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POSTED April 10, 2012 8:40 p.m.

CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE TO REVIEW CAL RAIL PROJECT: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A congressional committee has begun a review of California's high-speed rail project, including possible conflicts of interest and whether a large government commitment would pull federal tax dollars away from other transportation projects.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform notified the California High-Speed Rail Authority about the review Monday and ordered the agency to preserve its documents and records of past communications.

Committee members say they want to ensure that tax dollars are being spent appropriately and check for possible conflicts of interest involving rail officials and contractors.

As much as $4 billion in federal funds have either been provided or set aside so far for the 500-mile project. The current estimated cost of the project is $68 billion.

EX-WOODSIDE SCHOOL OFFICIAL ACCUSED OF LOAN FRAUD: WOODSIDE . (AP) — The former assistant superintendent of a school district in San Mateo County is facing charges that he spent millions of dollars on school projects that were not approved by the school board.

Timothy Hanretty was the assistant superintendent of Woodside schools when prosecutors say he obtained a $2.6 million loan for the district. The school board had allegedly approved a much smaller loan in 2007 that was to be used to update an athletic field at Woodside Elementary.

But prosecutors say the 55-year-old Hanretty presented lenders with fraudulent paperwork claiming the board had approved a much higher limit.

The additional money was allegedly used for other school projects.

With interest, the loan cost the district a total of $4.3 million.

Hanretty pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of misappropriating public funds, passing a forged document and filing a false document.

OFF-LEASH DOGS ON BEACH PROPOSAL DRAWS CRITICS: SANTA CRUZ  (AP) — Residents are divided on a proposal allowing off-leash dogs on three Santa Cruz County beaches.

Opponents say it's unsafe, arguing dog feces would pollute the beach, among other things.

The group Live Oak Off-Leash Advocates countered that dog owners make up a large part of the community. One man says people make a bigger mess on the beach than dogs.

About 30 residents showed up Monday at a county Animal Shelter board meeting to express their opinions on the proposal. A decision was tabled until June 11.

The shelter proposal would allow off-leash dogs during certain hours at the 20th Street beach in Live Oak and Dolphin at Sumner Beach in Aptos. Off-leash dogs would be allowed all day at Sunny Cove Beach.

2 men arrested after dead friend found in trash

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two men have been arrested for the shooting death of a drinking buddy whose body was found in a Los Angeles trash bin.

Investigators say 43-year-old Tito Diaz and 25-year-old William Jimenez were drinking with the 25-year-old victim in a Van Nuys apartment when the shooting occurred on Sunday night.

The men were passing around a handgun when two shots were fired, killing Saul Zacarias.

Los Angeles police detectives tell City News Service that Diaz and Jimenez then dumped the body in an apartment trash bin.

Diaz has been booked for investigation of murder and he remains in jail with bail set at $1 million. Jimenez has been booked as an accessory to murder and he's in jail with bail set at $500,000.

LARGE BEAR ROAMS IN BACKYARDS OF LA SUBURBS: LA CRESCENTA (AP) — A 400-pound bear roaming around a Los Angeles suburb Tuesday was subdued with a tranquilizer dart and removed by wildlife authorities.

The bear was discovered in a backyard in the Verdugo Mountains area, about 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, and state Department of Fish and Game experts were called.

A KTTV news helicopter showed the bear lounging on a lawn before roaming from backyard to backyard.

The Department of Fish and Game said the bear had been getting into residents' trash cans in the area for the last three weeks.

La Crescenta sheriff's station volunteer Bill Latuf described the bear as "pretty mellow," just walking around.

After daybreak, Fish and Game officers armed with a tranquilizer dart tagged the bear, which then rested under a tree. A crowd of neighbors watched as it was loaded into a special trailer to be taken to the Angeles National Forest for release into the wild.

HOOVER DAM BYPASS BRIDGE SUICIDE WAS CALIF. WOMAN: LAS VEGAS (AP) — Authorities have identified a California woman whose fatal leap from the Hoover Dam bypass bridge is being called the first known suicide since the arch opened in October 2010.

The Clark County coroner in Las Vegas says 60-year-old Patricia Ann Oakley of San Jose died of multiple injuries in the late Saturday fall almost 900 feet to the Colorado River.

Her body was discovered Sunday by kayakers on the river between Nevada and Arizona.

Federal Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Rose Davis said Monday that police were unable to persuade the woman not to jump.

Davis called the suicide the first that federal officials know of at the Michael O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

FEINSTEIN CALLS TREASURER'S ACTIONS 'BIG BETRAYAL' : SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday there was never any indication that her former campaign treasurer was mismanaging her re-election account before the treasurer's arrest last year in a widespread embezzlement case.

"It was a big betrayal," Feinstein told reporters after addressing Sacramento area government officials. "Oh yeah, you can imagine how you'd feel."

Feinstein made her first public remarks on the topic after her former campaign treasurer, Kinde Durkee, entered guilty pleas March 30 to five counts of mail fraud in a case that prosecutors said involved looting at least $7 million from about 50 clients.

It is believed to be the largest embezzlement case involving political campaign funds in the nation's history.

Feinstein lost an estimated $4.5 million from her re-election account, while other Democratic members of Congress, the state Legislature and political organizations lost millions more. Durkee could face as long as 14 years in prison when she is sentenced in June.

CALIF. AMERICAN INDIAN TRIBE GETS CASINO APPROVAL: YREKA . (AP) — A Northern California Native American tribe says federal officials have approved its plans for a casino off Interstate 5 in Yreka.

The Karuk Tribe says it learned of the National Indian Gaming Commission's decision on Monday.

The tribe has been working on getting a casino for almost a decade. It still needs to negotiate a compact with the state.

Tribal councilwoman Dora Bernal says the tribe also plans to meet with city and Siskiyou County officials about the casino project, details of which have not yet been worked out.

The tribe is active in environmental issues. It has been pushing to remove dams on the Klamath River as a way of restoring salmon populations. It has also challenged the return of suction dredges to mine for gold in rivers.

ABANDONED ORCHARDS MUST BE MONITORED FOR PESTS: ESCONDIDO, Calif. (AP) — Growers in northern San Diego County are being told to monitor their citrus and avocado groves for pests, even if they've abandoned the trees because of soaring water costs.

The county's agriculture department is preparing a letter to the growers reminding them of their responsibility.

Officials say farmers have been abandoning orchards in the Valley Center area in recent years because soaring irrigation costs have made them unprofitable.

However, some trees have survived on rainfall. Authorities don't want them becoming home to pests that could threaten the county's $78 million citrus crop.

The discovery of a citrus-killing disease in Hacienda Heights last week prompted authorities to quarantine 93 square miles of Los Angeles and Orange counties.

 

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