State

San Francisco reluctant about Arizona boycott

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The backlash over Arizona's controversial immigration policy is putting officials in San Francisco in a tough spot. What may look good on paper is far more complicated in the real world.

The city's Purchasing Department released a list of at least 81 vendors that are based in Arizona that the city has done business with over the last three years and about $16 million worth of business was made.

Most of the deals were done with small companies, but a bigger company did $14 million worth of business with San Francisco, and on Tuesday supervisors were asked to provide millions more.

Petrece Buckins was unemployed for several months, but now she works for King Security Systems. Federal stimulus dollars reimburse her boss 100 percent through a city-run program called "Jobs Now."

"Jobs Now has helped me pay my bills and get my life back on track," she said.

Her paycheck and her employer's reimbursement are processed by Acumen Fiscal Agent, a company based in Mesa, Arizona.

City lawmakers are considering a resolution that calls for severing contracts from that state because of its new immigration law. But even as that debate heats up, the supervisors were asked on Tuesday to approve an emergency contract extension with Acumen of nearly $20 million.

"The city would have no mechanism to pay nearly 540 employers that are currently participating on the Jobs Now program and it would affect almost 1,950 Jobs Now employees who would not be getting paychecks," Trent Rhorer from the San Francisco Department of Human Services said.

"I could see this as a delay of months and months and months knowing how the city operates sometimes," King Security President Kimberly King said.

A communications company called Synertel has one Jobs Now employee. The feeling here is that the city should find a way to transition to another payroll service first, so the paychecks keep rolling in.

"We would be able to deal with the float for a couple of months but others with P&L and revenues that are slightly less, they might have to get rid of the Jobs Now employees," Laura Ludwig from Synertel said.

The city says it has put the payroll services out to bid three times and no California companies have bid. The author of the boycott resolution is Supervisor David Campos and he believes there is a solution.

"The way the resolution is crafted it recognizes where there could be significant negative impacts on the city," he said.

Supervisors have decided that they are going to think about the boycott more, and took no action Tuesday. In the meantime, the payroll process will continue.

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immigration reform, state, carolyn tyler
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