March 20, 2011 in City

In brief: Judges group suspects theft

From Wire Reports

SEATTLE – A former secretary at the Washington state Superior Court Judges’ Association is suspected of embezzling nearly $400,000 from the group.

The head of the association, Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning, said the longtime employee was fired following an internal investigation. Federal prosecutors and the state Auditor’s Office are investigating.

Warning said the association hired an accounting firm after noticing irregularities in its books. The accountants didn’t find any problems, but the judges weren’t satisfied. They eventually turned the matter over to law enforcement.

The judges association includes every superior court judge in the state. Its mission is to improve the superior courts, coordinate with other courts, and communicate with the the Legislature, bar associations, the public and the media.

Bills propose fixes for workers’ comp

OLYMPIA – Democratic Rep. Mike Sells, of Everett, said he doesn’t plan to have a hearing in his committee on a state Senate bill that would allow for settlements for injured workers under the state’s compensation system.

The Senate bill was a victory for business groups but has been steadfastly opposed by labor.

Sells said the measure was not written well and that its costs or savings are not known. The chairman of the House labor and work force committee said that a package of bills approved by his chamber has a clearer way of saving money – an estimated $150 million in the next four years.

A state auditor’s report last year said some funds in the workers’ compensation system are insolvent or at risk of going insolvent.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has lobbied lawmakers to propose fixes to the system.

Yellowstone seen as Chinese draw

CASPER, Wyo. – Yellowstone National Park could be a powerful magnet for attracting tourists from China.

University of South Carolina assistant professor Robert Li said the Chinese are most aware of urban destinations in the U.S. like New York and Los Angeles. But in the West, he says, Yellowstone also is on their radar.

Li said travel between China and the U.S. has become easier since 2007. Chinese can now travel to the United States in groups for leisure purposes.

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