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Maine woman sues California security firm, alleging violation of whistleblower protection law

A Maine woman has filed suit in federal court against a California security services firm, saying the company retaliated against her when she complained about allegedly illegal acts being committed by an executive at the company. According to her lawsuit, Pamela Treadwell of Sidney also said the firm violated Maine s equal pay act by paying her less than men who did the same work, even after she took over the duties of a male employee at Vescom Corp. Vescom is a part of Worldwide Sourcing Group, which also owns the security firms Vets Securing America, American Guard Service and Professional Building Maintenance, a property management company. The company says it is one of the largest privately-owned security firms in the country.

Treadwell, who worked for Vescom from 1988 until she resigned in March 2014, said in court documents that many of the problems began when the company hired a man named Ousama Karawia to help with management of the firm. Karawia was convicted in 2012 of grand theft, insurance fraud and possession of an assault weapon for offenses committed at a separate security service he co-owned that had provided security for sites in California and the Statue of Liberty in New York. He was found guilty of setting up a shell company to hide the true number of his employees as a way to avoid paying higher workers compensation premiums. Vescom had an office in Hampden that has since been closed, and the company is now based in California. Treadwell s suit was filed in Maine state court and subsequently moved to the federal U.S. District Court in Portland because Vescom is located out of state. According to Treadwell s suit, Karawia committed insurance fraud while at Vescom by getting a policy that covered employees of WWSG s other companies at a low rate, but used Vescom s claims history rather than the higher claims rate of the other companies. According to the suit, Treadwell said she told the company s owners that Karawia was getting kickbacks from the insurer and that having Karawia involved in the company ran afoul of state licensing regulations that bar felons from having management positions in a security firm. Karawia had been convicted before he was hired at Vescom and his appeal of his sentence which included home confinement and probation was turned down by a California court in 2014. After forwarding those concerns to the company s owners, the suit claims, Treadwell was shunned by the top management in the company and was told she would have to pay for insurance coverage for her husband on her employer-provided health care policy at a cost of $7,800 a year. Finally, Karawia moved money out of the company s payroll account, meaning that employees checks would bounce. Treadwell said in the suit that Karawia reminded her that her name was on the checks as the company vice president, suggesting she might be liable if they bounced.

At that point, Treadwell said she resigned so as not to be implicated in the check-bouncing and accused of submitting false documents to state regulators.

She thought she had to leave, Rebecca Webber, Treadwell s lawyer at the firm Skelton Taintor and Abbott, said in an interview Monday. Treadwell filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, which did not find reasonable grounds for her whistleblower protection and discrimination claims. But Webber said the commission held only a brief telephone conference on the allegations, which led her to decide to file the lawsuit asking for damages. The amount of damages being sought was not disclosed in the lawsuit. Melissa A. Hewey, a lawyer at Drummond Woodsum who represents Vescom and the other companies, along with Karawia, said the MHRC finding suggests the case is weak.

The Human Rights Commission is certainly employee-friendly and I don t think there s any reason to believe the courts will find any differently, she said.

Both Webber and Hewey said the case would likely go to trial in late fall, although Hewey said she would seek to have a judge issue a summary judgment in her clients favor.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected][1]


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Reject ‘modernization’ of nuclear arsenal that threatens life on Earth

WINDHAM William J. Perry, a former U.S. secretary of defense, recently published a book[1] titled My Journey at the Nuclear Brink. Perry was also instrumental in producing a 10-week online class through Stanford University called Living at the Nuclear Brink. This class takes the student from the development of the first nuclear weapon through today s world stockpile of 15,375 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia account for 93 percent of them. With relations between the U.S. and Russia more dangerous than during the Cold War, and Donald Trump famously declaring that more countries should acquire nuclear weapons, it is past time to halt the insanity of a world awash with nuclear weapons.

Reject 'modernization' Of Nuclear Arsenal That Threatens Life On EarthAn Air Force missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an ICBM with a nuclear warhead in an undated photo. Donald Trump’s national security adviser says that Trump supports missile defense system upgrades to maintain a position of strength. Reuters/U.S. Air Force handout photo by Airman John Parie


Sally Breen is a resident of Windham and a member of Peace Action Maine.

Reject 'modernization' Of Nuclear Arsenal That Threatens Life On Earth

Instead, the 2017 Defense Department budget calls for modernization of every aspect of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, from weapons laboratories to warheads to planes, missiles and submarines. The price tag totals at least $1 trillion over three decades. Other nuclear weapons states are following our lead and making plans to modernize their arsenals as well.

The term modernization is a misnomer. In fact, the requested funds will be an initial investment in a new nuclear arms race. Independent Maine Sen. Angus King stated in a recent letter to me that he will closely review the budget request for modernization. Problematically, he ends with this closing statement: In other words, a credible nuclear capability (and modernization is necessary to maintain credibility) is the best insurance we have that nuclear weapons will never be used.

Do the military budget planners even consider the fact that nuclear weapons have the potential to end all life on earth? In the last segment of the online nuclear weapons course, we hear Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, say, The two existential threats to humanity are climate change and nuclear weapons. Perry, the former defense secretary, has lived his life at the nuclear brink. His goal, both in his book and in the online class, is to make the average citizen aware that we are all living there.

Since 1950, there have been 32 nuclear weapon accidents, known as broken arrows. A broken arrow is defined[2] as an unexpected event involving nuclear weapons that results in the accidental launching, firing, detonating, theft or loss of the weapon. Rudolph Herzog outlines them in his book A Short History of Nuclear Folly. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when such an incident could occur, potentially resulting in the deaths of thousands or even millions of people. Did we not learn from Dwight Eisenhower? In his presidential farewell address, he wrote[3], In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. Have we allowed just such a misplaced power to exist? Have we been enthralled with our games of sport, just as the citizens of ancient Rome were enthralled with the games in the Colosseum? We cannot continue to stand by and allow our Congress to pass a budget for $1 trillion for the nuclear weapons industry while ignoring our signature on Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. We are bound in the treaty to take effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

I was fortunate to be at The Hague in 1996 when the International Court of Justice issued their opinion[4] on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. The court indicated that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control. The world has already proven it is possible. We have come together to enact treaties to ban landmines, cluster munitions and chemical and biological weapons. Although a United Nations General Assembly resolution to establish a global nuclear weapons ban failed in late 2016, it did garner a positive vote from 123 nations. It will appear again before the General Assembly in this new year. For a safer world, we must cancel nuclear modernization, challenge other countries to do the same and invest in more life-affirming priorities. Yes, we can invest in diplomacy and international cooperation toward verifiable global nuclear disarmament.


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Army veteran kills at least 5 people at Fort Lauderdale airport, police say

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. An arriving airline passenger with a gun in his luggage opened fire in the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday, killing five people and wounding eight before throwing his weapon down and lying spread-eagle on the ground, authorities and witnesses said. The gunman identified by authorities as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, of Anchorage, Alaska, an Army National Guard veteran who served in Iraq was immediately taken into custody. His brother said he had been receiving psychological treatment recently.

Army Veteran Kills At Least 5 People At Fort Lauderdale Airport, Police SayInstagram post from Casey Prentice of the Ft. Lauderdale airport Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy prenteye/Instagram Army Veteran Kills At Least 5 People At Fort Lauderdale Airport, Police SayIn this still image from video provided by NBC TV Local10, people stand on the tarmac after shots were fired at the international airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Friday. NBC TV Local10 via Associated Press

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Army Veteran Kills At Least 5 People At Fort Lauderdale Airport, Police Say

The attack sent panicked passengers running out of the terminal and onto the tarmac, baggage in hand, and forced the shutdown of the entire airport.

People started kind of screaming and trying to get out of any door they could or hide under the chairs, a witness, Mark Lea, told MSNBC. He just kind of continued coming in, just randomly shooting at people, no rhyme or reason to it. Authorities said the motive was under investigation.

This could well be someone who is mentally deranged, or in fact it could be someone who had a much more sinister motive that we have to worry about every day, and that is terrorism, said Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida. We can t conclude that.

Casey Prentice, 30, of Portland, Maine, was in the airport s Delta Sky Club awaiting a flight to New York when an airport worker came running through the lounge, he said in a phone interview with WCSH6 TV[1]. Prentice described people shouting, Shots fired, after which the doors to the sky club were locked as people cowered inside. They eventually left through a door that took them to the tarmac, where sheriff s deputies directed everyone to seek shelter against a concrete wall. Prentice owns Evo restaurant in Portland.

President Barack Obama was briefed by his Homeland Security adviser, the White House said. It is legal for airline passengers to travel with guns and ammunition as long as the firearms are put in a checked bag not a carry-on and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in. Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner who was briefed on the attack by the sheriff s office, told The Associated Press that the shooter had arrived aboard a Canadian flight with a gun in a checked bag.

After he claimed his bag, he went into the bathroom and loaded the gun and started shooting. We don t know why, LaMarca said.

However, the Canadian Embassy said the suspect did not arrive from Canada and was not on an Air Canada flight, but instead appeared to have flown from Anchorage, Alaska. The attack took place at Terminal 2, which serves Delta Air Lines and Air Canada. Lea said the gunman said nothing as he went up and down the carousels of the baggage claim, shooting through luggage to get at people that were hiding. The killer had a handgun and went through about three magazines of ammunition, Lea said.

He threw the gun down and laid spread-eagle on the ground until the officer came up to him, Lea said. Sheriff Scott Israel said five people were killed and eight were wounded. Their condition was not disclosed. He said the gunman was arrested unharmed, with no law enforcement officers firing any shots, and was being questioned by the FBI.

People spilled onto the tarmac, some carrying luggage, and some ran from both Terminals 1 and 2, hiding behind cars or anything else they could find to shield themselves. The airport suspended operations as law enforcement authorities rushed to the scene and emergency medical workers treated the bleeding victims. Fort Lauderdale-bound flights already in the air were delayed or diverted, and those that had yet to take off from the airport were held on the ground. At least one person appeared to be lying in a pool of blood with a head wound.

Santiago s brother, Bryan, told The Associated Press that his brother had been receiving psychological treatment in Alaska. He said Santiago s girlfriend alerted the family to the situation in recent months. Bryan Santiago said that he didn t know what his brother was being treated for and that they never talked about it over the telephone. He said Esteban Santiago was born in New Jersey but moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2. He was deployed to Iraq in 2010 and spent a year there with the 130th Engineer Battalion, according to Puerto Rico National Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen.

At the Fort Lauderdale airport, John Schilcher told Fox News said he came up to the baggage claim and heard the first gunshot as he picked up his bag off a carousel.

The person next to me fell to the ground and then I started hearing other pops. And as this happened, other people started falling and you could hear it and smell it, and people on either side of me were going down and I just dropped to the ground, said Schilcher, who was there with his wife and mother-in-law. The firing just went on and on.

I was down on the floor. When we finally looked up there was a policeman standing over me, he said. That s when I assumed it was safe.

Associated Press writers Freida Frisaro and Adriana Gomez-Licon in Miami contributed to this report.


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