What’s news in the Northwest today:
TACOMA — A federal judge fined a Longshore union $250,000 today for its tactics in a Longview labor dispute, and he warned that individual protesters could face their own penalties for future violations of his orders. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton has already held the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in contempt for blocking a train and storming a grain terminal earlier this month. Authorities have said the protesters overpowered security guards, damaged railroad cars and dumped grain. “What’s going on out there is awful,” Leighton said. “We have to do something about it, and I’m going to do something.” The National Labor Relations Board had asked the court to fine the union more than $290,000 to cover the damages and expenses, such as overtime for law enforcement agencies. Leighton said he rounded down to be cautious and ordered additional penalties for future violations, including $25,000 for the union, $5,000 for union officers and $2,500 for other individuals. The union plans to appeal the decision, attorney Robert Remar said after the hearing. He had argued that the union has the right to assess whether the proposed damages and expenses were proper, saying that he believes some of them were excessive and inflated.
Woman charged after car hits girl, grandfatherNAMPA, Idaho — A 59-year-old woman is charged with inattentive driving after a car struck a man and his 5-year-old granddaughter as they crossed the street in Nampa, leaving the girl’s legs paralyzed. Barbara Smith has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor. Nampa police say the 46-year-old grandfather and the girl were carrying orange pedestrian flags when they were struck by a four-door passenger car on July 26. The family says the grandfather had to have surgery on his knees and suffered broken ribs, a broken shoulder and a fractured skull with brain trauma. The girl underwent two brain surgeries, three spinal cord surgeries and leg surgery. Family members say doctors have told them she will never walk again. The family says they have more than $200,000 in medical bills.
Washington doctors suing over Medicaid ER visit limits
OLYMPIA — A group of doctors is suing the state of Washington over its plan to limit Medicaid coverage to three non-emergency visits a year to an emergency room. The American College of Emergency Physicians says it’s filing the lawsuit today in Thurston County Superior Court. The group says the state list of non-emergencies includes chest pain, miscarriage and breathing problems, and limiting those visits will put patients at risk. The state Health Care Authority planned to implement the change Saturday to target frequent visitors who overuse emergency rooms. The Legislature estimated the state could save $35 million a year under the new limits. The Washington chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians represents more than 650 doctors.
Idaho court upholds part of Luna’s ed reforms
BOISE — An Idaho state court upheld a portion of public schools chief Tom Luna’s education reforms, ruling against a legal challenge from the Idaho Education Association teachers union. The measure passed during the 2011 Legislature phases out some teacher job protections, limits collective bargaining and dumps seniority as a factor in layoffs. The teachers union had been fighting these changes, arguing they are an unconstitutional attack on educators’ rights. Fourth District Judge Timothy Hansen ruled on Monday that the law passes constitutional muster. Luna cheered Hansen’s ruling along with Gov. Butch Otter, with both saying it’s another step in helping improve Idaho’s educational system. Union lawyer Paul Stark said the organization plans to appeal the ruling to the Idaho Supreme Court.
Students help rare frogs in Thurston County pond
OLYMPIA — The imperiled Oregon spotted frog received a helping hand Thursday from nearly 30 students enrolled in the New Market Skills Center’s Environmental Explorations program. The students converged in two shifts at a 10-acre wetlands near Salmon Creek, north of Littlerock to help kill reed canary grass, an invasive species that overwhelms frog habitat, and set traps in hopes of catching another enemy of the Oregon spotted frog - non-native bullfrogs. The $8,000 habitat-restoration project is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with support from the state Fish and Wildlife Department, Thurston County Stream Team, citizen volunteer Bonnie Blessing and property owner Tim Walker.
Concealed weapons licensing clerk arrested
VANCOUVER, Wash. – A Vancouver woman who processes concealed weapons permits for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office has been arrested on suspicion of official misconduct and computer crimes. Lana Smith, 57, has worked for the Multnomah sheriff’s office for 24 years, and was assigned to the concealed handgun licensing unit, according to a sheriff’s news release. She was arrested and booked into the Portland jail on Thursday, and later released on her own recognizance. She has been placed on unpaid administrative leave. The sheriff’s office isn’t detailing what she is alleged to have done, other than to say ”This investigation began on 9-15-11 after information was received regarding alleged misuse of computer systems and improper processing of a CHL (concealed handgun license) applicant.”
Police looking for husband of slain Everett woman
EVERETT, Wash. — Police say they have no suspect or motive in the slaying of a 69-year-old woman in Everett, but they’d like to talk with her husband. Sgt. Robert Goetz says investigators also would like to talk with her stepson, who recently was released from prison. Goetz says a lot of investigative work remains to be done in the death of Leslie Pedersen. Her body was found Wednesday by her daughter. A search warrant obtained by The Daily Herald says her hands were tied with duct tape and a bloody pillow was wrapped around her head. Goetz says police are also looking for a car missing from the home, a 2010 black Jeep Patriot, Washington license ABZ7996.
Idaho man goes on trial in acid attack case
LEWISTON, Idaho — A 29-year-old Lapwai man will stand trial next week on a charge that he threw a caustic liquid in the face of another man during an argument. The Lewiston Tribune reports the aggravated battery trial for Brandon Tyler Eddins is scheduled to start Monday in Lewiston’s 2nd District Court. Prosecutors say he was arguing with 29-year-old Daniel L. Hight in north Lewiston when Hight was hit with the liquid, which caused severe damage to his eye. Eddins is also scheduled to stand trial on a separate strangulation charge Monday. Judge Carl Kerrick, who is handling both cases, said the strangulation case will be handled after the aggravated battery charge is settled.
Fleeing driver who climbed Tacoma tree comes down
TACOMA — A man who climbed a tree in Tacoma while fleeing Washington State Patrol troopers came down this morning after nearly 9 hours out on a limb. KOMO Radio reports the man in his 20s who was wearing a T-shirt was cold after spending the night about 40 feet up the tree. He was checked at an ambulance. Troopers had been trying to talk the man into surrendering since before 11 p.m. Thursday when he ran away from a traffic stop.
Washington mom who tried to sell baby to be set free
VANCOUVER, Wash. — A woman who tried to sell her baby boy at a Taco Bell restaurant in southwest Washington will be free from jail soon. Under an agreement with Clark County prosecutors, 36-year-old Heidi Knowles pleaded guilty on Thursday to reckless endangerment and was sentenced to 77 days in jail by a county judge. The Columbian reports Knowles has already served that amount of time and will be released this week. According to court documents, prosecutors say Knowles approached a woman in the restaurant on July 14, handed her 1-year-old boy to a woman and offered to sell him for between $500 and $5,000. She declined and called 911. Child Protective Services took the baby and later placed him with a relative. Court hearings on the child’s custody are pending.
Ex-state insurance investigators sue Idaho agency
BOISE — Former state employees have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming they were forced out of the Idaho Department of Insurance for pursing a fraud investigation into a southeastern Idaho company and turning their inquiry over to federal authorities. The Idaho Statesman reports that former insurance department investigators W. Robert Lemke, Jan Heinz, Carol Garrett and Felicia Kruck filed the federal complaint Wednesday against the state agency and its director, William Deal. The former employees claim an investigation into the company, which started in December, revealed illegal activities that included a rebating scheme used to induce people to purchase policies, according to court documents. The ex-workers claim some of the policyholders who benefited from the insurance company’s illegal activities have strong personal connections to people with direct and indirect authority over the Department of Insurance’s investigation unit, which resulted in their ouster.
Mennonite auction, sale coming Saturday
RITZVILLE, Wash. – The 34th annual Mennonite Country Auction and Relief Sale will be Saturday at the Menno Mennonite Church near Ritzville. The event raises money for the Mennonite Central Committee, a relief and development agency of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Churches. The event begins with breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. Food and craft booths open at 10 a.m. International crafts will be sold at ”Ten Thousand Villages.” Other craft booths will have antiques, quilters’ supplies, fabric and unique collectibles. Food vendors will have smoked sausage, fresh-pressed apple cider, Canadian pure maple syrup, homemade pies and ice cream, kraut runzas, stone-ground wheat flour and corn meal, Troyer Amish cheeses and a variety of homemade breads and other baked goods. Admission and parking are free. For more information, directions, map and photos of auction items, go to http://mennonitecountryauction.mennonite.net or call (509) 659-0926. The church is at 1378 N. Damon Road, Ritzville.