Grand jury releases spring report

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2019

LaFAYETTE — The Chambers County Grand Jury released a report Monday announcing there will be 428 indictments handed down for the spring of 2019.

In a letter to Judge Isaac Whorton, the grand jury said there should be more funds to feed prisoners at the Chambers County Jail, it was disappointed in the Valley Police Department about how it handled a case and that the staff at the Chambers County Circuit Clerk’s Office was rude, uncooperative, unorganized and unprofessional.

Chambers County Circuit Clerk Lisa Burdette said Wednesday she has addressed the issue with her staff and measures have been taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again. However, she said she was shocked when she saw her office mentioned in such in a way in the report.

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“It is not something that should have happened if it did happen,” she said. “I was not told anything specific. What is written in the report is what I was told.”

She said her office had “very little” interaction with the grand jury. According to Burdette, her office checks in the grand jury, facilitates the picking of the panel and then they are turned over to the district attorney’s office.

Typically, Burdette said her office has the most interaction with a grand jury when they do a tour of the Chambers County Courthouse, but the report says the jury did not do a tour this session.

“The Grand Jury did not conduct a physical inspection of the Chambers County Courthouse,” the report said. “The Grand Jury wishes to express their appreciation to Circuit Clerk Lisa Burdette, however, wishes to inform her that numerous grand jury members found her staff to be rude, uncooperative, unorganized and unprofessional.”

Burdette said Wednesday that’s why she was so blindsided by the report.

“My office would have had little interaction with them,” she said.

In the future, Burdette said she wants the public, or anyone, to come directly to her if there is a problem in the office so that it can be addressed right away.

“Let’s figure out a way to solve it rather than everybody going away mad,” she said.

“We are here to the serve the public, and that is what we will do the best of my ability.”

Although the grand jury named the Valley Police Department and expressed disappointment for the way it handled a case, it was unclear which case it was referring to.

The jury also recommended that its pay for the day be increased to $20 for service and more comfortable chairs that are “conducive with a professional working environment.”

The jury also noted the building could use improvements in overall housekeeping and maintenance of the interior and exterior of the building.

Feeding inmates

Although the grand jury didn’t inspect the courthouse, the report said it did do a physical inspection of the Chambers County Detention Facility.

The report says the jury commends Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart and his staff how the jail was operated and maintained.

“We found the staff to be knowledgeable and efficient,” the report said.

“The Grand Jury wishes to recognize Sheriff Lockhart in the planning for additional improvements to the current jail as well as the expansion of the current facility.”

One note the grand jury did make about the jail operation was that the county should provide more funds to the sheriff’s office to feed prisoners. The jury suggested there should be a budget of $3.50 per inmate, per day.

Other departments

The jury wished to commend District Attorney Jeremy Duerr and Assistant District Attorney Robert Treese for the way the jury docket was prepared and expressed its appreciation to the officers from all police departments in the area for their presentation in cases presented.  Lastly, the jury recommended the creation of a countywide child abuse protocol.

“This protocol will include a formal monthly meeting to be attended by a member of each law enforcement agency, Child Advocacy, D.A office as well as the Department of Human Resources,” the report said. “This monthly meeting will be to discuss all new (and) current case statuses.”

The report said the protocol would also include an investigation outline for crimes against children as well as mandatory interviews of all children 17 years of age and under who are victims of crimes.