Susan Luzzaro 6:30 p.m., July 31
Bersin Unconvincing in Describing His Self-Confessed Goofs
The Senate Finance Committee yesterday (May 12) released a five-page document describing how San Diegan Alan Bersin, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, tried to explain his confessed mistakes in his hiring of household help. Bersin, who was given a recess appointment to the job on March 27, was hardly convincing. He spoke to committee staff members in August of last year and again in March of this year. He also answered questions in writing at other times. The issues revolved around Form I-9 Employee Eligibility Verification, which is required to document that each new employee is authorized to work in the U.S.
In August of last year, Bersin told the staff he had an I-9 for his nanny. Later, he was asked in writing about this response and said, "I misspoke and apologize for any misunderstanding." Bersin has employed ten household workers since 1993. "Mr. Bersin did not timely and completely prepare and maintain Forms I-9 for any of the ten household employees he employed, as required by law," stated the committee's report of yesterday. (One of the forms was filled out on time by an employment agency, but the employee did not sign it.) "It appears that the nominee [Bersin] was not familiar with the form I-9 requirements to establish that an employee was legally authorized to work in the United States," said the committee. However, in March, Bersin did say that he was familiar with I-9 because it had come up when he was U.S. attorney in San Diego. Bersin's wife, Lisa Foster, said "it did not occur to her to obtain I-9's," according to the committee.
The committee asked Bersin why he had identified only three employees since 2006 when there had been six. Bersin then said three of them may have been independent contractors not requiring an I-9, rather than employees. However, Bersin conceded, he had not filed amended tax returns to treat those individuals as independent contractors.
Said the committee, "The nominee was asked why he had not disclosed to the committee that he had changed the classification of the individuals from employee to independent contractor. He responded that 'I should have done that.'" It seems that Bersin, a lawyer who was former U.S. attorney, and is already the border czar and supposedly should have an understanding of I-9s and other border-related formalities, took advice from a lawyer on the matter, and now regrets it.
Bersin will get a grilling today from the Senate Finance Committee.