City Hall to enforce wage law after all

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — City officials are changing their tune about enforcing Albuquerque's new minimum-wage ordinance.

The city attorney announced Tuesday he plans to sue a local malt shop owner for refusing to pay the new wage , something the city attorney and mayor's office a week ago said couldn't be done.

At first the city said it didn't have the resources to enforce the new ordinance, but now officials say they have no choice but to represent the worker who challenged the shop owner for refusing to comply with the new ordinance.

"No one was coming to help him," said City Attorney David Tourek. "I frankly thought someone was coming to help him, and no one did."

Tourek said he and Mayor Richard J. Berry are changing positions because they thought a private attorney would pick up the case.

Instead the city will represent Kevin O'Leary, the worker who called out his boss at the Route 66 Malt Shop for not paying the new minimum wage. Shop owner Eric Szeman said he had a verbal agreement with his employees that they would work at the wage they were hired at.

But that's a violation of the ordinance.

Also on Tuesday City Councilors Ken Sanchez, Rey Gardu o and Isaac Benton criticized Berry and the city attorney for not doing something sooner.

"We've already sent the wrong message," Benton said. "I'm glad he's talking some action and that he might do something about it now. The first scofflaw has to be made an example of.  That's all there is to it."

The councilors also said they'll provide the city attorney's offices with whatever resources it needs to prosecute any future employers who aren't following the ordinance.

The city attorney said he is working with New Mexico Legal Aid to find lawyers who can fight for future victims instead of using tax dollars.

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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
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Governor: Susana Martinez
Lieutenant Governor: John Sanchez
Attorney General: Gary King
Secretary of State: Dianna J. Durán

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