-- Editor's note: The Herald is looking back as the first decade of the millennium wraps up. This is the seventh of a 10-day series recounting the top local news stories of that decade.
The top story of 2007 was an ethics investigation involving longtime state Rep. Shirley Hankins, R-Richland, that culminated with the largest fine ever assessed against a legislator.
The investigation involved Hankins' activities involving a Richland tire baling company owned by her two daughters.
A Herald investigation chronicled Hankins' use of her office to promote the company in Olympia and in the Tri-Cities and her involvement in the company's dealings with the city of Richland, a creditor and a landlord.
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After conducting the longest investigation in its history, the Legislative Ethics Board determined Hankins had broken state ethics laws and fined her $4,175, more than twice the largest penalty previously levied against a legislator.
Hankins said she disagreed with the board's conclusion.
Other top stories of 2007 were:
No. 2: Four Mid-Columbia educators found themselves in trouble over alleged inappropriate or illegal relationships with students.
Allan W. Eve, who resigned as Richland High School's instrumental music director in the fall, was accused of having sex with a female student in 2006 and making advances to others.
Retired Kennewick High teacher William B. Pickerel was charged in Benton and King counties with sex crimes involving teenage boys on trips to sporting events.
A teacher's aide in Burbank was convicted of molesting a student with special needs and her family sued the school district for negligence.
And Kelly Smith, a Warden High teacher and coach, resigned amid allegations of an improper relationship with a female student. He was cleared of criminal activity after the girl told Grant County investigators nothing happened before she was 18.
No. 3: Kennewick Public Hospital District residents voted 66 percent against a plan to finance a new hospital in the Southridge area with a property tax levy. Opposition to the tax was led by south Richland residents, who didn't want to pay for a hospital in Kennewick they said they wouldn't use.
No. 4: A spill of high-level radioactive waste and falsified data at the Hanford nuclear reservation resulted in fines.
The Environmental Protection Agency levied a $1.14 million fine against the Department of Energy after finding that test data had been falsified at a landfill for low-level radioactive waste .
The state fined the Department of Energy $500,000, finding that a spill of 85 gallons of radioactive waste was preventable. Some workers may have breathed in hazardous vapors before the spill was contained.
But by the end of the year construction was restarted on the waste vitrification plant after a 20-month delay confirmed earthquake design standards were adequate.
No. 5: The Mid-Columbia lost three sons in military service in Iraq.
Marine Sgt. Travis Pfister, 27, and Army Sgt. Ross A. Clevenger, 21, died on consecutive days in February in Iraq's Anbar province.
In September, Army Spc. Matthew J. Emerson, 20, of Grandview, died after a Humvee he was riding in rolled in Ninewah province.
No. 6 (tie): Washington State University Tri-Cities welcomed a record-breaking 849 full-time students for its fall 2007 semester, including its first crop of freshmen in the new four-year degree program. That achievement was marred when the State Auditor's Office found a university employee had inflated enrollment numbers.
No. 6 (tie): The economy of the Tri-Cities was moving away from an economy based mainly on Hanford cleanup work, said local economic development officials. New jobs came with Amazon.com, Lockheed Martin and the wine industry.
No. 7 (tie): The Korotkov family of Kennewick returned to Russia on Sept. 7 after losing a bid to remain in the country on religious asylum. The family had lived in Kennewick for 10 years. Friends rallied to help them, but they agreed to leave while applying to return.
No. 7 (tie): An eight-month Herald investigation uncovered a used car "curbstoning" scam run by a Hermiston couple. News articles reported more than 60 improper vehicle sales, which triggered an investigation by the Washington Department of Licensing that brought a cease and desist order and a $24,000 fine.
No. 8: Rebidding of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's contract became a fight to preserve the right to do private work under a use permit with the Department of Energy.
Battelle Memorial Institute, which has held the contract since 1965, and community leaders were successful in getting a provision continuing the so-called use permit that supported about 400 Richland lab jobs.
No. 9: A former Tri-City man accused of posting the internet's most-downloaded child pornography made international headlines when he was caught hiding out in China to dodge Benton County rape charges involving his daughter. Kenneth Freeman, 45, was one of the 15 most-wanted fugitives on the U.S. Marshals Service list before his arrest.
No. 10: Wildfires scorched 120 square miles of the Hanford Reach National Monument, sweeping up the canyons and hillsides to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain and taking out habitat across the Columbia River, including old growth sagebrush and a heron rookery near the White Bluffs boat launch.
Hanford firefighters kept the fire away from radiologically contaminated areas and Benton City.