Northwest Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2005

Goldbelt Inc. moves to intervene in mine suit

JUNEAU - Native corporation Goldbelt Inc. filed a motion Wednesday to intervene in the Kensington Mine lawsuit on the side of the U.S. Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers.

A coalition of environmental groups led by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council filed suit in federal court last month with allegations that a permit approved to dump rock waste into a lake violates the Clean Water Act.

Goldbelt owns land at Cascade Point where a marine terminal will be built to ferry workers across Berners Bay to the mine site.

"We feel that we are a target in this litigation," said Goldbelt CEO Gary Droubay in a written statement. "The plaintiffs lobbied the (city) planning commission and the Assembly to restrict our use of the dock to a single shuttle ferry."

Company officials also said that if the lawsuit leads to the mine shutting down, then it could be hurtful to the future of Juneau's economy.

SEACC Executive Director Russell Heath earlier said that it is not his organization's intention to shut down the mine, but only to make sure it operates in accordance with the Clean Water Act and other standards.

State says file early to get money sooner

FAIRBANKS - If you want your permanent fund dividend money sooner next year, the state says you have to get on board - or make that online -- earlier.

The state will reward those who sign up online for direct deposit of the dividend checks in January by giving those people their money two weeks earlier that those who sign in February or March.

"Next year we're going to have two direct deposits, one on Oct. 4 and one on Oct. 19," said Paul Dick, chief of operations for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Division.

To be eligible for the early Oct. 4 direct deposit, applicants must file online between Jan. 2-31. Those applicants who file online or through the mail between Feb. 1 and March 31 and choose direct deposit will receive their money Oct. 19.

Those who still want a paper check will have to wait until they are mailed Nov. 14.

"The online application is the direction we are going," Dick said. "It eliminates the paperwork and processing."

This year, 73 percent of those signing up for the dividend chose the direct deposit option. Dick says the state would like that number to be closer to 90 percent.

"It saves bucks and ultimately increases everybody's dividend," he said.

Elections chief resigns; Leman aide gets post

JUNEAU - Alaska Division of Elections director Laura Glaiser will resign at the end of the month, and she will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Loren Leman's deputy chief of staff.

Leman announced Wednesday that Whitney Brewster will replace Glaiser on Nov. 1. Brewster has worked for Leman since 2003, and one of her jobs was liaison to the Division of Elections.

Glaiser has been the state's elections chief since December 2002. Last year, she oversaw the recount of the U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Tony Knowles, as well as a court-ordered reprint of 517,000 ballots for that election.

Glaiser said she plans to move to Illinois by the end of the year. She said the decision to resign was her own and that she wanted to make a change in her life.

She said the announcement was timed so that her successor will be in place and prepared for the 2006 general election.

"If anything spurred the decision, it was to make sure the division would have a director to go into the election year," she said.

Retired magistrate killed in car crash

ANCHORAGE - A magistrate who retired within the last month was killed Wednesday in a two-car crash at mile 275 of the Parks Highway, Alaska State Troopers said.

William Ronald "Ron" Smith, 62, of Fairbanks died in the crash that involved his sedan and a semitrailer, troopers said.

Smith recently retired from the court system and planned to spend more time traveling with his wife, Joanna, said Ronald Woods, area court administrator for the 4th Judicial District.

In 1990, he was appointed magistrate for the 4th Judicial District of the Alaska Court System at Fairbanks, a position he held until his retirement Oct. 1.

Smith was remembered by his colleagues at the Rabinowitz Courthouse as a kind man who was sensitive to those who came before him, Woods said.

"He loved Alaska and its people and took great pride in being part of the fabric of our state," said Presiding Judge Niesje Steinkruger.

Smith was born in Elk City, Okla., in 1943. He received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1967, Woods said.

He served as an assistant staff judge advocate in the Air Force for several years in New York, Turkey and Colorado. In 1974, he was assigned to Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, where he was staff judge advocate from 1974-79.

In 1979, he made Fairbanks his home and entered private practice with the law firm of Staley, DeLisio, Cook and Sherry. He returned to the public sector in 1981 when he became deputy city attorney for Fairbanks.

Woods said Smith served in the city attorney's office for nearly 10 years until his appointment as magistrate.

Alaska Air settles with former supervisor

SEATTLE- A former Alaska Airlines supervisor who claimed he was demoted and fired for raising questions about aircraft safety following the fatal crash of Alaska Flight 261 has settled his lawsuit against the company.

Seattle attorney Jack Sheridan said he could not disclose how much the airline agreed to pay his client, Mansour Fadaie. But Sheridan did say the settlement, reached Friday, includes an apology from Alaska.

Fadaie filed his complaint in U.S. District Court in 2002, asking for $200,000 in lost wages and compensation for emotional distress. He was fired after he insisted that Alaska had failed to finish tool inspections requested by the federal government following the crash in January 2000.

The case was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 18.

"He was very satisfied with the terms of the settlement. He was very pleased that the company was willing to apologize," Sheridan said. "We believe we had a very strong case."

Alaska spokeswoman Caroline Boren confirmed the settlement had been reached.

According to Sheridan, Bill Ayer, chief executive for Alaska Air Group, will issue a letter that says:

"Alaska Airlines apologizes to Mansour Fadaie and his family for the distress caused by his 2003 termination. That discharge was under a different management structure than is currently in place today. We sincerely value the service Mr. Fadaie provided during his employment and his commitment to safety and quality. We are pleased that we were able to reach an amicable settlement of Mr. Fadaie's lawsuit."

Eighty-three passengers and five crew members died when Flight 261 crashed off the coast of California.

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