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Morning headlines: Thursday, April 19, 2012

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Court approves $1.5 million settlement with former US Fidelis employees

More than 550 former employees of the auto services contract giant US  Fidelis will share in a nearly one point five million dollar settlement reached in bankruptcycourt.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Wednesday’s deal settles claims by the workers that they were not properly warned before being laid off.

The state of Missouri fought unsuccessfully to exclude more than 370 workers from the settlement, saying they were involved in unfair and misleading practices and should not be treated better than their victims.

Included in the settlement are relatives of former US Fidelis owners Darain and Cory Atkinson. Darain has pleaded guilty to state and federal charges. Cory appears ready to take his chances at trial.

McCaskill, Blunt differ on rural post office amendment

Missouri's two Senators are on opposite sides of an amendment that would delay the closure of rural post offices for two years and limit when those post offices could be closed in the future.

The Senate is set to consider legislation this week to help stabilize the near-bankrupt US Postal Service. It's already $12 billion in debt, and says it could run out of money for day-to-day operations by the fall. The agency is forecasting a record loss of more than $14 billion by the end of the year without changes.

The USPS delayed the closure of the post offices and other cuts until May 15 to give the Senate time to pass the stabilization measure. But Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill wants those post office closures delayed until 2014. She's sponsoring the amendment to do so.

"It is incredibly important in the small communities that they keep their post offices. I think that closing rural post offices should clearly be the very last thing on the list, instead of it being at the top of the list," she said, noting that the rural post offices slated for closure are less than 1 percent of the USPS's cost of operation.

Her Republican counterpart, Roy Blunt, is less enthusiastic about the delay.

"I don't want to just kick the can two years down the road," he said. "That would be my biggest hesitancy about saying you can't close anything for two years. I'd rather make a decision that 8 in the morning to 10 in the morning, or 7 to 9 might work for this community rather than closing the post office totally."

Blunt says lawmakers should vote on the postal service legislation, including McCaskill's amendment, by the end of next week.

Cole County circuit clerk resigns after poor rating from auditor

The circuit clerk in Cole County has resigned after a state audit flagged weaknesses in accounting.

Circuit Judge Pat Joyce announced Brenda Umstattd’s resignation on Wednesday.

The report by auditor Tom Schweich says court officials never deposited more than 14-thousand dollars in receipts. The audit also says flawed accounting controls make it difficult to monitor court receipts, and that Umstattd did not make changes recommended by the court’s administrator, local presiding judge and the Office of the State Courts Administrator

Joyce says the poor management placed hundreds of thousands of dollars at risk. Two people in the clerk’s office were indicted on stealing charges in December.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.