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San Diego Grand Juries and Jake Jacobson

Updated March 12, 2003

Q:  Isn't it true that the 1991 Grand Jury was called by San Diego District Attorney and the 1992 grand jury was called by the San Diego Department of Social Services (DSS)?  Wasn’t Jake Jacobsen demoted prior to leaving San Diego County?

A:  In California, grand juries are called by the Superior Court Judge.   The Judge selects people to serve on a grand jury from a pool of applications (this is unlike how grand juries are selected in North Carolina and other jurisdictions, where people are selected at random from voter registration rolls just like with other juries).  In California, neither the district attorney nor the department of social services has the authority to call a grand jury.  However, anyone has the right to request a grand jury to examine specific issues.  It is then up to the grand jury to decide which issues to examine.  In California, grand juries perform two separate functions:  serve as a community watchdog of county government; and consider criminal indictments.

The 1991 Grand Jury decided to conduct an investigation into San Diego County child protective services at the recommendation of the previous year’s grand jury.  This previous grand jury started an investigation on this topic at the request of a local Congressman.  The 1992 Grand Jury decided by itself to examine the report and work of the 1991 Grand Jury because of various criticism that the 1991 Grand Jury recommendations were not in the best interests of threatened children.

Jake Jacobsen was not demoted prior to leaving San Diego County.  At the time of his deferred retirement from San Diego County, Jake Jacobsen was the Director of the Department of Social Services.  This was the same title and he was receiving the same level of compensation at the time of his deferred retirement as when the grand jury reports were issued.  During part of the time he served as Director of the San Diego County Department of Social Services, Jake Jacobsen was on assignment within the County Manager’s Office.

Q:  Why was Jake Jacobson hired from San Diego after he had been demoted from his director's job?

A:  Jake Jacobsen was not demoted from his director's job in San Diego.  He left that job on his own decision. 

Jake Jacobsen was unanimously appointed by the Board of County Commissioners in 1994 after a national search, thorough background and reference checks and lengthy interviews.  It was concluded by the Board that the issues raised in San Diego by the 1991 San Diego Grand Jury were without merit, based in part on the 1992 San Diego Grand Jury that repudiated the 1991 Grand Jury report as being deeply flawed.  Most of the recent media attention has only reported on the 1991 Grand Jury report.  Mr. Jacobsen was clearly the best candidate during the selection process. Moreover, he was very open during the interview process about the issues in San Diego and successfully addressed the concerns of the interview committee, which unanimously recommended him to the Board of County Commissioners.

Q:  Why did the commissioners okay Jake Jacobson after a Grand Jury inquiry into the way he ran DSS in San Diego?

A: Please see the previous answer.

Q:  Were there not other candidates as qualified as Mr. Jacobson that could and should have been hired without a "Red Flag' over their name?

A:  Please see the previous answer.  Mr. Jacobsen was hired after an extensive and exhaustive process with full disclosure and knowledge of all the facts associated with circumstances in San Diego. 

Q:  Why is Mr. Jacobson given full power to run DSS without the County Commission getting reports about his actions?

A:  The Board of County Commissioners receives regular reports and updates regarding the operation of the Department of Social Services.   Mr. Jacobsen appears regularly at Board meetings to provide information and updates, request direction and approval for initiatives and other policy decisions regarding the Department of Social Services.  He also communicates regularly with the Human Services Council, which is a citizen advisory board appointed by the Board of Commissioners to provide input on health and human service issues and programs.

Q:  What is the tie between Mr. Helms and Mr. Jacobson?

A:  Mr. Helms is a member of the Board of County Commissioners and was chairman of the Board when the Board unanimously appointed Mr. Jacobsen as director of the Department of Social Services in 1994.

Q:  Why did Mr. Helms appear to put very little weight on the Grand Jury investigation in California against Mr. Jacobson when he was hired?

A:  The 1991 San Diego Grand Jury report is considered so flawed that a second Grand Jury was convened in 1992 to investigate the findings of the 1991 report.  The 1992 Grand Jury report repudiated the findings in the 1991 report as erroneous and largely inconsistent with accurate facts.  The 1992 Grand Jury report essentially supported the findings and response by the San Diego District Attorney at that time, which supported the Department of Social Services.  Moreover, individuals that were knowledgeable of the situation and Mr. Jacobsen's record in San Diego provided outstanding references in support of his appointment in Mecklenburg County.  With knowledge of both Grand Jury reports and additional reference information, the full Board of County Commissioners unanimously appointed Mr. Jacobsen.

Q:  How could the public/parents be expected to trust a department headed by a person who was previously under a grand jury investigation for heading the same department in a different state?

A: It should be noted that Grand Juries such as the one in San Diego are convened not to make criminal indictments but to serve as a citizen task force, similar to a citizen advisory committee that exist in many areas of local government.  It also should be noted as stated above, that the 1991 Grand Jury report that has been widely reported on recently is now considered deeply flawed and largely inaccurate in its findings.  Mr. Jacobsen had an outstanding track record while in San Diego especially regarding the transition of clients from welfare to work.  The DSS Department in San Diego was widely regarded nationally as a leader in this effort.  Likewise for the 10 years that Mr. Jacobsen has led the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, the department has received state and national recognition and awards for outstanding and innovative programs and services including Just1Call, Work First, Senior Nutrition, Transportation, and Fraud Investigations. 

Q:  Is it possible that the Director of DSS/YFS is in fact doing and or allowing some if not all of the same actions here as was in San Diego when he was Director there?

A:  As stated above, recent reports of any wrongdoing by Mr. Jacobsen in San Diego were proven inaccurate and erroneous more than a decade ago by virtue of the 1992 San Diego Grand Jury report and the San Diego District Attorney's response to the 1991 Grand Jury report.   Moreover, the North Carolina Division of Social Services and the North Carolina Attorney General's Office have independently reviewed DSS child protective service investigations and concluded that Mecklenburg County is operating within State and Federal law and policy.


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