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November 26, 2013 at 4:27 PM
Two Thurston County girls Tuesday sued the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), claiming the agency mishandled complaints that their mother was abusing them.
The mother, Theresa Ann Hutton, was convicted in 2009 of second-degree criminal mistreatment after a court found she withheld the “basic necessities of life” from one of the girls, who was forced to sleep outside, denied food and made to perform difficult chores.
Hutton had gained sole custody of the girls after their father died in a car accident. At the time, she was pregnant with the younger daughter; the older daughter was 5.
The lawsuit, filed in Thurston County Superior Court, alleges DSHS received “numerous complaints and referrals regarding Ms. Hutton’s treatment…but negligently, carelessly and unlawfully failed” to adequately respond.
As a result, the suit claims, the girls “suffered both physical and mental pain, disability, discomfort and anguish.”
The girls’ lawyer, Stephen Bulzomi, said public records indicate DSHS was alerted about potential issues at least 24 times.
An appeals court ruling in Hutton’s criminal case noted that Child Protective Services “sent investigators to the Hutton property many times” and “found Hutton’s home cluttered, dirty and smelling strongly of urine or ammonia,” and “did not attempt to remove the children, however, because there was adequate food and shelter, and there were no reports of physical abuse.”
The older daughter eventually ran away.
The girls, now 18 and 12, are in the custody of their paternal aunt, who filed the suit on behalf of the younger daughter.
The suit requests an unspecified amount of compensation for the girls.
A DSHS spokeswoman said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
November 5, 2013 at 7:00 AM
The University of Washington Bothell professor who crowdfunded his research on how trains affect pollution has found that allowing many more coal trains could worsen air quality for those living near tracks — but supporters of a controversial coal train proposal were quick to question the study.
Dan Jaffe, a professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry, announced Monday that his study found that coal trains caused a significant increase in diesel exhaust in the air. If rail traffic were to grow by 50 percent, he said, some neighborhoods along the tracks could be at risk of exceeding air quality standards.
The research, conducted by Jaffe and four students, took place at the Columbia River Gorge and a private home in Seattle’s Blue Ridge neighborhood. It is currently being peer reviewed before potential publication in an online journal.
The findings may not be particularly surprising in light of other studies, including one by the University of Washington released last month that found there is likely more diesel exhaust in South Park and Georgetown than Beacon Hill and Queen Anne due to commercial truck traffic.
But Jaffe acknowledged his $24,000, online-funded study was short in duration — just one month, compared to the minimum three years the federal government requires when assessing compliance with air quality standards.
Critics questioned the study hours before it was even announced.
A statement from the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, which is rallying support for proposals to build coal export terminals in Whatcom and Cowlitz counties to ship Montana and Wyoming coal to Asia, called Jaffe an “anti-coal activist.”
“Jaffe’s research has a history of supporting his own personal political views, including past work in support of a Sierra Club-led effort to close area power plants,” according to the statement, which also said rail is the much more environmentally friendly than trucking.
November 2, 2013 at 9:29 AM
Updated | 10:20 p.m.
Seattle City Light said it expects to restore power to 13,000 customers currently without power by 10 a.m. Sunday.
Gusty winds rattled the region Saturday, leaving at least three people injured, cutting power to some 200,000 and even forcing officials to close the Highway 520 bridge for about two hours.
The State Patrol closed the bridge about 11 a.m. after some 50 people driving westbound on the bridge “panicked” and decided to abandon their vehicles amid splashing water and low visibility, Trooper Chris Webb said. The bridge was reportedly swaying as much as five feet.
“I’ve been on (the State Patrol) 22 years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this,” said Webb, who said drivers should not abandon vehicles in the middle of the road.
The drivers were escorted to safety, and the bridge reopened just after 1 p.m.
The closure, which backed up traffic on the Interstate 90 bridge, was just one way in which the fall storm affected life in the Puget Sound.
None of the injuries were expected to be life-threatening.
A construction worker was hurt on Capitol Hill in the morning when a piece of metal awning he was installing blew off and hit him. A 2-year-old boy in the University District was seriously injured by a falling branch around 9:30 a.m. And a 48-year-old Granite Falls man was seriously injured south of Monroe when a tree fell across Highway 203 and onto his Mustang, according to the State Patrol.
Roughly 200,000 homes and businesses lost power at some point Saturday, according to reports from three local utilities.
Puget Sound Energy tweeted at 3 p.m. that 105,000 customers were without power “due to nearly 1,000 outages across a wide area.” The hardest hit areas were Northern King County, Kitsap County and Whidbey Island, according to another tweet. At 8 p.m., the utility was reporting 55,000 without power, most of them in King County.
Outages among Seattle City Light customers were slowly falling in the afternoon. By 10 p.m., the utility reported that just over 13,000 customers, most in North Seattle, were without power. That was down from a high of 46,000.
The hardest-hit areas were in Northeast Seattle between Wedgwood and Lake City; just north of Carkeek Park; on both sides of Aurora Avenue North between 165th and 195th streets; and along Lake Washington in Lake Forest Park. Laurelhurst and Madrona were also affected.
In Snohomish County, outages peaked at 40,000 in the morning before dwindling to about 10,000 by 3:30 p.m. Those outages were concentrated in the southern part of the county, between Bothell and Monroe, spokesman Neil Neroutsos said.
Neroutsos said the outages should be fixed by early evening. But he cautioned that “if we get another set of winds coming through, it could create some more problems.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Johnny Burg said the worst of the high winds were passing through the Seattle area around noon, and that high-wind advisories were in place for Seattle until 8 p.m.
Breezy weather and scattered showers are forecast to continue throughout the day, with gusts of up to 50 mph. There was no chance of flooding, but Burg said up to 6 inches of snow is expected in the passes this afternoon, as the snow level drops to around 2,500 feet. On Sunday, there is a chance of showers, but the forecast also says it will be partly sunny.
Webb, the state trooper, said officials are on high alert.
“It’s been a crazy day,” he said.
October 9, 2013 at 10:46 AM
Supporters of universal background checks for gun sales on Wednesday submitted most of the signatures they need to qualify for a 2014 statewide initiative.
Jewish Federation shooting victim Cheryl Stumbo and other Initiative 594 backers showed up in Olympia with an estimated 250,401 signatures on more than 15,000 petitions, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
While just 246,000 valid signatures are required for an initiative, the Secretary of State recommends that campaigns submit 325,000 to assure validation.
Initiative 594 supporters said they they plan to do that by the Jan. 3 deadline.
“We’re not declaring that we’ve reached our ultimate goal,” said spokesman Christian Sinderman. “We got to the first goal faster than we thought and we wanted to get them out of our hands and get back into the field and continue.”
The campaign got to the 250,000 hurdle through a combination of paid signature gatherers and an “unprecedented grass roots petition distribution effort,” according to a news release.
If Initiative 594 qualifies, it will first go to the state Legislature in 2014. If lawmakers don’t adopt the measure, it will go on the November 2014 ballot.
Second Amendment activists are collecting signatures for a 2014 initiative of their own, which would prevent the state from adopting a stricter background-check law than the national standard.
September 25, 2013 at 10:58 AM
The King County Prosecutor’s Office has filed theft charges against Michael King, the former executive director of the Washington Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, for alleging embezzling between $250,000 and $300,000 from the group.
King has made a “full confession” to police and blamed the theft on a drinking and gambling problem, according to charging documents filed Tuesday afternoon. A police review of his bank records found dozens of bank withdrawals at area casinos. King was charged four counts of first degree theft and four counts of second degree theft and is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 7.
He apparently took the money between March 2011 and January 2013 by “reimbursing” himself for made-up expenses, according to the documents.
The charges had been expected after financial irregularities were noticed earlier this year by other members of the group, which raises money to support Democratic candidates for the state Senate.
In February, the leaders of the group held a conference call to announce a probe into King’s actions.
The theft has raised questions for state senator and mayoral candidate Ed Murray, D-Seattle, one of three co-chairs of the SDCC, which aids Democratic candidates for the state Senate. Democrats narrowly lost a key Senate race in Southwest Washington last year, giving Republicans the votes they needed to form a “majority coalition caucus” with two conservative Democrats to seize control of the state Senate.
Murray and fellow SDCC co-chairs Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, and Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, released a statement Wednesday saying they were “disappointed that this theft occurred” and that the SDCC had “made necessary changes” to ensure such a theft never happens again, including ensuring that the group’s executive director cannot write checks without approval.
The trio planned a conference call with reporters later today to discuss the charges.
August 29, 2013 at 10:37 AM
The federal government will not try to block Washington state’s recreational marijuana legalization law, Gov. Jay Inslee announced this morning.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered his long-awaited decision on a potential legal challenge in a phone call with Inslee and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper just after 9 a.m., according to Inslee’s staff.
Colorado’s legalization law, also approved last November, also will stand.
“We have found a way forward,” Inslee declared in a news conference, thanking Holder and President Obama and signaling that much more work is ahead.
“What I’m hearing from the federal government is that they believe there’s a reason to trust the states of Washington and Colorado,” Inslee said. “We’re going to need to show that this system works.”
Holder’s Justice Department described the decision as part of an “an update to its federal marijuana enforcement policy” to focus on eight specific concerns, including preventing marijuana from spreading beyond states where it is now legal.
The other things the DOJ hopes to prevent are the distribution to minors, violence related to distribution, revenue going to criminal enterprises, the use of marijuana as a cover for other illegal activities, drugged driving, pot growth on public lands and use on federal property.
The DOJ will rely on local law enforcement agencies to enforce their own marijuana laws, but will be ready to “aggressively” step in if states do not adopt an effective and strict regulatory scheme, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote in a memo to all U.S. Attorneys.
“These are exactly the eight interests that we have shown in the state of Washington that have guided our formulation of this very tightly and well regulated distribution system,” Inslee said.
The DOJ’s decision brings an end to months of uncertainty as Washington state has wondered whether the other Washington would sue to stop the implementation of Initiative 502, which passed with 55.7 percent of the vote.
Inslee sent a letter to Holder in February detailing 21 ways the state will carefully implement the law “with public safety being our paramount responsibility.” He told the attorney general that “the world is watching.”
The next month, Holder said at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that he would be announcing a policy on Washington and Colorado’s laws “relatively soon.”
But weeks and months then dragged on without a decision. Seven congressional Democrats sent a letter in June asking Holder to assure Washington state pot users and sellers they won’t be “penalized by the federal government for activities legal under state law.”
With no decision announced, Holder had been invited to give an update to the Judiciary Committee committee on Sept. 10.
Even with the decision, Inslee and others cautioned that many questions remain — including about the medical marijuana industry and about whether interstate banks will be willing to work with recreational marijuana businesses given that the federal government stills considers pot illegal.
Inslee called that a “significant problem” in need of “creative solutions.”
The governor also sought to allay concerns from potential businesses, saying that a formal agreement between the state and federal government is unlikely but that “we have the fundamental structure of what we need to know” to implement the law.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson added that “there will be important details to work out in the coming weeks and months, but the key point right now is that there’s a pathway forward.”
Other local officials and marijuana activists expressed happiness at Holder’s decision.
“Seattle public safety officials, residents and entrepreneurs can now proceed with confidence that the will of the voters has prevailed in Washington,” Mayor Mike McGinn wrote in a statement.
Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel added that “our department will continue our mission of public safety, harm reduction, and public education encouraging safe and lawful behavior with regards to the guidelines for marijuana established by Washington voters.”
Initiative 502 campaign manager Alison Holcomb said in an interview that Holder’s decision was “incredibly exhilarating.”
“I’m very excited for the Washington voters that they now have clarity that they will in fact get to lead the nation in taking a new approach to marijuana,” she said.
July 26, 2013 at 1:38 PM
UPDATE, 8:07 p.m. | Fire spokesmen say nearly 180 homes are now threatened by a wildfire burning near Satus Pass in south-central Washington while east of Seattle, crews worked on a small wildfire just outside of North Bend, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The new fire on Mount Si, a popular hiking destination, was 50 percent contained by 5 p.m. Friday and had burned about two acres. Eastside Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Bud Backer told KOMO-TV local fire engine companies responded before handing the fire over to the state Department of Natural Resources. A DNR helicopter has dropped water on the blaze and crews were able to create a hose line around it.
Spokesman Mark Grassel says the fire near Goldendale has burned 4,600 acres or about 7 square miles along the top of Satus Pass. No homes have been lost. Most of U.S. Highway 97 between Goldendale and Toppenish remains closed due to the fire
UPDATE, 2:11 p.m. | A wildfire outside of North Bend on Mount Si is growing and spreading into a wilderness area, according to Eastside Fire and Rescue.
Only a small portion of the fire is accessible from a road, and the fire is moving uphill away from that road.
The state Department of Natural Resources has a helicopter responding from Ellensburg, about 80 miles away.
No evacuations have been ordered.
ORIGINAL POST | A small wildfire began outside of North Bend on Mount Si on Friday afternoon, the same day that officials issued a burn ban for King County.
The one-acre fire caused concern because it was visible from Interstate 90, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources.
July 8, 2013 at 12:04 PM
A state Department of Ecology employee gave more than 85 hours of free massages to coworkers during workdays last year, according to an audit released Monday.
Shannon Cline, who recently left the agency, was attending a massage-therapy school and was required to practice a certain number of hours to obtain a license, according to a state Auditor’s Office report that cited the six-year spill responder for conducting personal business on state time.
But Cline, reached on her cell phone late Monday afternoon, said she gave the massages on her breaks and with the permission of her supervisor and the building manager.
“The audit report is inaccurate in many ways,” she said.
The report alleges that Cline gave 67 massages that typically lasted between an hour and an hour and a half. They occurred throughout the year but peaked in August, when she spent 15 hours of state time giving massages.
Cline said she conducted only 34 hours of massages.
The massages and related emails sent on the state system constituted a violation of the state ethics law, according to the audit, which also dinged Cline for discussing with coworkers about payment for massages after she obtained a license.
Cline insisted it was not a violation because she did not profit from the massages and because they fit under the law’s “de minimus” standard for personal items on work time.
In response to the findings, the state Department of Ecology told auditors it would talk with the former employee’s supervisors and issue an agency-wide reminder about the rules, according to the report.
June 28, 2013 at 8:58 PM
Authorities have arrested a 26-year-old Marysville man in connection with the June 1 drive-by shooting that killed 15-year-old Molly Conley of Seattle, officials confirmed Friday night.
Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office deputies made the arrest Friday at the man’s home, spokeswoman Shari Ireton said. The suspect was to be booked into Snohomish County Jail on suspicion of 1st-degree murder, she said.
No other information was expected to be available until Monday, Ireton said.
Detectives believe the classmates were walking along a south Lake Stevens road at 11:18 p.m. when someone in a passing vehicle opened fire. A bullet struck Conley in the neck. She died at the scene.
Officials said they received 911 calls about two other drive-by shootings later that night, although those only resulted in property damage. It wasn’t clear whether the other shootings were related.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office had been handling the investigation but had released few updates in recent days.
Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound had offered a $34,000 reward for information that led to a conviction in Conley’s slaying. It wasn’t clear whether the reward figured in Friday’s arrest.
The arrest was first reported in an 8:50 p.m. message posted on the City of Lake Stevens’ Twitter account.
June 26, 2013 at 9:36 PM
Officials have extended the public comment period for a proposed cleanup of minor radiological contamination at Magnuson Park, state Rep. Gerry Pollet announced Wednesday afternoon.
The U.S. Navy and state Department of Ecology will now take comments until July 26 and will hold a question-and-session session next month, Pollet wrote in a news release.
Pollet, D-Seattle, has been pushing for more scrutiny of the $9 million cleanup, which is in response to contamination discovered near the Arena Sports gym in 2009 but not disclosed to the publicly until recently.
Federal, state and local officials have said they did not warn the public because the contamination did not threaten the public as long as nobody entered a fenced-off area. Nonetheless, they’re planning to take care of the contamination for good later this year.
Pollet, however, thinks the officials’ plan would leave too much contamination in the soil.
“Extending the comments period and holding a proper public meeting is a promising development that allows more time for park users and local residents to get their questions answered and make their concerns known,” the second-term lawmaker said. “But the Navy, the Department of Ecology, and Seattle Parks must not stop there. The failure to provide a review for residents to consider of health impacts from the contamination which the Navy proposes to leave behind is just one of many shortcomings of this project that still need to be addressed.”
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times.
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