SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- One day after Springfield voters narrowly approved a law that requires many employers to use the federal E-Verify program, city leaders outlined steps for implementing it.
The city attorney said complaints will be investigated based on two reasons: an employer didn't conduct E-Verify when hiring someone, or an employer knowingly hired someone who cannot legally work in the United States.
"There has been discussion out in the community, 'Well, if I see people on the job site and I think they look illegal, that would be enough.' My answer would be no," said Springfield City Attorney Dan Wichmer.
The Finance Department will handle the complaints and more staff might have to be hired to deal with the cases. The process, though, may not even be fully in place before a lawsuit is filed.
"The other cities that have had this and have gone through challenges and are still going through challenges -- their bills range from $3/4 of a million or up to $2 million, just paying for the other side," said Wichmer.
As Springfield's ordinance is written, businesses could incur a fine, but that's in direct conflict with federal immigration laws.
City council can amend or scrap the E-Verify law after six months, but it has to be by a unanimous vote and it's unlikely.
"If the people vote it in, the people need to change it or they need to repeal it. What that means is there will be no quick fix," said Springfield Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky.
Council members, however, will likely hasten an examination of the city's law dealing with initiative petitions.
The backers of E-Verify -- the Ozarks Minutemen -- collected signatures to get the issue on the ballot. The group has 12 members; only five live in Springfield and could vote on the issue. The director and the spokesman both live in Ozark.
"I would never sign a petition to change a law in Ozark," said Springfield Councilman Bob Stephens.
Stephens is on the Plans and Policies Committee, which is looking into changing Springfield's law.