May 22, 2013. Which is worse – Oregon stealing the money from the victims’ fund awarded to a bunch of veterans or New Hampshire suing a group of local robin hoods who keep paying expired parking meters and leaving a note inviting the motorists to continue the good will and consider paying it forward?
KBR management warns its employees in Iraq, "As we all know, journalists are very sneaky." As it turned out, KBR had a lot to hide. Image courtesy of NPR.
KBR poisons US soldiers in Iraq
In 2003, the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root was being paid by the US government to handle a number of responsibilities during the Iraq invasion. It was also contracted to play a large role in the subsequent decade of rebuilding, or occupation, depending on whether you’re an Iraqi or an American.
KBR was awarded numerous contracts by the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild Iraq’s oil, water and gas infrastructure. The company was also hired for other operations such as repairing and maintaining the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant. It was there that 12 Oregon National Guardsmen say they were poisoned because of the negligence of KBR employees. A jury agreed, saying KBR workers showed, "reckless and outrageous indifference.”
The evidence showed that Oregon National Guardsmen were exposed to a carcinogenic chemical called hexavalent chromium. It’s used throughout Iraq’s oil and water pipelines to fight rust. In 2008, the first of a dozen sick soldiers came forward and filed a suit against KBR for its negligence in not warning the military attachment assigned to guard the plant of the presence of the chemical. For its part, KBR insists it notified the military the instant it detected the cancer and respiratory illness-causing carcinogen.
A jury sided with the 12 Oregon soldiers, awarding them a combined $81 million. But they’ll be lucky if they ever see a fraction of that award, if any at all. Not only is KBR planning to appeal, a federal judge has ruled that 70% of the total judgment be forfeited to the government. At the most, each victim will only receive $2 million, and that looks to be decades after they became sick, if ever.
As detailed by OregonLive.com, Magistrate Judge Paul Papak ruled that, ‘the awards should be apportioned according to Oregon law, which requires that 60 percent of punitive damage awards be set aside for the state's crime victims fund and another 10 percent for a state courts facilities fund.’
Against the law to be helpful and nice
In Keene, New Hampshire, city officials have gone to great lengths to increase the city’s funding through parking tickets. In response, a group of local residents have been traveling the city streets, feeding expired parking meters so the unsuspecting car owners don’t get parking tickets. They saw it as a good deed. Instead, the city of Keene considers it a crime.
If one were to ask the effected motorists, they’d most likely be on the side of the good Samaritans. After all, city funding isn’t budgeted with parking tickets. It’s financed with parking revenue. And that’s exactly what the small handful of helpful and generous citizens is assuring. It’s no different than paying someone else’s tax bill. But tensions have risen to the point where the local Robin Hoods have begun leaving behind note cards calling the town a ‘King’ and themselves just that - ‘Robin Hood’.
As detailed by the New Hampshire Union Leader, one recent note left by the six town Robin Hoods read, ‘Your meter expired; however, we saved you from the king's tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward.’ Technically, paying someone’s parking meter isn’t against the law. But these Robin Hoods also carry around video cameras while they perform their good deeds. And that, according to police, is a crime.
"They say video recording or talking to them is harassing them, but I don't agree with that," James Cleaveland, one of the accused Robin Hoods, said of parking enforcement officers, "So they want to establish a safety zone of fifty feet."
According to their lawsuit against the six residents, city officials accuse them of, ‘regularly, repeatedly and intentionally taunted, interfered with, harassed, and intimidated…surrounding, touching or nearly touching, and otherwise taunting and harassing.’ The Robin Hoods explain they began their pay-it-forward good deed last December during the holidays. Since then, they say they’ve saved roughly 4,000 motorists from getting parking tickets for expired meters.
The Union Leader quotes Parking Enforcement Officer Linda Desruisseaux saying, "Besides following me, crowding around me, making video recordings of my activities, and placing coins in expired meters to prevent me from writing tickets, these individuals repeatedly taunt and harass me, asking why I am stealing peoples' money and telling me to get another job.’
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