Road Builder Won’t Bid For Jobs

Ben Smith, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 24, 2007

One of Georgia’s biggest road-building companies says it won’t bid on any more Gwinnett County contracts—for now—as a result of a new county policy meant to crack down on illegal immigrants.

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E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. told the county commissioners in a July 9 letter that it had “serious concerns” about an ordinance the commissioners adopted June 26. The ordinance requires companies that do county business to verify that their workers are in the United States legally.

Snell is the prime contractor on four of seven state road projects in Gwinnett—work that costs $72 million, said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation. It’s also a company with strong roots in Gwinnett: The city of Snellville is named for the family behind the company.

Snell’s letter is one of several the commissioners have received in recent weeks that questions or criticizes the ordinance. The Journal-Constitution obtained the letters Monday through the state Open Records Act.

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Snell’s letter argues that some of the verification requirements are unworkable and possibly illegal. Snell did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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On June 26, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners revised a purchasing ordinance to require vendors bidding on county contracts to provide evidence that their workers, as well the employees of their subcontractors, are not illegal immigrants.

It also empowers county auditors to inspect the work sites of companies after they’ve won bids and started working on a project. That includes inspecting the companies records and interviewing its workers.

Snell called the new ordinance “well-intentioned,” and he complimented the commissioners for “seeking to alleviate the undocumented immigrant worker issue.” But he said it would be impractical—and possibly unconstitutional—for the company to do what the ordinance requires.

For example, Snell wrote that requiring companies to divulge the Social Security numbers of employees to county auditors “violates the privacy and legal rights of our employees.”

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