Woodland council weighs use of E-Verify

City staff opposes adoption of worker-check system

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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The Woodland City Council might soon require companies seeking city contracts to verify their employees are legal U.S. workers.

The city’s finance committee proposed at a meeting late last month a resolution to require the use of E-Verify for contracts worth $1,000 or more. E-Verify is a federal database operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that allows employers to check the citizenship of their workers.

City staff, however, is recommending against council adoption of the resolution.

The committee — on which council members Benjamin Fredricks, J.J. Burke and Al Swindell serve — is now working to address staff concerns before bringing the resolution back to the city council next month.

Fredricks, who is the committee chairman, said the city has a responsibility to ensure the employers who receive city contracts are complying with federal immigration laws.

“Lots of people are hurting, and everything should be done to be sure we have legal citizens getting those jobs,” Fredricks said. “No citizen or legal resident should have to compete with someone here illegally.”

The proposed resolution calls on Clerk/Treasurer Mari Ripp to draft and implement policies. The policies would require certification from vendors and subcontractors that they use E-Verify and prohibit vendors from entering into contracts with the city if they knowingly employ ineligible workers.

The resolution also asks the clerk to develop policies to ensure contracting city departments monitor compliance and provide the city council with a compliance report annually.

The council discussed the resolution at its Dec. 20 meeting but decided to table the issue upon learning of Ripp’s objections, Fredricks said.

In the department recommendation, Ripp wrote that some aspects of the policy would be difficult to enforce, such as verifications of workers and their payroll. Additional staff time would also be required for contract awarding and monitoring to ensure the follow-up is done, she said.

“The city council has not allocated additional personnel or resources to implement the program,” Ripp said.

In addition, the state does not participate in E-Verify and the Association of Washington Cities has not issued any policy statement recommending its use either, she said.

The city currently uses E-Verify to check the status of new city employees but does not use the database for contractors. Other cities and Clark County have adopted policies requiring the use of E-Verify for contracts.

The city of Washougal requires E-Verify for city contracts of $100,000 or more; Vancouver requires it for contracts of $500,000 or more. Clark County recently reduced the contract amount requiring use of E-Verify from $1 million to $25,000 or more.

The Woodland finance committee will review the resolution at its January meeting and return the proposal to the city council for a vote in February.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.