Settlement in Znetix suit –– News Roundup

Settlement in Znetix suit

A Seattle law firm that represented both Znetix/Health Maintenance Centers and founder Kevin Lawrence will pay up to $15 million to settle claims against the firm, court-appointed receiver Michael Grassmueck announced Friday.

Most of the funds from the settlement with the law firm of Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC will go to reimburse those bilked by Lawrence in the $93 million stock fraud, Grassmueck said.

Lawrence was sentenced last fall to 20 years in federal prison for defrauding thousands of people nationwide through the sale of unregistered securities.

Investors were told they were buying into a cutting-edge health and fitness company, when Lawrence instead spent investor funds on luxury homes, cars and jewelry for himself and associates.

Grassmueck sued Ogden Murphy in 2003, alleging that the firm had a conflict of interest when it represented Lawrence and his companies at the same time.

The receiver said the firm sacrificed the companies’ interests in favor of Lawrence, charges the firm denied; Grassmueck had sought $50 million in damages, with trial set for May.

This week’s agreement settles those claims, pending approval in federal District Court. Terms of the settlement will be mailed to all shareholders, investors and creditors, Grassmueck said.

– Douglas Crist

Fire Dept. to get new boat

Citing the need for overwater firefighting capability, the Bainbridge Island Fire Department will soon add a fire boat to its arsenal.

The fire board Wednesday approved purchase of an 18-foot, Zodiac-type vessel, to be manufactured by Northwind Marine of Seattle. Cost is estimated at $78,000, including tax.

The boat would be boast a 1,000-gallon-per-minute pump to direct water toward a blaze, or supply other systems as a backup water source in fighting marina and boat fires. It would also be used for rapid response to water emergencies.

The vessel will replace a 1988-vintage boat that the department has used for rescues, but that lacks a water pump for firefighting.

The nonprofit Bainbridge Island Firefighters Association has pledged $37,000 toward the purchase. Resale of the current fire boat and motor is expected to raise about $8,000, while the department will also approach local yacht clubs for contributions.

The new boat is expected to be delivered in six to eight weeks.

“We got 15 or 16 years out of the last boat,” Operations Chief Luke Carpenter said. “I would expect that much out of this one.”

– Douglas Crist

Examiner rules for fish farm

A commercial fish farm in Rich Passage can maintain underwater lighting and other improvements added to the operation several years ago, the city hearing examiner determined this week.

Pan Fish USA Ltd., formerly known as Cypress Island and Global Aqua, had sought permission to maintain lighting, a central fish feeder machine, a float-borne generator, and a “sani-can” for workers.

Applications were filed after the city planning department found that the changes raised noise and height issues and required permits; several public hearings were held last month.

Neighbors on South Beach Drive and a hillside overlooking the farm objected to the application, citing distrust of the company.

Several said the farm’s equipment is noisy, and argued that underwater lighting disturbs marine life and aggravates sea lions, causing them to bark more.

In her decision, Getches noted that that farm had been in operation since 1973, long before most of the houses in the neighborhood, and that under state shoreline regulations, aquaculture “is a preferred use of the water area.”

She found the improvements “provide for technological advances in the industry that are, or are becoming, the standard necessary for an aquaculture operation to remain viable.”

The improvements, she said, would have no significant visual impact and would not increase “late-night noise from sea lions.”

– Douglas Crist

Ball rolls away; in with the New

Bainbridge Youth Services board member Ann New will step in Monday as the organization’s interim executive director.

She takes over for Geoff Ball, executive director since January 2002, who stepped down this week to accept a position as executive director of Sound Experience. The program operates the historic, 101-foot schooner Adventuress, which provides environmental and marine science education to kids.

“It was the opportunity that came up and spoke to me,” Ball said. “I really struggled with the decision. It wasn’t easy to decide to leave (BYS).”

Bainbridge Youth Services provides no-cost counseling to youths and family and runs a job referral program for youths with more than 900 kids registered.

New will manage operations and fund raising.

“I feel lucky to be doing it,” said New, who has been a board member for 14 months. “BYS is an organization dear to my heart. I feel BYS provides support in a (critical) area. (If) it didn’t exist, a lot of kids and families wouldn’t get the help they need.”

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” she added. “My family has used the services, so I understand at a personal level how great the staff is. This is an opportunity to give a little bit back to the community.”

BYS board president Lin Kamer-Walker said she hopes a permanent candidate will be found by September.

– Tina Lieu

Fourth enviro event slated

“We all live downstream, we all need water” is the theme of the fourth annual Bainbridge Island Environmental Conference, to be held March 20 at Bainbridge High School.

Water and watershed resources are the focus, in an event sponsored the Association of Bainbridge Communities, the Bainbridge Island Land Trust and other organizations.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. with keynote speaker Sarah Dooling, a Bainbridge resident and University of Washington graduate student in community and environmental planning.

Kristina Hill, associate professor in the UW’s School of Landscape Architecture, will follow with a presentation on “Everyone Needs Water.”

Presentations and panel discussions on water and watersheds will follow throughout the morning, with updates on current environmental topics at noon.

In the afternoon sessions, neighbors will meet according to their watershed, to discuss the physical aspects of their surroundings and proposals for identifying, monitoring, protecting and enhancing watershed resources.

A continental breakfast will be served at 8 a.m. and lunch at 12:30 p.m., with adjournment at 2:45 p.m.

The event will be held in the high school’s LGI room. Registration is $15 before March 13, $25 after. Students are free if they register before March 13.

For registration, call the Bainbridge Island Land Trust at 842-1616, or drop by the BILT office in the Marge Williams Center on Winslow Way, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays.

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