CITY HALL — The City Council last week unanimously voted to boycott Arizona businesses to protest that state’s tough new immigration law, but stopped short of pulling the plug on a possible $2 million contract with a company that has a facility near Phoenix.

The seven-member council was united last Tuesday in passing a resolution banning official travel to Arizona and requiring City Hall staff to avoid future business with Arizona vendors in most cases. But the panel left its options open when it comes to specialized contracts already in the works that might be difficult or costly to disrupt.

A contract that almost certainly falls into that category — a proposed $2 million agreement with software company Trapeze Group to provide digital information boards at Big Blue Bus stops — had been set to come before the council for approval this month.

Whether the council decides to go through with the deal will likely provide a test case for how serious a message on the Arizona immigration law council members want to send.

Trapeze Group earned $618,475.89 for work it did on the Big Blue Bus project this fiscal year, according to official records, and City Manager Rod Gould last week told the council rejecting the company’s bid for phase two could mean abandoning City Hall’s initial investment.

As part of the adopted resolution, staff will present the council with a detailed analysis of the costs associated with following through on the boycott with Trapeze Group.

While no decision has been made, council members last Tuesday appeared to be divided.

Council Member Kevin McKeown questioned whether exempting some companies from the boycott would render it toothless.

“Is this to be a real boycott, or is this to be a symbolic boycott?” he said.

Council Member Bob Holbrook, though, said he would look carefully at specific cases before deciding whether the boycott should apply.

“I would tend to look at the firm and see where they are in this,” he said. If a company has made it clear it doesn’t support the law, he said it shouldn’t be penalized.

Reached last week, Trapeze Group’s director of marketing, Kim Emmerson, said she was aware of Arizona’s immigration law and boycotts to protest it but didn’t believe her company should be affected.

“I don’t see how it would really impact doing business with us, being headquartered in Canada,” she said.

The company’s Arizona office, she said, is one of more than 20 offices the firm operates worldwide. She said the company has “nothing to say” about Arizona’s immigration law.

Signed by Arizona’s governor in April, the law requires state law enforcement agencies to check immigration papers if they have “reasonable suspicion” that someone they’ve stopped may be in the country illegally. Critics have said the law will lead to racial profiling and have argued it improperly preempts the federal government’s responsibility for enforcing immigration laws.

This fiscal year, Santa Monica has spent $1.1 million on Arizona goods and services.

At presstime it was not known when the council will consider the possible contract with Trapeze Group.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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