Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

King County pays $10.5 mil in 4th quarter negligence cases

by February 5th, 2013

A woman run over by a bus in West Seattle. A man who had already won a large settlement for police excessive force but whose attorney was denied key records in the process. A woman attacked and injured by a neighbor’s two pit bulls, about which she had already made complaints. Three different people injured by the same King County bus that rounded a bend on Interstate 5 and smacked into stalled traffic, at 30 miles per hour. These are a few of the 13 “tort,” or negligence lawsuits King County settled before trial with claimants for $100,000 or more in the fourth quarter of 2012, for a total of $10,535,500. The information comes in a new report to the King County Council from Jennifer Hillis, Director of the Office of Risk Management, Department of Executive Services.

The last quarter results bring to $15,785,500 the total of $100,000-plus tort claim settlements by the county in 2012, compared to $23.1 million in 2011 and $10.3 million in 2010, according to earlier county records reported on by Public Data Ferret. The percentage of dollars paid out in such settlements that stemmed from errors attributed to King County Metro transit employees was almost 73 percent in 2012 versus 27 percent in 2011 and 64 percent in 2010.

A bright future for Mom ‘n Pop pot shops in Washington?

by November 14th, 2012

It’s entirely possible the U.S. will just chillax on possible prosecutions for marijuana use allowed in states now to include Washington, where voters last week approved medicinal or recreational adult use of an ounce or less starting in a few weeks, and levying a 25 percent tax on authorized sales once rules are adopted. But anything much like a big industrial marijuana sales operation with a state’s OK is likely to get the gimlet eye from federal prosecutors. These are among the key suggestions in a new report from the Congressional Research Service issued late last week after Washington and Colorado voters liberalized their state marijuana laws.

Officially, it’s not clear yet what the federal response will be to Washington’s Initiative 502, which passed by an 11-point margin. As the Seattle Times reported last week, options include contesting individual usage under U.S. law, or challenging the very concept of licensed sales, which will ensue from state guidelines issued a year from now. But the CRS report, which is national in scope and accents key U.S. Justice Department documents, quietly suggests the feds may be looking for a nuanced middle ground in states such as Washington.

Port OKs challenge of feds on concessionaire labor rules

by October 24th, 2012

The Port of Seattle has decided it will revisit a 12-year-old legal setback that sharply limited its powers to micromanage the labor relations of its concessionaires. The Port approved at its October 23 business meeting a motion authorizing outside legal counsel to seek “to dissolve or modify” a 2000 federal court order and consent judgement that blocked a Port attempt to make a concessionaire hire workers from a particular Port-allied labor union. The agreement also permanently blocked any other Port actions interfering with the federally-protected rights of concessionaires “to assign work to their own employees.”

Under Port rules and a related labor agreement, the Port had required CityIce Cold Storage at Terminal 91 in Seattle to hire workers from International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) Local 19 for unloading of fish and seafood cargo, in place of the CityIce boats’ own crews or CityIce’s Teamsters-affiliated dockworkers. Judge Barbara Rothstein’s order was entered in the U.S. District Court of Washington’s Western District, in Seattle. It required the Port to pay $275,000 in legal fees to CityIce. It also re-estalished the concessionaire’s labor management rights; and has effectively blocked the Port not only from dictating who a concessionaire should hire, but also from requiring or even strongly recommending to concessionaires that they adopt a so-called “worker retention” policy.

Job security sought for concessions workers
That last part is a sticking point these days for the Port, as board commissioners have repeatedly said in public meetings over the last two years. The Port has detailed publicly that it wants concessionaires – companies who bid to win lease rights on Port property to do business – to commit upfront, perhaps as a condition of being awarded a concession, that they will take steps to try to hire suitable ex-workers of other Port concessionaires who ended their leases with the Port. The worker retention policy push is part of a broader Concessions Master Plan the Port is developing to govern its relations from 2015 to 2017 with concessionaires at its Sea-Tac Airport. There are more than 50 in-airport concessionaires at Sea-Tac and others on adjacent airport properties.

Washington marijuana legalization bid: smoke and mirrors?

by October 23rd, 2012

The Seattle Channel’s “City Inside Out” takes a look at Initiative 502 in an informative TV magazine segment below. If approved by voters, the initiative would legalize possession in Washington state of an ounce or less of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes. Pot purchased from approved dispensaries would be taxed at a rate of 25 percent, adding as much as $500 million a year in state revenues, according to official estimates. Street busts of small-scale buyers and sellers, which clog courts and which some say unfairly ensnare African-Americans, would subside. But critics say the high tax would fuel continuing black market sales – and that because it’s still a federal crime to possess pot, I-502 raises more questions than it answers.

The question facing voters on the ballot: “This measure would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues. Should this measure be enacted into law?”

More from “City Inside Out.”

Here’s another debate on I-502, at The Washington Living Voters Guide, sponsored by the University of Washington’s UW Engage project, and the City Club of Seattle.

RELATED: “Marijuana legalization Leads In New Polls, But Not A Lock,” Seattle Times, 10/22/12

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Admitted sex abuser was Census field rep in King County

by December 16th, 2011

For more than two years year after he began repeatedly sexually abusing a developmentally disabled woman he cared for as a nursing aide in a state-run assisted living facility in Shoreline – and for three months after public release of a Washington State Department of Health disciplinary document he signed confessing to the abuse – Shoreline resident Bart Finkbiner continued in a second, 20-hour-a-week job as field representative for the Seattle-region U.S. Census Bureau office, visiting an average of seven to eight homes per week in north Seattle and north King County to liaise with members of households which hadn’t responded to mail or phone prompts to complete the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Although there are no reports of any further misconduct by Finkbiner, the five-state Seattle Region U.S. Census division’s director Ralph J. Lee said that upon learning last weekend of Finkbiner’s signed confession to the state, he suspended Finkbiner with pay and ordered his work laptop, employee badge and other work materials removed from his work area, as an internal inquiry process unfolds.

State worker car crashes cost $21 million from ’07-’10

by November 3rd, 2011

In the four most recent years for which public data is available from the State of Washington, the state has paid $21,661,799.44 in costs related to car and light truck crashes involving state workers. That total includes:

  • $7,537,186.85 in worker’s compensation claims;
  • $8,763,910.42 in tort liability (negligence claims);
  • $5,360,702.17 in repair costs.

  • All sub-totals are classified as “paid-to-date.” The information comes in an undated report titled “State Worker Car Crash Costs For FY07-FY10”. The report was actually released in June of this year, according to officials overseeing the state’s “risk management” division. That’s the section of the state Loss Prevention Program which prepared the report. The report covers state fiscal years 2007 through 2010, which ended June 30, 2010. Officials said data is not available yet for fiscal year 2011, ending June 30 of this year.

    Over the four-year stretch covered in the report, annual workers comp payouts for car crashes involving state employees went from $1.9 million in fiscal 2007 to $2.8 million in 2008, then dropped to $1.4 million in 2009 and $1.2 million in fiscal 2010. Four agencies – the state departments of transportation, social and health services, commerce, and the state patrol – accounted for $3.78 million or almost exactly half of the workers comp payouts to state employees for car crashes in fiscal 2007-2010, with payouts for each agency reaching above $500,000. Thirteen other agencies accounted for another $3.2 million in those claims paid, most of the rest of the $7.5 million sub-total. No car crash-related workers comp claims were paid by 113 state agencies.

    When payouts are combined for all three categories (workers comp, tort claims and car repairs), eight state agencies exceeded the $500,000 threshold: the state patrol, social and health services, transportation, corrections, Washington State University, labor and industries, fish and wildlife, and commerce.

    The report was compiled over 10 months following the end of 2010 fiscal year from the following sources:

  • OFM’s tort claim database
  • the Department of Labor and Industries – workers comp claims database
  • information from the state’s Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program
  • General Administration motor pool repair costs database
  • Individual agency fleet repair costs submitted to OFM
  • State Board of Community and Technical Colleges Annual Fall Quarter Reports

  • Public Data Ferret Transportation archive

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    Seattle Police memo: body cameras easier said than done, now

    by September 7th, 2011

    SUMMARY: In a report to be presented Sept. 8 to a Seattle City Council committee, Seattle Police say they haven’t begun to test four body-mounted cameras on police officers as directed but that the SPD training unit has done preliminary testing of one camera. Police verified that today. The cameras would record images and sound of police interactions with the public. Police say that in the one-camera test to date, serious problems are evident with the usefulness of the video footage if officers are moving. Police also stress in their report advice from city lawyers on the need to change state law to allow audio recording of citizens without their express consent. That’s not allowed currently. Police note community concerns are another issue, reporting that various stakeholders say citizens should be asked for their consent to recordings regardless of what state law says. Field testing is planned for body cameras on motorcycle traffic officers, with prior consent of citizens required before recording. Funding of a wide-scale Seattle Police body camera pilot program also poses major challenges, police say. A sought-after federal grant has failed to materialize due to U.S. budget constraints. Additionally, the police officers labor union would have to approve widespread use of body cameras, in a new contract now being negotiated.