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Article 67

County votes down proposed illegal immigrant employment fines, for now

By David Bodenheimer
The Dispatch

Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 10:36 p.m.

A lengthy discussion about whether the county should financially penalize contractor workers who employ undocumented immigrants ended with commissioners split on the idea.

The Davidson County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 against a proposal brought by Commissioner Fred McClure that would have made it a requirement for some contractors to comply with the E-Verify program before committing to any work. E-Verify is a free Internet-based program run by the federal government. It compares information about an employee's Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 Form to documented federal records.

McClure proposed that the county make this a requirement before entering into any contract agreement of $3,000 or more with an outside company. In addition, McClure laid out stiff penalties for any contractor found to be breaking this agreement.

If a contractor was found in breach of a contract under his proposal, McClure suggested that a fine of $100 per day from the date that the noncompliance was discovered be paid to the county until such was corrected. Also, any contractor who did not fix a noncompliance issue within 30 days of it being discovered, that contractor would lose rights to bid on any work in Davidson County for two years and upon termination of a contract, the contractor would be liable for any additional costs that the county might incur.

“This E-Verify is a very simple program and it is at no cost,” said McClure. “I believe that we need to make sure the dollars that we collect from our citizens in taxes are paid out on our contracts to those people who are legal U.S. citizens.”

However, with the exception of Commissioner Larry Potts — who voted in favor along with McClure — the remaining commissioners expressed several concerns over the contract, including timing and logistics.

Commissioners Sam Watford, Billy Joe Kepley, Don Truell and board Chairman Dr. Max Walser all said they didn't receive the request in enough time to feel comfortable about making a decision Tuesday night. Commissioners received their agenda packets for Tuesday's meeting on Friday.

“I would suggest we vote this down until we can get the total ramifications of this, what the outcomes would be,” Kepley said. “I have a lot of questions on this.”

The county currently obtains all insurance documentation and checks I-9 forms before agreeing to any contractual work. McClure's proposal would be in addition to those federal and state requirements.
Those additions troubled Watford.

“Who would enforce this?” asked Watford. “(Employing undocumented workers) is against the law to start with. I can't support this not knowing what it's going to cost to enforce this and knowing how that's going to apply with general statutes when we start fining people and telling them who can and can't work in the county.”

This is not the first time commissioners have discussed drawing their own set of rules on issues dealing with undocumented immigrant workers. The last time the board had a discussion on such matters was a little more than a year ago, according to Watford.

When asked if he would bring up the subject again, or a revised proposal of rules, McClure said “It's a good possibility.”
In other news, the board:

• Unanimously passed three resolutions that solidified the TIMCO jobs incentives package. The board passed the economics incentives authorizing expenditures pursuant to the agreed terms, a loan to the Town of Wallburg in the amount of $500,000 to be used to purchase a tract of land for TIMCO and entered into a joint agreement with Forsyth County regarding economic development with the TIMCO site since there is a small piece of the plant's land in Forsyth County.

• Approved the reappointment of Bill Distler to the Davidson County Airport Authority Board and the appointments of Frankie Hedrick and Barry Sink to the DavidsonWorks Workforce Development Board Youth Council.

• Officially Declared October 2010 as Barbecue Festival Month.

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