March 14. 2007 1:00PM
Employee documentation rule defeated
BY GLEN BAITY
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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