Monday, June 25, 2007

Excerpts from the Consent Decree Settling Day Laborers' Lawsuit against Mamaroneck Village

Following are portions of the consent decree approved by the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees on June 11 to settle the lawsuit brought by five day laborers against the village, which, Federal Judge Colleen McMahon ruled, had violated the plaintiffs' 14th Amendment right to assemble.

Village trustees Tom Murphy, Tony Pergola Ryan and John Hofstetter voted for the settlement. Mayor Phil Trifiletti voted against it. Trustee Tony Fava recused himself because he was once part-owner of the parking lot of the Strait Gate Church, where a laborers' hiring site, which is referred to in letters augmenting the decree, has been established by the Hispanic Resource Center.


“Whereas, this court has found, after a bench trial of this action, that Defendants [the village, Mayor Philip Trifiletti and Police Chief Edward Flynn] violated Plaintiffs’ [five day laborers identified only as John Does to avoid revealing their immigration status] right to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; and

“Whereas, “the parties to desire to avoid incurring any further time, costs and expenses and the uncertainty of continued litigation” and “wish to establish a spirit of cooperation among all persons who live and gather to seek employment in the village and to resolve disputes in an amicable fashion” the village [despite the fact that McMahon did not find that the village is obligated to provide a hiring site for the laborers] “will use its best efforts in collaboration with Village of Mamaroneck Day Laborers and the Hispanic Resource Center, to help find and promote a gathering site on private property where any persons seeking employment may be picked up by contractors.”

Such “best efforts”, in compliance with a June 11 “letter agreement“, include the village providing a curb cut (already done, and paid for by the HRC) for the church parking lot to enable contractors’ trucks to enter and exit and the village posting signs advertising the new private site opposite or next to the Hess gas station on Mamaroneck Avenue and also at or near the Van Ranst/Jefferson Avenue intersection, where the sign announcing the closing of the Columbus Park site had been posted.

And, also despite the fact that the court did not require the village to provide a hiring site, the June 11 letter stipulates that the village, for a one-year period, must post an announcement on its Web site that “the Strait Gate church parking lot will be used as a pick-up point for day laborers.”

The decree also requires that the defendants “not engage in any actions towards contractors for the purpose of discouraging them from picking up Day Laborers; and [that] Defendants’ police officers. . . not inquire into the immigration status of any person, or engage in activities designed to ascertain the immigration status of any person, unless the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that such person has previously been deported from the United States and is committing or has committed a felony criminal-law violation.”

To ensure its implementation, the decree provides for a committee-subcommittee-independent-monitor structure.

The decree stipulates that “a constituent committee will meet on a quarterly basis, beginning no later than July 15, 2007” and that the committee will be made up of three representatives designated by the village, three designated by the plaintiffs and one designated by the Hispanic Resource Center. It further stipulates that a subcommittee be established that will be “responsible for mediating matters of concern to the Day Laborers and the Village as such matters arise.”

According to the decree, if “the subcommittee cannot resolve an issue, the Constituent Committee will be convened” to try to resolve it, and “any matter that cannot be resolved by the Constituent Committee may be brought to the attention of the Independent
Monitor,” who will be appointed by the court but paid by the village. It is further stated that the “Independent Monitor shall be engaged for a period of three years from the entry of this Decree or two years after the last date the Court finds that the defendants have violated the decree, whichever is longer.”

It is also stipulated that the court shall maintain jurisdiction over the terms of the decree for the same period of time.

Mayor Trifiletti, though he voted against the settlement agreement, voiced satisfaction with the decree’s provisions for the two-tier committee process, similar to one that had been in place before the lawsuit, and for an independent monitor. He is also happy that the decree includes the statement that the defendants do not agree with the judge’s findings against them. He has, however, expressed concern that the requirement that the village advertise the hiring site, with signs and on its Web site, could render it vulnerable to future lawsuits.


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