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Pierce County exec concerned about plan to verify status of workers

Post by David Wickert on Sep. 9, 2009 at 10:53 am |
September 9, 2009 3:04 pm

If there’s such a thing as a “friendly” veto, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy is wielding it this week.

McCarthy will veto a County Council ordinance that requires private companies that do business with the county to ensure their employees can legally work in the United States

McCarthy does not oppose the program. But she wants changes she says will ensure it works well.

The program requires companies with county contracts to enroll in and use the federal E-Verify program, which allows them to check an employee’s identity against several federal databases. It also requires the county to use the E-Verify program to check the status of its own workers.

The Pierce County initiative is modeled after a similar program adopted by the Lakewood City Council in June. It passed the County Council by a unanimous vote last month.

Since then, questions have arisen about how the program will work in practice, McCarthy told council members at a study session on Tuesday.

McCarthy said the $10,000 contract threshold for the new requirements be too low to be practical. She noted a similar plan adopted in Clark County is limited to contracts worth at least $1 million

McCarthy also is concerned about a requirement that the employee checks be done within three days. She said that may not be possible for some employers.

As a result, McCarthy said she will veto the ordinance and asked the council to address some of the problems before passing another one. She called it a “friendly veto.”

“I’m not against E-Verify,” McCarthy told the council. “But to make it successful, some things need to be addressed.”

Council members wondered why McCarthy didn’t raise the issues before they passed the ordinance. McCarthy said she didn’t know it was coming, though council members noted that her budget and contracting staff were informed and commented on the proposal.

McCarthy agreed to submit a written report detailing her concerns about the E-Verify ordinance. The council will try to redraft the ordinance in the next few weeks.

“If she has questions, we want to see specifics, then we’ll start over again,” said Councilman Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom.

Update: McCarthy’s office sent me a copy of this letter providing more detail on her reasons for vetoing the ordinance.

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