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In brief: Audit shows state college credit cards misused

Tue., Dec. 17, 2013

SEATTLE – A new state audit has found Washington university employees used government-issued credit cards to make more than $225,000 in purchases not allowed by state policies.

Most of the purchases were for alcohol or gifts. And the majority were made by people associated with the University of Washington.

The audit released Monday pointed out, however, that Washington’s four-year public universities have effective polices and most credit card purchases are fine.

The University of Washington has the largest number of credit cards – more than twice as many as Washington State University – and processes the most purchases through those cards.

UW officials believe the auditor’s report pointed out a technical problem with the way state credit card accounting rules are written, and they are working with the Office of Financial Management to revise the rules, said Randy Hodgins, director of state relations at the University of Washington.

“We still think the ‘pro-card’ and the use of the ‘pro-card’ is the most accurate and cost-effective way to make these purchases,” he said, because the credit card helps the university carefully track purchases.

State-issued credit cards aren’t supposed to be used for alcohol, gifts, donations to charity or personal purchases.

During the 2012 fiscal year, Washington’s six four-year colleges and universities used credit cards to buy more than $164 million in goods and services.

Burned building was condemned

EVERETT – The downtown Everett building where a woman died Sunday in an apartment fire had been condemned and work was underway to fireproof the stairwell.

But city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said Monday the fire was apparently unrelated to the work.

Pembroke says the city had ordered the work Nov. 20 and residents were allowed to stay in the five-story Hodges Building while it continued.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but police spokesman Aaron Snell told The Daily Herald there were no signs of a crime although arson investigators were involved in the work.

The two-alarm fire broke out before 7 a.m. in the 90-year-old building. Firefighters found the body.

Man charged with fourth bus robbery

SEATTLE – A man charged with robbing three passengers on a Metro bus in Seattle was charged Monday with another bus robbery.

The King County prosecutor’s office said 19-year-old Trevonnte Brown pleaded not guilty to all charges at his arraignment Monday and remains in jail with bail set at $350,000.

Brown is accused of robbing three passengers Nov. 25 at gunpoint. After his arrest, he was identified and accused of being the man who took a smart phone on Nov. 16 from another bus passenger.

Rally held outside HQ

SEATTLE – On the same day more than 1,000 workers at in Germany walked off the job in a labor dispute, a few dozen people rallied in solidarity Monday outside the online retailer’s Seattle headquarters.

“I’m here to support our American brothers and sisters … and to show the German workers that they’re not alone in their strike,” said Nancy Becker, a German worker who flew in Sunday for the rally. She works at the company’s Bad Hersfeld logistics center.

The one-day strike comes during the busy Christmas season for the online retailer. The German union Ver.di said Monday that workers were staging one-day warning strikes at Amazon logistics centers in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld and Graben. Inc. has about 9,000 fulltime employees in Germany and hires about 14,000 seasonal workers, the company said.

Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako said the majority of the workers did not strike.

“We feel it is best to work directly with our employees, not through an intermediary. In Germany, there are established works councils, comprised of associates elected by their peers, in eight of our fulfillment centers. We interact with the works councils regularly to create the best working environment possible for our associates,” she said.

The union says Amazon workers receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs. They also say other retailers pay overtime, but Amazon does not.

“What Amazon is doing is taking this American race-to-the-bottom roadshow to Germany and trying it out on our German brothers and sisters. They’ve come all the way from Germany to come to this corporate headquarters to say they’re not going to put up with it,” said David Freiboth, executive secretary of the King County Labor Council.

For its part, Amazon said its distribution warehouses in Germany are logistics centers and employees are already paid on the upper end of what workers in that industry earn. Their wage packages also include stock grants and bonuses.

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – The names of a dozen winners have been drawn in a West Side car dealer’s football promotion.

Jet Chevrolet in Federal Way, Wash., sponsored a raffle promising a dozen $35,000 winners if Seattle shut out New York in Sunday’s NFL game. That’s just what the Seahawks did, beating the Giants 23-0.

The winners’ names were drawn Monday afternoon. Those present for the drawing celebrated, and the others will be notified.

Dealership co-owner Jim Johnson told The News Tribune he didn’t expect the shutout, but he’s glad it happened.

Johnson has contacted the insurance company that backed his bet and the dealership expects to give $420,000 to the raffle winners.

Study looks at quake on saturated land

SEATTLE – A University of Washington researcher says an earthquake on the Seattle fault would be even more devastating if it occurs when the land is saturated with rain.

Research by Kate Allstadt indicates a quake in dry weather would trigger about 5,000 slides in the city, but 30,000 if the soil is wet.

The Seattle Times reports more than 10,000 buildings are at risk in the worst-case scenario, many of them upscale homes with water views on bluffs or hills.

The last quake on the Seattle fault about 1,100 years ago was estimated at 7.5 and caused a forest to slide into what is now Lake Washington.

A report on Allstadt’s study was published this month in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.


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