LIMA — ’Tis the season of a mayoral campaign.
A City Council committee meeting about using a federal online employment verification system became infused with politics Wednesday.
The Utilities Committee tabled the issue of requiring contractors to use E-Verify and asked Law Director Tony Geiger to explore the issue as a policy change with Mayor David Berger.
Councilman Sam McLean referred the issue to the committee because he wanted it used for employees working on the reservoir. Councilman Tom Tebben said he wasn’t against the system, but said Utilities was the wrong place for the issue and wanted it tabled. He said an issue backed by mayoral candidate Dan Beck and illegal immigration reform groups Federation for American Immigration Reform, and Minutemen sent up “red flags” to him.
“Politics makes strange bedfellows,” Tebben said. “I’m not ready to get in bed with FAIR and the Minutemen. I’m also troubled with a mayoral candidate who injects himself in this process and who’s associated with these groups in the past. A council committee shouldn’t be used as a campaign tool.”
Committee Chairman Ray Magnus shot back that it was Tebben injecting politics into the discussion and implied that Tebben was being led by Berger on the issue.
“I think it’s sad people can’t make decisions on their own, that they have to be led,” Magnus said. “They need to stand on their own. If they don’t have a set, they can rent a set.”
Beck also responded, saying he was “tired of being insulted” by Tebben. The two have tangled publicly on several occasions previously.
“You want to come here and besmirch my name and reputation?” Beck said. “Tom, the political problem is sitting in your seat. E-verify is the most simple program in the world. You ought to sell refrigerators to Eskimos. If I come here as a candidate, I’ll put my button on.”
The city is already using E-Verify for employees it hires, Human Resources Director Vince Ozier. Information garnered with the system cannot be used for anything other than to verify employment, so the city could not use names to collect taxes or require companies doing work for the city to provide names to make sure they are paying taxes.
The city could require the use of the system in bid specifications or in an affidavit as part of a contract. The city does not need to act quickly on the issue because the federal government just started using it for its own contractors two weeks ago and the state of Ohio hasn’t settled on its use yet. Lima would be creating groundbreaking legislation on an issue that may not even need legislation at all, Tebben said.
E-Verify is a free online electronically operated system that allows employers to make sure newly hired employees are authorized to work in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration jointly operate the system. Employers can quickly use information gathered on a federal paper form used to verify work eligibility and match with a federal database.