- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

ALABAMA

Scrushy funded church backers

BIRMINGHAM — A charity funded by former HealthSouth Corp. chief Richard Scrushy gave more than $700,000 in 2004 to churches and ministries whose leaders attended his criminal trial earlier this year.

The donations made up most of the $882,000 handed out by the Richard M. Scrushy Charitable Foundation last year, tax records show. Mr. Scrushy said the contributions were to support the groups’ work, not to purchase support in court.

CALIFORNIA

Dozens indicted in Katrina scam

FRESNO — Forty-nine persons have been indicted in a scheme that bilked thousands of dollars from a Red Cross fund designated for Hurricane Katrina victims, federal authorities said.

At least 14 suspects worked at a Red Cross call center in Bakersfield and are accused of helping family and friends file false claims, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Sacramento. Six have pleaded guilty to federal wire-fraud charges.

The fake claims drained at least $200,000 from the fund, with an average payout of about $1,000, Red Cross spokeswoman Deborah Goldburg said. The total could rise as the investigation continues.

The Bakersfield site is the largest of three Red Cross centers set up to handle hurricane calls.

COLORADO

Pot advocates seek statewide initiative

The same marijuana advocacy group that persuaded Denver voters to approve a measure legalizing adult possession of the drug in the city now is firing up a statewide campaign to place an identical initiative on Colorado’s fall ballot.

The group, Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), seeks voter approval to make it legal for people 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

Even if the measure passes, it would remain illegal for people to publicly display or smoke pot, sell it or drive under its influence.

The group will need nearly 68,000 voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but SAFER’s goal is about 100,000 signatures.

GEORGIA

New community pounces on blight

SANDY SPRINGS — The new city of Sandy Springs is wasting no time pursuing municipal duties. In less than a month of operation, code officers have issued 51 warnings about infractions such as junked cars and run-down properties.

Many in the community of 86,000 just north of Atlanta cited lack of code enforcement by Fulton County as a major reason they voted earlier this year to incorporate.

IDAHO

Officials to corral wandering elk

KETCHUM — Up to 60 elk cows that have been roaming the back yards, city streets and golf courses of Ketchum will be captured and relocated to less-populated areas outside town.

State fish and game officers said high numbers of elk gathered could increase disease transmission and draw predators into the ski resort community.

ILLINOIS

Vision plan draws police, not poor

EAST ST. LOUIS — A program designed to provide corrective eye surgery to low-income Metro East residents hasn’t attracted their interest. However, it has become a hit with police officers and firefighters, who were made eligible after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Of the 188 laser surgeries performed since the 2001 attacks, five of the patients were poor Metro East residents.

NEW YORK

Cayuga Indians acquire farmland

SPRINGPORT — The Cayuga Indian Nation of New York purchased a 70-acre farm in the Finger Lakes region. It marks the tribe’s first large acquisition since being driven from its homeland during the Revolutionary War in 1779.

While other tribes managed to retain tiny slices of territory, most Cayugas eventually resettled in Oklahoma. The tribe has no immediate plans to relocate to the farm.

OHIO

High-court justice receives reprimand

COLUMBUS — A panel of state appellate judges yesterday publicly reprimanded Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, saying her drunken-driving conviction violated the state’s judicial code of conduct.

No other discipline was recommended.

Other judges have had their law licenses suspended after such convictions, but the panel said those cases had aggravating circumstances. Justice Resnick had no discipline against her since she was sworn in as a lawyer in 1964.

Justice Resnick, 66, acknowledged the charges when an attorney discipline complaint was filed against her in November.

Justice Resnick was pulled over Jan. 31 and at first drove away from state troopers who were questioning her. They followed her and later pulled her over again.

PENNSYLVANIA

New councilman refuses loyalty oath

STONEBORO — A former Marine who won a write-in campaign for a borough council seat will be allowed to take office without signing a Cold War-era loyalty oath affirming he isn’t a “subversive.”

Gerald Massey, 71, argued that the oath was declared void back in the 1970s. Mercer County’s solicitor, Mark Longietti, said his legal research confirmed the law no longer applies.

Mr. Massey, a Marine Corps veteran and retired philosophy professor, won a two-year seat on the Stoneboro council in November after a write-in campaign. He balked when borough officials told him to sign the Pennsylvania Loyalty Oath, signed into law in 1951 in an effort to keep communists out of government positions.

Mr. Massey has said he will take the oath of office to uphold the state and national constitutions, but objected to the loyalty oath on principle.

VERMONT

Merchants miss rerouted traffic

BENNINGTON — Some merchants are seeing the economic downside to a highway that diverts truck traffic from downtown.

Business leaders want to rent billboard space in New York just west of Bennington to remind motorists of the town’s shopping opportunities. Since the bypass opened in autumn last year, traffic on Vermont Route 9 through town has declined.

WISCONSIN

Interest heats up in solar program

MADISON — The number of people applying for rebates from a state program to help cover the costs of installing solar heating systems has more than doubled from last year. The program’s administrator thinks rising heating bills is one reason.

This year, 191 persons have applied for rebates ranging from 25 percent to 50 percent for solar-electric and hot-water systems. That compares with 90 a year ago.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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