put in the bin for the final selection. By that time, the Superior Court has developed quite a bit of info about a potential juror, including who their spouse is and what that spouse does for a living.
    In summary, the fact that this particular grand juror is the husband of a sitting city council woman does not preclude him from being a part of the 2021-2022 Grand Jury. However, he will be recused from participating in any and all grand jury investigations concerning the City of Menlo Park throughout his tenure on the jury, thus preventing any perceived or real “conflict of interest”.

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