National Roundup

Timber group suesover ­expansion of monument land

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - A timber industry group has joined a growing list of entities challenging the legality of former President Barack Obama's expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

The Mail Tribune reports the American Forest Resource Council filed a lawsuit Friday asking a federal court to invalidate the expansion. It's the third federal lawsuit filed in the case since February.

Before leaving office, Obama added 48,000 acres to the monument in southwestern Oregon to protect its biodiversity.

The council says the land is dedicated to timber production under the O&C Lands Act. The group claims Obama went against a 1940 Department of the Interior legal opinion stating O&C lands can't be pulled from production.

The Oregon Association of O&C Counties and the lumber group Murphy Co. have also challenged the monument expansion.

Jury awards 7 million in case of whistleblower

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A former Ada County employee who filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging he was retaliated against and wrongly fired has been awarded $1.7 million.

The Idaho Statesman reports Rich Wright's attorney says a jury awarded the money to his client Tuesday.

Wright had been the head of the county Department of Administration before he was fired in 2013.

Wright claimed he was terminated by the Board of Commissioners for launching an investigation into one of his employees for harassment. Wright's lawsuit claims the employee had been a close friend of two county commissioners.

A district judge initially dismissed the case, saying Wright's claims didn't fall under the Whistleblower Act.

But Wright appealed, and the Idaho Supreme Court sent the case back to trial court.

Ada County officials have said Wright's termination came as part of a restructuring of the department.

Judge cuts prison term for ex-NYPD cop in drug deal

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A former New York Police Department officer will spend less time in prison for taking part in a $200,000 Florida cocaine deal.

A federal judge in Fort Lauderdale agreed Tuesday to cut three years from 30-year-old Phillip LeRoy's 10-year sentence.

LeRoy pleaded guilty to a drug trafficking conspiracy charge in 2015. He admitted providing security and carrying his off-duty gun for a drug deal to bring 22 pounds of cocaine from Florida to New York. The deal turned out to be a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation.

According to a Sun Sentinel report, prosecutors said Leroy provided information that helped investigators figure out how the drug ring operated.

LeRoy had been "Cop of the Year" twice in his precinct. He apologized Tuesday for "embarrassing the law enforcement community and the NYPD."

High court puts ruling on rapist's sentence on hold

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Supreme Court has put on hold its decision overturning a convicted rapist's 112-year prison sentence.

In a 5-2 ruling Wednesday, the court agreed with a prosecutor's request to delay the case while an appeal is made to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office wants the high court to take up the case of the 2008 sentence given to Brandon Moore for crimes committed when he was 15.

Moore was tried as an adult and convicted by a jury in the 2001 armed kidnapping, robbery and gang rape of a 22-year-old Youngstown State University student.

The Ohio Supreme Court overturned the sentence in December, saying it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Supreme Court rejects minimum wage challenge

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a challenge brought by business groups to a minimum wage increase approved by voters in the November election.

The brief order from the high court said the seven justices were turning away a challenge brought by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business groups. Chief Justice Scott Bales said a written ruling explaining the court's thinking will come later.

The groups argued that higher state costs for elderly and disabled care trigger a state constitutional provision requiring a new funding source. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office and the backers of Proposition 206 argued before the court last week that the increased costs were indirect and didn't require new funding.

An estimated 700,000 low-wage workers got an increase to a minimum $10 per hour from $8.05 on Jan. 1, and their wages will increase to $12 an hour in 2020. The measure also requires most employers to provide sick time to their workers.

Jim Barton, who represented the group backing the measure, said he was pleased but not surprised by the ruling.

"The Arizona Supreme Court, they follow the law," Barton said. "They're not an activist court, they do not go outside the boundaries, and I think that's what you had today."

Business groups opposed the measure from the start, filing a legal challenge to keep it off the ballot that was rejected. Fully 58 percent of voters approved the measure, a large margin for a voter initiative.

The high court refused to keep the wage increase from going into effect, and held a full hearing on the challenge last week.

The Chamber's attorney pointed to a minimum $21 million in additional state costs in the 2018 budget year to help contract providers cover higher wages for caring for the elderly and disabled. They said the law failed to require a constitutionally-mandated funding source to cover those costs.

But justices sharply questioned attorney Brett Johnson about how they could overturn the measure and still leave intact citizens' right to pass laws that's been in place since statehood. They wondered how any measure could be legal if such indirect costs had to be measured and funded.

Chamber President Glenn Hamer said in a statement that while disappointed, he respected the ruling and said it gives clarity to the state and employers.

"Lawmakers and the governor can now craft a state budget that considers the law's impact on state revenues, and employers can calibrate their operations with the understanding that the minimum wage and paid leave law will stand," Hamer said.

Brnovich issued a statement saying he did his job in defending the law and took a swipe at the efforts to have the law overturned.

"The constitution is designed to protect our rights," Brnovich said. "It's not a tool to be used to undermine the will of the people."

Published: Thu, Mar 16, 2017