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Lack of official's federal form calls Madeira Beach votes into question

MADEIRA BEACH — Commissioner Robin Vander Velde, who was elected on March 8, has yet to receive a paycheck — and may not be able to legally vote on the city's business.

At issue is Vander Velde's refusal to fill out employment forms that require her Social Security number.

All the forms are required for her to be paid, but Form I-9 is required by the federal Department of Homeland Security and is used to prove citizenship.

The I-9 form is supposed to be filled out and verified within three days of employment. The form's instructions state that "an individual may not begin employment unless this form is completed, since employers are subject to civil or criminal penalties if they do not comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986."

City commissioners are paid $400 a month and are considered city employees.

"We know that technically we cannot employ someone until the I-9 form is filled out," Interim City Manager Bill Mallory said Tuesday. "But we are not familiar with how it might apply to an elected official."

Vander Velde declined to comment, and the city's new attorney, Tom Trask, could not be reached for comment.

Mallory agreed that the failure of Vander Velde to fill out the I-9 form and the resulting failure of the city to file it with Homeland Security raises "logical" questions about the validity of Vander Velde's commission votes.

Most recently, Vander Velde was one of three commissioners who voted to fire Michael Connolly as the city's attorney and replace him with Trask, and, in a separate 3-2 vote, to hire Allen Godfrey to replace Mallory as interim city manager.

Without her vote, the actions would result in a 2-2 vote. A tie vote means the motions are defeated.

Trask is serving as the city's attorney, but Godfrey has yet to accept the job or authorize the city to perform a background check on him.

Meanwhile, unless Vander Velde submits the required paperwork, May will mark the second paycheck she will have missed.

In addition to the federal Form I-9, other forms the city needs Vander Velde to complete include: the IRS W-4 Form where Vander Velde must give her Social Security number, as well as her address, marital status, and number of exemptions claimed; personal and emergency contact information; a Worker's Compensation managed care agreement needed in case she is injured during official duties; and an optional direct-deposit authorization.

Last month, at Vander Velde's request, Mallory e-mailed Paychex, the company that prints city payroll checks, and asked whether Vander Velde could give them her "Social Security number directly and not have her card number on file here at City Hall."

The company refused because it does not maintain employee records and the city processes its own payroll.

Vander Velde's concern over the city having her personal information arose nearly a year ago.

At the time she was a member of the city's Planning Commission and part of a group of residents who criticized the city budget under consideration.

Anonymous letters attacking Vander Velde and current Mayor Travis Palladeno were mailed in July to City Hall and city residents.

Vander Velde said she had received an anonymous "threatening letter" asking whether she was a felon and telling her to "tell them (residents) or we will."

She charged during a commission meeting that the misinformation "came from someone in City Hall."

Vander Velde's resume, filed when she was appointed to the Planning Commission in March 2010, noted that she served in 2007 as co-chair of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at the Dwight, Ill., Maximum Security Women's Prison.

Vander Velde said she was not an inmate, but was an AA volunteer at the prison.

That resume, as well as subsequent versions, are public record and are still posted on the city's website in the commission agenda archives.

Vander Velde moved to Madeira Beach in 2007 and is completing a degree in information systems management at the University of South Florida.

According to election filings, she works as an independent computer consultant.

Her resume includes a long list of other community service, including Madeira Beach Archibald Park Ad Hoc Committee, volunteering for Tall Ships SAIL Tampa, Toys for Tots and Pinellas Coastal Cleanup.

During the campaign, Vander Velde ran on a platform of increasing the city's financial accountability to its residents.

Lack of official's federal form calls Madeira Beach votes into question 05/17/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 5:39pm]
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