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In brief: Paralegal faces tampering charges

A paralegal at the Spokane County Public Defender’s Office is facing felony witness tampering charges after jail staff recorded her having several conversations with a man charged with kidnapping. That man is the father of two of the paralegal’s children.

Josie M. Booth, 24, faces felony witness tampering after allegedly having several conversations with Francisco M. Ayala, 34, who remains in jail on two counts of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and second-degree assault charges.

Charging documents don’t specify what Booth allegedly did to assist Ayala other than discussing witnesses in the case.

Public Defender John Rodgers did not return a call Monday seeking comment.

McGinn named new hearing examiner

The Spokane City Council on Monday selected attorney Brian T. McGinn as the city’s new hearing examiner.

He will replace Greg Smith, who is retiring after working for the city since 1977. Smith has been the hearing examiner for more than 20 years, said City Council President Ben Stuckart.

McGinn, 44, is a Spokane native who graduated from Gonzaga Prep and has a law degree from Gonzaga University. Since 1994 he has worked at the Winston and Cashatt law firm, the firm where City Attorney Nancy Isserlis practiced before she went to work for the city. He specializes in real estate and land-use law.

The hearing examiner, who reports to the City Council, is responsible for interpreting city rules, especially in relation to land-use, planning and building codes. Among the hearing examiner’s many duties, he determines if applicants are approved for variances, if developers can move forward with proposed subdivisions and even decides if dogs should be declared dangerous. McGinn will earn about $87,000. Smith’s salary is about $103,000.

Two survivors of bus crash file lawsuit

PORTLAND – Two survivors of an Eastern Oregon tour bus crash that killed nine passengers allege in a lawsuit that the driver was tired, didn’t heed warnings and was going too fast on a road with patches of snow and ice.

Attorney Charles Herrmann filed the suit against Mi Joo Tour & Travel late Sunday in Pierce County, Wash., on behalf of two South Korean exchange students who were among the 38 people injured in the Dec. 30 crash.

The complaint says the bus driver doubled as a tour guide and worked at least 90 hours without relief over the first eight days of the nine-day tour package, a violation of U.S. regulations that limit drivers to 70 hours in an eight-day span.

An employee at the Vancouver-based travel company referred questions to an attorney who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Small explosions hit UO power system

EUGENE, Ore. – A series of explosions hit an underground utility system Monday at the University of Oregon, plunging several buildings into darkness as crews scrambled to restore power.

Nobody was hurt, but the blasts created headaches for students and staff as they returned from winter break. The student health center was closed, and about eight buildings – many of them residence halls – remained dark hours after the blasts.

Officials said the explosions appeared to be related to the campus electrical supply, but they were still trying to pinpoint the cause.