Government settles last of spy plane suits
Five and one-half years after a U-2 spy plane took off from Beale Air Force Base and slammed into the offices of the Oroville Mercury-Register, killing a newspaper customer along with the pilot, major lawsuits surrounding the crash have been settled.

The Air Force and the U.S. Department of Justice agreed this month to pay $2 million to those affected, including $950,000 in repairs to the Mercury-Register office, the Sacramento Bee reported. Some plaintiffs, who had sued claiming physical and emotional injuries, settled in August 2001 for $25,000 each.

The Aug. 7, 1996, crash—later attributed to mechanical failure—killed pilot Randy Roby and also Geraldine Vering, who was there to place a classified ad.

Current editor Carmen Biano, who was not a party to the suits, said that the accident marked a turning point for the paper. “It changed the Mercury-Register virtually overnight.” The paper started being printed as a morning paper by its sister publication, the Chico Enterprise-Record.

Local couple to address Congress about treatment of Hmong veterans
Ed and Georgie Szendrey, of Chico, have been invited to Washington, D.C., to address Congress about a fact-finding trip they made last month to Laos and Thailand.

The Lao Veterans of America sent the couple, along with Oroville resident Ger Vang, on a private mission to verify reports that the communist North Vietnamese are targeting for virtual genocide thousands of Hmong and Laotians who surreptitiously fought during the war. In some cases, a brief report they wrote notes, the Hmong’s and Laotians’ family members fought alongside the Americans, and their descendants are now being targeted for death.

They are scheduled to give a formal report to Congress about their mission on Monday, Feb. 4. Ed Szendrey is the retired former chief investigator for the Butte County District Attorney’s Office.

In-home care workers now can organize
Upward of 2,300 Butte County in-home care workers took a huge step toward unionizing this week.

The move came after the Board of Supervisors agreed to create a public authority to effectively govern the workers, who had been operating for years as independent contractors. As such, they had no right to benefits, time off, collective bargaining or the basic labor laws enjoyed by workers in more organized fields.

Tuesday’s action will allow Butte County’s in-home care workers, most of whom earn minimum wage, to start organizing toward the formation of a union, said United Domestic Workers organizer Molly Hillis. It’s still a ways off, she said, but that’s the goal.

Davis to head county department
In a unanimous vote Jan. 29, the county Board of Supervisors agreed to appoint Fred Davis, who for 30 years was Chico’s city manager, to head up the Department of Development Services.

Davis, who was offered the job several months ago, will be paid $75 an hour for a three-month contract. The board is still looking for a permanent replacement for former department head Tom Parilo, who was abruptly fired early last year. Tom Buford has served as interim department head since summer.

The board also unanimously agreed Jan. 29 to formally appoint Sharon A. Stone as director of Child Support Services. She has been heading up the newly formed department since it separated from the District Attorney’s Office.

She will be paid $98,000 a year.