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Article 37

March 14. 2007 1:00PM

Employee documentation rule defeated

The Dispatch

A measure adding new language to county contracts concerning the legality of contracted workers was voted down 4-3 Tuesday night following a testy discussion at the Davidson County Board of Commissioners' meeting.

Chairman Fred McClure, who was inspired by a City of Charlotte immigration study last year, introduced the move that would have required any contractors awarded county jobs to supply I-9 forms verifying the workers used for the project were legally qualified to work in the United States.

"We're not requiring (contractors) to do anything that they're not already required by law to do," McClure said. "All we're saying is that we want to make sure that the taxpayer dollars that we pay out are paid out to people who are here legally and to do our part as a government entity to set an example to comply with the law."

Under the new language, contractors who violated the agreement would have been penalized by being forbidden to bid on county work for a period of one year. The changes also would have required contractors to verify any subcontracted workers' eligibility to work in the U.S.

McClure was joined by commissioners Larry Allen and Larry Potts in voting for the measure while commissioners Sam Watford, Max Walser, Don Truell and Billy Joe Kepley voted against.

Watford took umbrage with the new language, saying it constituted "a do-nothing resolution" since federal and state laws already require employers to verify their workers' legality.

"If it's a do-nothing resolution, Commissioner Watford, what is all the fuss about?" McClure asked his colleague.

"If (contractors) have to do it already, why are we fussing about it?" Watford shot back. That exchange followed an earlier one in which Watford assailed McClure's motives as political.

Kepley raised the concern that the new I-9 requirement might drive up the cost of county contracts, a point with which Watford agreed.

A recently introduced bill in the state House of Representatives, co-sponsored by Rep. Jerry Dockham, R-Davidson, would prohibit local governments from working with contractors who employ illegal immigrants. Should it pass, House Bill 308 would also require employers working government jobs to certify their employees' eligibility to work in the U.S.

That bill, which was filed Feb. 22, is in committee.

Walser suggested the board wait to see what becomes of House Bill 308 before deciding if any action is necessary, but McClure went ahead with a motion for the county to adopt the new language into its contracts.

Prior to the motion's narrow defeat, Allen weighed in on the charge that the new language was redundant.

"People in Davidson County look to their local governments," Allen said. "We're the closest form of government they have." He went on to add that the state and federal government had been "kicking this around like a football" and indicated it was valid to declare the county's compliance with existing laws.

Glen Baity can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 227, or glen.baity@the-dispatch.com.

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