Golf management firm pressed for data

Arundel sets deadline for records of worker immigration status

August 13, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

The company that manages two Anne Arundel County-owned golf courses has not adhered to a self-imposed deadline for providing documentation to police investigators to prove that it has not employed illegal immigrants, prompting county government officials to independently demand the information by today.

Debra J.C. Dowd, a Richmond, Va., attorney representing Billy Casper Golf LLC, had told county police that she would provide a report detailing the company's compliance with federal employment eligibility requirements by Monday, but said yesterday that she had been waiting to learn if the county would drop its investigation in return for the audit. She had also asked the county to issue a statement to the press voicing satisfaction with the company's compliance.

In a letter to Dowd yesterday, county attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson called the conditions "disappointing and not acceptable." He requested that Billy Casper release the company's payroll records, employee forms and supporting documents, citing the 2005 management agreement between the county and Billy Casper. Dowd said she had not yet received the letter.

Under federal law, Dowd said, employers are required to have employees complete work eligibility forms and provide supporting documentation. But employers are not responsible for determining the validity of the documentation, Dowd said.

"I think that they're missing one of the key points," Dowd said in an interview. "They're saying, 'Oh my gosh, do you employ illegal immigrants?' What we're trying to explain is we don't think we do, but we as an employer, we're not document detectives. ... If they appear reasonably valid on its face, the employer is actually prohibited from investigating any further."

Dennis Callahan, chief administrative officer for the county, said yesterday that Police Chief James Teare Sr. was scheduled to meet with U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials in Baltimore to discuss how to proceed with the investigation. Teare, through a police spokesman, declined to comment.

"The management agreement gives the county certain rights to information, and frankly, I'm optimistic that the contract provides us with a better means of getting this information than a police investigation," Hodgson said.

County detectives have met several times with officials from Billy Casper, which manages the Compass Pointe Golf Course in Pasadena and the Eisenhower Golf Course in Crownsville, since police were tipped off last month that the Northern Virginia-based company may have been employing illegal immigrants at Compass Pointe. Police investigators are also looking into allegations that illegal immigrants may have been working at Eisenhower.

After police visited Compass Pointe, Billy Casper officials held a meeting with their employees, several of whom did not return to work afterward, to discuss the police investigation. They subsequently met with employees at Eisenhower, which also resulted in several workers quitting.

County Executive John R. Leopold said yesterday that he was hopeful that Billy Casper would fulfill its contractual obligation to submit the forms. He issued an executive order a year ago that requires businesses hired by the county to sign a contract swearing they do not employ people living in the country illegally.

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