State court hears Exxon case

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- In a trial under way in Anchorage Superior Court, a Seward official disputed claims by a former colleague that workers didn't underestimate the time spent helping in the cleanup of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Seward is among six cities claiming that Exxon Mobil Corp. owes them $12 million in costs associated with the 11-million gallon spill in Prince William Sound.

Exxon attorneys say the corporation paid its cleanup bills.

The other plaintiffs in the jury trial are Kodiak Island Borough, Cordova, Old Harbor, Larsen Bay and Port Lions. The oil spread from the Bligh Reef near Valdez, around the outer coast of the Kenai Peninsula and southwest to Kodiak Island and beyond.

Part of the suit contends that Exxon did not pay for thousands of hours spent on cleanup by city employees that took them away from regular duties.

Max Royle, Seward's city manager at the time, took the stand Tuesday for Exxon. He said he didn't think city employees underestimated the time they spent working on cleanup while he was there.

''I knew the people involved,'' Royle told the jury. ''I knew they were not going to improperly record hours to cheat the city.''

His testimony contradicted that of the man who was the city's deputy city manager. Last week, Darryl Schaefermeyer said on the stand that he and other employees underrecorded hundreds of hours spent on cleanup.

Royle, who was city manager for only nine months because of differences with the city council, said that Schaefermeyer was meticulous and likely wrote down all his spill-time hours.

Mead Treadwell, head of the Cordova spill response office, told the jury last week that Exxon ignored some requests from Cordova to pay people who worked on spill issues. The oil slick did not drift to Cordova, but it had a major impact on the town's fishing industry, he said.

Exxon representatives left the town by the end of summer 1989, which the state and town felt was premature, Treadwell testified.

''What we tried to do was be fairly treated by Exxon like it did the other communities,'' he said.

But a woman active in Cordova's cleanup issues took the stand for Exxon on Tuesday and said the corporation was cooperative and anxious to help the community.

Connie Taylor, then president of the Chamber of Commerce and chairwoman of the citizens committee that also dealt with spill issues, said she also was a volunteer, like city council members, and didn't want to get paid for her work.

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