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St. Petersburg City Council seeks to bolster program to fight wage theft

ST. PETERSBURG — The city has had a wage-theft program for a year, but it hasn't worked as well as hoped.

Last month, the program's coordinator outlined some tweaks that would strengthen enforcement and help drive recalcitrant employers to the negotiating table.

On Sept. 8, City Council members again tried to suss out how to make the fledgling program stronger.

Amy Foster wondered if exempting complainants from Florida's Sunshine Law might encourage more people to formally file complaints with the city. Right now, less than half of those who call the city's office actually file a complaint.

Many of those people are afraid of retaliation or ending up in the newspaper or other media, Foster said. Charlie Gerdes countered by pointing out if victims were exempted from public records laws, offending companies would be, too. And any exemption from the Sunshine Law would need state approval.

Most members of the council's Public Services and Infrastructure Committee also supported the city preventing renewals of business licenses of offending businesses.

The committee voted to have the city attorney's office draft an ordinance to focus discussion.