Monday, January 28, 2013

Building Industry Association of Washington Gets Slapped

The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) recently got dinged financially due to mismanagement of trust funbds by BIAW Trustees Published_Opinion.pdf. The BIAW has a program sanctioned by the state to reduce members costs for Labor and Industries fees for workers injuries. Members that participate in the program can get significant rebates from the state via the program. For my company L&I is not a big deal; I suppose geologists don't get hurt that often or at least do not make claims very often. But for building industry businesses workers reducing injuries and costs through a program is a big deal and indeed a good reason to join an industry group like the BIAW. That said, I have not been a fan of the State Program because the levels of payment are not entirely equal to the risk and those that are not in programs tend to pay more than their fair share. I testified a few years ago when there was a push to get the legislature to change the program.

The BIAW Trustees have been using some of the rebate funds from the L&I program to fund political campaigns. That is, program participants got rebates, but not all of the rebated money. Members of the program filed suite against the BIAW and won in Superior Court. The BIAW filed an appeal to State Court of Appeals. The BIAW lost not only that appeal but the Court of Appeals also ruled the BIAW not only had to pay back the money to members as ordered by the Superior Court but would need to include interest and the BIAW had to pay attorney fees as well. Members of the program will be refunded a total of $20 million. No small amount both to the members and to the political action.

The BIAW has been much less a presence in politics and policy since the down turn in construction. But that lessening of political action may have a lot more to do with the long term Trustee abuse of member funds in the L&I program.

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