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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hoopfest director Steltenpohl to take job with Northwest Sports

Compiled from staff and wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Rick Steltenpohl plans to leave his job as executive director of Hoopfest to become a managing partner with Seattle-based Northwest Sports & Entertainment.

He has been part of Hoopfest, Spokane’s 3-on-3 street basketball tournament, since it began in 1990, working as a volunteer and member of the first Spokane Hoopfest Association board of directors.

The basketball tournament has evolved into a downtown celebration drawing 140,000 players and fans spread across 40 city blocks.

Steltenpohl’s last day will be Aug 31, though he will continue as a consultant to Hoopfest.

He was out of the office and unavailable for comment Friday.

In his new job with Northwest Sports, Steltenpohl will assist with projects familiar to Spokane sports fans such as the “Battle in Seattle,” featuring a game between Gonzaga University’s men’s basketball team and another top-tier opponent.

Kootenai County jobless rate plummets

Kootenai County posted a 4.7 percent unemployment rate in February, reflecting unusually strong job growth for the month.

Hiring by two Post Falls companies – Buck Knives and Sysco Food Services – helped bring the unemployment down from 6.1 percent, where it was a year ago, said Kathryn Tacke, state labor analyst for North Idaho.

The mild winter was also a factor, Tacke said. Construction crews continued to work, and the retail and entertainment sectors benefited because people weren’t snowbound, she said. Employment at ski resorts lagged toward the end of February, but those layoffs will be reflected in the March employment numbers, Tacke said.

Other North Idaho counties also saw job gains. Bonner County posted a 4.4 percent unemployment rate in February, down from 5.2 percent a year ago.

Boundary County had 6.4 percent unemployment, compared to 7.7 percent a year ago; Benewah had 8.7 percent, compared to 10.2 percent; Shoshone had 6.3 percent, compared to 7.6 percent.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently changed how data is collected for the unemployment statistics, so some of the counties’ figures are lower than they were in the past, Tacke said. However, both current and year-ago numbers have been adjusted, so the job growth is real, she said.

The market current favors job seekers. They have the highest number of openings to choose from since 1989, Tacke said.

Consumer confidence down in February

The University of Michigan’s report on consumer sentiment for February moved to 94.1 in its final estimate, versus 95.5 in January, according to market participants who had seen the report.

The preliminary mid-month report on February sentiment, reported two weeks ago, was 94.2. Economists had expected to see the index to move to 94.3.

The university’s current conditions index hit 109.2, from January’s 110.9, while the expectations index was 84.4, from 85.7 the month before.

The report is released only to subscribers. It is based on a survey of around 500 households.

MCI chief to get $13.5 million bonus

MCI Inc. Chief Executive Michael Capellas is getting a $13.5 million bonus for 2004 after leading the former WorldCom out of bankruptcy and putting the long-distance phone company up for sale, a process which has triggered a possible bidding war.

Capellas was awarded $5 million in cash plus 357,241 shares of restricted MCI stock, currently worth nearly $8.5 million, in addition to his annual salary of $1.5 million, according to filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

The payments, approved by the MCI board’s compensation committee over the past week, were disclosed two days after MCI announced that it would be meeting with Qwest Communications Inc. to discuss a takeover bid that’s worth $1.25 billion more than what Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to pay for MCI.

The restricted stock cannot be sold immediately. The shares vest in stages over a four-year period.

The filing also outlined bonuses and stock grants for four other senior MCI officers:

Wayne E. Huyard, president for U.S. sales and service, was awarded $465,000 plus 166,712 restricted shares worth nearly $4 million at MCI’s closing share price of $23.73 on Friday.

Robert T. Blakely, MCI’s chief financial officer, was awarded $361,250 in cash and 133,370 restricted shares, currently worth about $3.2 million.

Jury begins deliberations in Ebbers case

A jury began deliberations but did not reach a verdict Friday in the trial of former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers, accused of orchestrating the $11 billion accounting scheme that bankrupted the company.

The panel of seven women and five men spent about five hours discussing the case before adjourning for the week. They were to resume deliberations Monday morning.

Just before going home, the jury sent a note asking to review more than three dozen exhibits and chunks of testimony from the trial, including some key testimony from star prosecution witness Scott Sullivan.

Sullivan, who was chief financial officer under Ebbers, testified that Ebbers pressured him into falsifying financial records at WorldCom from 2000 to 2002.

Jurors also asked to review the transcript of a 2001 voice mail in which Sullivan warns Ebbers that WorldCom’s numbers have “accounting fluff” in them.

The defense has argued the voice mail was referring to ways WorldCom counted revenue and represented nothing illegal.

Earlier Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones gave jurors 90 minutes of instructions on the law, urging them to weigh the evidence with clear thinking and without sympathy.

The jury must decide whether Ebbers, 63, orchestrated the fraud that drove WorldCom into the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history in 2002. He is charged with fraud, conspiracy, and lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission — crimes that carry up to 85 years in prison.

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