Go slow on Oak Valley, letter says: The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has warned that approval of the massive Oak Valley development, in the area of the Humboldt Road Burn Dump, would be premature at this time.

In a March 7 letter to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the DTSC cautions the board not to certify any of the project as clean until all toxins from the dump have been cleaned up. Oak Valley’s initial phase, now up for approval, would be on 43 acres that were not part of the burn dump, but cleanup on neighboring properties could spread toxins to it.

“We’re analyzing the letter right now,” said Chico City Manager Tom Lando this week. He said he’d received a copy of the letter only a few days earlier and hadn’t had a chance to read it. His initial feelings, he said, were that the project could move forward.

Keene client released from prison: It took a while—eight years—but attorney-turned-Assemblyman Rick Keene finally saw a client accused of murder in 1995 released from prison this week. Last November a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the 1997 conviction of Plumas County murder suspect Reta Gail Orner, who was defended by Keene. The judges ruled that Keene’s lackluster defense helped lead to his client’s conviction.

Plumas County District Attorney Jeff Cunan has ruled out a new trial, blaming the appeals court for citing “inaccurate” facts leading to the supposed error.

If at first you don’t succeed… Not satisfied with an employees’ vote nor a judge’s ruling, Enloe Medical Center has filed an appeal to try to keep a group of workers from unionizing.

The April 2004 vote came down 263 to 245 in favor of unionizing the hospital’s Service Employees Unit, which includes lab technicians, nurses’ assistants and pharmacy techs. The hospital contested because the National Labor Relations Board gave some voters the wrong color of ballot, meaning they voted in another unit’s election.

Administrative Law Judge Gerald Wacknov ruled last month that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that the results would have been different had the ballots been treated correctly.

Kyle Harp, a cardiovascular technician, said Enloe is just trying to drag out the process. “In our particular group there were no tainted ballots,” she said. “These people don’t have any idea what democracy is. … It’s like one more slap in our face.”

The NLRB will consider the appeal.

Gill, Brooks plead guilty: Harjit Gill, a Chico activist who was rounded up last year for questioning by a Federal Grand Jury in Sacramento investigating the Earth Liberation Front, pleaded guilty to one count of perjury in federal court this week.

Gill faces a sentence up to 21 months in prison. Co-defendant Robert Brooks, also from the Chico/Redding area, plead guilty to one count of contempt and faces up to six months in prison.