High court to review exclusive contracts for waste management

The Washington Supreme Court has agreed to review a case involving the city of Seattle's exclusive contracts for collection of construction, demolition and land-clearing waste, lawyers for independent haulers said Thursday.

The lawyers are hoping to overturn a 2005 decision by the Washington State Court of Appeals, which concluded that the city could hire specific companies to collect construction debris without a public bidding process.

The dispute began in 2001, when the city hired Rabanco and Waste Management, which already collected residential garbage, to handle commercial garbage from stores, businesses and apartments. Small haulers, such as Joe Ventenbergs' Seattle-based Kendall Trucking, wanted to compete for construction-debris collection. Ventenbergs and contractor Ron Haider sued after the city passed an ordinance in 2002 that effectively excluded small haulers from that market.


Petition questions judge's decision

Seattle-based Washington Mutual said Thursday it filed a petition with the Department of Labor, seeking a review of a recent judge's decision ordering it to pay more than $1 million to a former employee who was fired after expressing concerns about risky construction loans.

WaMu said in a statement that it does not agree with the conclusions reached by Administrative Law Judge Gerald Etchingham in his 53-page decision released Dec. 19.

Saying former employee Theresa Hagman faced an "abusive work environment" after notifying supervisors about her concerns, Etchingham ordered WaMu to pay her $642,941 in front pay equivalent to more than three years' salary and bonus; $125,515 in deferred compensation such as stock options; and $305,748 in attorneys' fees and costs.

In a previous decision by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, WaMu was ordered to pay Hagman $167,902 in back pay, interest and attorney's fees.


Australians go with surveillance system

The Australian Army will deploy a surveillance system based on ScanEagle, a small, robotic airplane designed and built by Insitu of Bingen, Klickitat County, in partnership with Boeing. The order is worth about $10 million, said Insitu CEO Steve Sliwa.

Four feet long with a 10-foot wingspan, the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, uses a swiveling camera to track a target or to maintain surveillance of a fixed location. It can be pre-programmed or guided by an operator at a ground station.

ScanEagle has logged more than 20,000 combat flight hours with the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Australian soldiers are already using it in southern Iraq.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff