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In brief: Inmates freed at news conference

EUGENE, Ore. – Sixteen Lane County inmates walked free Friday in the middle of a news conference, part of an event designed by an Oregon sheriff to emphasize the need for more money at his jail.

“We are releasing nearly 100 (inmates) a week, and we specifically timed this event so you can see this event firsthand,” Sheriff Tom Turner said. “We do this every day.”

Turner said the releases are done because of shortages and budget cuts.

Turner estimated that, with its present staffing, the jail will release more than 5,000 inmates during the current fiscal year, which began last July. Already, 3,500 inmates have been released due to a lack of jail beds, and Turner said 500 of them are suspected of committing crimes after they were released.

After plutonium exposure, men sue

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Two Idaho National Laboratory workers who were exposed to plutonium contamination in 2011 are now accusing their employers of creating an unsafe work culture at the eastern Idaho research facility.

Ralph Stanton and Brian Simmons announced Thursday they have filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration against Battelle Energy Alliance, the company contracted by the government to operate INL.

The two men claim their concerns about on-the-job safety were ignored and that an unsafe culture existed at the site before they and 16 other workers were exposed to plutonium in November 2011. They also allege retaliation after raising safety issues with administrators.

Lab officials dispute the claims.

“(BEA) disagrees with the filed complaint, and we will be strongly defending,” INL spokeswoman Misty Benjamin said in a statement.

Discrimination ban nixed in Pocatello

POCATELLO, Idaho – The Pocatello City Council on Thursday narrowly rejected an ordinance intended to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.

The ordinance, which mirrors protections passed in Sandpoint, Boise and Moscow in the last 15 months, would have criminalized discrimination in cases of housing, employment and use of public services.

Mayor Brian Blad cast the deciding vote, breaking a 3-3 tie.

The ordinance would have made discrimination based on sexual orientation a misdemeanor, punishable with fines up to $1,000 and six months in jail. State law already makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on other factors including race, gender and religion.