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Minutemen Surveillance

Two months of monitoring unofficial hiring site result in reporting of suspected violations to proper government authorities.

George Taplin, president of Herndon's Minutemen, has submitted the names of 16 contracting companies that he believes are in violation of various state, county and town laws, to the proper governmental authorities, including the Internal Revenue Service.

During a press conference Dec. 12, Taplin, a Herndon resident, said the information came from the group's surveillance of the unofficial day worker hiring site at Alabama Drive and Elden Street.

Taplin and other Minutemen volunteers have sporadically monitored the unofficial site since October, before the formal site's opening Dec. 14. Now that the official site is open, the Minutemen have pledged to monitor the site every morning. In their surveillance, the group photographs, videotapes and records the license plates of vehicles hiring workers. At the unofficial site, the volunteers also monitored the Elden Street corridor, recording other areas where workers were hired.

Five contracting companies operating in Herndon without the proper business licenses were reported to the town's department of community development, according to Taplin's research.

After investigating the complaints, three of the businesses were found to be in compliance with the town's ordinances, said Vincent Diem, senior community inspector with the town. The other two businesses are still being investigated, he said.

"Generally, when we get a complaint," said Diem, "the first thing we do is research our files and database system to see if the business alleged to be operating without licenses in fact does not have them."

If the businesses in question do not have the town required business license and zoning inspection permit, one of the town's zoning inspectors is assigned to further investigate the complaint. If found in violation, the business owner is asked to file for the proper licenses. If they do not willfully comply within 30 days, legal enforcement measures are taken, he said.

The community inspection department has investigated the Minutemen-submitted information in the same manner it would if the report were coming from the Herndon Police or residents, said Diem.

"The more information we receive and the amount of credible information we receive, no matter who the source of the information is," said Diem, "certainly that helps expedite that research process."

Information was also sent to Fairfax County officials, Manassas Park revenue officials, Loudoun County revenue officials, the state department of professional and occupational regulation, the state department of taxation, the Virginia Employment Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. Taplin would not release the names and addresses of the companies until the investigations are complete.