Novato E-Verify Immigration Status Initiative
If approved by voters, the initiative will require contractors who do more than $5,000 of work annual for the city to perform an E-Verify check of the immigration status of their workers.
Jerome Ghigliotti, an attorney in Novato, wrote the proposed ordinance. After the city council declined in June 2010 to put the measure on the November 2010 ballot, Ghigliotti said that he plans to file a lawsuit to require the city to put the measure before the city's voters. About 3,400 registered voters in Novato signed a petition requesting a vote.
E-Verify is a program administered by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. It allows employers to confirm the legal working status of new hires. The City of Novato uses E-Verify for its own employees but it does not require city contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify. This initiative, if approved, would require city contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify.
CBS 5 report on Novato E-Verify Initiative
Citizens for Legal Employment and Contracting, led by Jerome Ghigliotti, supports the initiative and led the effort to collect the signatures to qualify it for the ballot.
While attending a Novato City Council meeting on Tuesday, September 14, 2010, Ghigliotti was arrested. The arrest occurred after Ghigliotti spoke during the meeting's open time for public comment. Ghigliotti turned so that rather than face them, he was facing the members of the public when he made his remarks. In turning to face the public, Ghigliotti was therefore facing away from the members of the city council.
Ghigliotti was asked by the council to change this positioning, so that he would face them, rather than the members of the public. When Ghigliotti declined to go along with this request, Mayor Jeanne MacLeamy called a recess and the members of the city council filed out of the chamber.
Novato Police Chief Joseph Kreins then asked Ghigliotti to stop speaking. According to Kreins:
- "I told him, 'You need to sit down and stop disturbing this meeting. If not, you will be under arrest.' He said to me, 'You do your job and I'll do my job,' and he went on reading his statement."
Because Ghigliotti did not obey Police Chief Kreins, Police Chief Kreins and another police officer than arrested, handcuffed and led Ghigliotti out of the council chambers.
Councilwoman Denise Athas said, "I think the mayor did exactly the right thing. It's not a good thing for the town to witness that kind of disruption."
Path to the ballot
12% of Novato's registered voters signed a petition to qualify the measure for the November 2010 ballot. Signatures equalling or exceeding 10% of Novato's registered voters are required to qualify an initiative for the ballot. Once the required number of signatures have been collected, the city council must either approve the text of the circulated initiative or put it on the ballot for the voters to weigh in on.
The Novato City Council, however, declined to enact the ordinance or to put it on the ballot because City Manager Michael Frank and chief legal counsel Jeff Walter told the council that they believe the ordinance preempts federal law and is therefore illegal.
Marin County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold said that there is no deadline by which a city is obligated to put a measure on the ballot once signatures have been collected: "When an election is held is up to the city. Just because they're not holding it right now doesn't mean they will not have an election."
- Website of Novato Citizens for Legal Employment and Contracting
- Novato immigration measure should be on ballot
- Marin Independent Journal, "Novato faces lawsuit by taking no action on controversial voter referendum," June 23, 2010
- Contra Costa Times, "Group collecting signatures in Novato to bring immigration issue to voters," February 4, 2010
- Contra Costa Times, "Anti-illegal immigrant activist arrested at Novato meeting," September 15, 2010
- Marin Independent Journal, "Immigration issue before Novato City Council is unlawful, city attorney says," June 21, 2010