grand jury

Laura Amstead, AAUW program vice president, stands between Michael McNatt and Renn Amstead, who spoke to AAUW about the Kern County grand jury.

Courtesy of Phyllis Belcher

The responsibilities and procedures of the Kern County grand jury were explained to American Association of University Women at their recent monthly meeting.

Renn Amstead, foreperson, and Michael McNatt, juror, called the grand jury the "community watchdog." They inspect and report on special districts, operators of jails, and other entities whose procedures may be questioned. They make sure tax money is not being squandered. They endeavor to keep people accountable for their actions.

Jurors work five hours a day for four days a week and receive a stipend of $30 per day, plus gas money. They serve for one year and may petition to serve an additional year. Nineteen jurors plus alternates are chosen each year.

Amstead hopes to recruit people from Tehachapi to serve on the next jury, which will convene in July. He offered application forms to anyone interested in serving. Applications are also available online.

Jurors must be at least 18 years and physically able to participate. They must also be able to speak and understand English. After completing applications and qualifying, a final selection is made by lottery.

AAUW is open to both men and women with a two-year or higher degree. Meetings are usually held at 4 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at Tehachapi Community Church Friendship Hall. Next meeting will be Feb. 14. Call 858-444-0496 for more information.

Phyllis Belcher is a longtime Tehachapi resident, and is involved in various volunteer organizations.