Commission Votes Down Wage Theft Ordinance

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Commissioners voted down a wage theft ordinance Monday Nov. 5 on the first of three readings.

Normally that would mean the proposal doesn’t advance to second and third readings. But commission chairman Mike Ritz said after conferring with the county attorney’s office, he interprets the rule to mean it can advance to second and third readings.

“We all learned something today,” Ritz said of the development.

Several commissioners conferred with County Attorney Kelly Rayne later on the matter which could be discussed again.

The ordinance proposed by commissioner Steve Mulroy changed from the initial proposal to the version the commission considered Monday. Gone were provisions that would allow investigators with the county Office of Equal Opportunity Compliance to subpoena business records, hold a hearing and require mediation. A county attorney’s office legal opinion said none of those provisions were legal.

The “streamlined” version Mulroy offered Monday would treat a complaint that an employer didn’t pay minimum wage or overtime or was late paying employees the way building code violations are dealt with. A citation would be issued and an alleged violation could end up going before General Sessions Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter. Potter could go beyond the $50 maximum for violating a county ordinance.

The Memphis City Council will soon consider a companion ordinance that would apply to the city of Memphis. The county ordinance would cover the unincorporated county.

Meanwhile, the commission approved a planned development on the southwest corner of Baylor and Brunswick Roads near Bartlett.

The assisted living facility that now houses eight people would expand under the planned development to take in 18 senior citizens.

Some neighbors of the facility showed up to oppose the expansion and leaders of the city of Bartlett said they wanted the commission to delay action.

The area is in the process of being annexed by the city of Bartlett by the end of the year.

The Memphis City Council is scheduled to vote on the planned development in December. If the council stays on schedule, the council approval would come 26 days before the area is annexed by Bartlett.

The commission also delayed a vote on a resolution to sell 33.6 acres of land in the Frank Pidgeon Industrial Park to Carolyn Hardy for $403,980. Hardy plans to develop the land to store and stage modular freight containers.

The Memphis City Council takes up the same resolution Tuesday.