Judge denies dismissal of Shelton suit
A federal judge this week refused to dismiss a long-running suit against Butte County and a slew of its officials—but don’t expect a final decision in the case anytime soon.

Judge Milton L. Schwartz ruled that although many of the defendants in the case are “unprosecutable,” the case should be heard anyway, said plaintiff Bill Shelton. He filed the case in 1996, alleging that Butte County officials (including then-Sheriff Mick Grey and incoming Sheriff Perry Reniff), violated his civil rights after Shelton “blew the whistle” on an inmate beating at the Butte County Jail. Shelton was a correctional officer at the time.

The complicated case made big news back then, as Shelton alleged that jail guards orchestrated and allowed fights among inmates regularly. The county vehemently denies the charges and alleges that Shelton made the accusations to cover up an affair he was allegedly having with an inmate at the time.

Citing a back-up in the Ninth District Court, Sherman Oaks attorney George Kezios, who’s representing Shelton, said that he doesn’t expect oral arguments in the case to begin for “at least 12 months.”

“It’s going to be awhile,” he said with a sigh.

Environmentalists laud formation of new river restoration project
Upward of 260 acres of wildlife and hiking trails will open to area residents when the Sacramento River Partners opens the Del Rio Wildland Preserve.

The environmental organization reports that the project will restore the habitat and protect endangered species birds in the property, which borders the Llano Seco Unit of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge.

Sacramento River Partners Outreach Director Carol Wright says she is eager to begin the preserve restoration because of what she hopes it will give back to the environment and to the community.

“The species that depend on riparian habitat for survival and the humans who will have access to this habitat should all be very happy,” Wright said.

The group plans to hold forums for the community, asking for input on what types of uses should be allowed at the refuge. Public service groups as diverse as the Sacramento River Conservation Area, United Sportsmen for Wildlife and Habitat and Conservation and the Sierra Club will also help organize the refuge.

Herger gets tough on unemployment insurance fraud
While the rest of the nation watches the investigation of corporate accounting irregularities that so far run into the tens of billions of dollars, Rep. Wally Herger, R-Marysville, is focusing on another area of abuse—unemployment compensation. Herger says some of the 3.7 million Americans collecting unemployment are either working or their eligibilities have expired and they should be tossed off the dole. Herger, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Human Resources and heading up welfare reform that aims to kick people off unemployment insurance and onto the workforce, has written a letter to the nation’s 50 governors urging them to work with Congress and the Department of Labor to solve what he says is the loss of $1.8 billion a year to “waste, fraud and abuse.”

The feds have made available $8 billion in surplus unemployment funds to help states devise and launch programs to prevent unemployment benefit abuse. “…I am writing you to urge you to take steps to combat fraud and abuse in the nation’s unemployment compensation program,” Herger writes in his letter. There is urgency here, he says, because Congress has provided up to 13 weeks of extended benefits—even more in states with high unemployment—for the remainder of this year. “In short,” he warns, “during the remainder of this year any overpayments will be exacerbated by the extended duration of benefits.”