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The City of Springfield has reached an agreement with plaintiffs who sued over the controversial E-Verify ordinance. The lawsuit against the city was filed in May by several area businesses challenging the legality of the ordinance. The ordinance, approved by voters in February, required all companies to use an internet registry to determine the legal eligibility of new employees. The agreement leaves intact only a small part of the ordinance. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann has more.
The city’s legal team concluded that many parts of the ordinance were unenforceable. The agreement made with the plaintiffs says the City must pay $45,350 in attorney’s fees and court costs, and create the new “clean-up bill” aligning the ordinance with the new judgment. That judgment essentially mirrors state and federal law. Dan Wichmer is city attorney for Springfield.
“We entered into an ‘offer of judgment,’ which means that we looked at the claims they made in their petition in the lawsuit. We determined what we thought we could defend and what we couldn’t defend successfully. On the parts of the ordinance that we didn’t think we could successfully defend, rather than incurring millions of dollars in legal fees, we would be better served if we agreed the invalid parts of the ordinance would be struck and the remaining valid parts would remain,” Wichmer says.
Wichmer says the penalty section in the ordinance has been struck down because it is unenforceable. He says the portion about the administrative hearing process has also been struck down.
What’s left of the ordinance? Not much, actually. The ordinance will still say that it’s illegal to hire undocumented workers, and that there are state and federal penalties for doing so—including the revocation of business licenses.
Wichmer says state and political entities are mandated to use E-Verify, but clarifies that independent business owners have the option of using E-Verify or the standard I-9 paper forms.
The group that brought the ordinance to City Council by way of petition was the Ozarks Minutemen. Its spokesperson, Jerry Wilson, is unhappy with the decision. He says the ordinance was already in compliance with state laws. His cites a June, 2011 US Supreme Court decision that said states could require businesses to use the E-Verify system.
“We are disappointed that the City failed to fight this lawsuit to the best of their ability. Settling out of court is not defending on a lawsuit; its ‘rolling over and playing dead.’ And that is unfortunate. It is my sense that many of the City Council members opposed the use of E-Verify purely on ideological grounds,” Wilson says.
KSMU made several attempts to interview the plaintiffs in this case, but we were unable to connect with them for an interview. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.