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BIAW Legal Woes Continue

October 1, 2010

OLYMPIA, Wash. - For the second time in less than a month, the powerful and politically active Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) has been reprimanded for financial impropriety. On Thursday, a Thurston County Superior Court judge said the Association should not have put money from a trust fund into its own bank account.

Attorney Knoll Lowney represents the small business owners and BIAW members who made the complaint.

"This is a trust fund, so it should have been put into a segregated account in the name of the trust. And instead, they put it into their own account, so all the interest that was earned on these tens of millions of dollars, accrued to the BIAW rather than to the small businesses that own the money."

The court ordered BIAW to stop the practice. Lowney says the trust was used to refund some workers' compensation premiums to employers with safe work sites. Last week, in another case, BIAW was fined by the Washington Attorney General for violating campaign finance laws.

These legal troubles take on greater significance because BIAW is backing Initiative 1082, an attempt to deregulate and privatize the workers' compensation system. Alex Fryer, chair of the campaign that opposes the initiative, explains their concerns.

"Our only comment on that is, this involves the prime sponsor of Intiative 1082. And to the extent that voters should look at who is sponsoring all their initiatives, does it raise questions about the Building Industry Association of Washington, and 1082? I think it does both."

BIAW calls the state-run workers' comp system "a government monopoly" and says private companies could offer coverage at more competitive prices. Fryer adds the initiative would also allow the BIAW to collect fees by contracting with private carriers.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA