As published on ColumbiaTribune.com.

Gov. Matt Blunt has canceled a state contract of a janitorial company accused of employing illegal aliens.

Immigration officials detained about 25 employees of Oklahoma-based Sam’s Janitorial Services yesterday in the state capital. The company has contracts to clean nine buildings across the state, including one in Columbia.

“We want to keep our tax dollars from being use to pay illegal aliens,” Blunt said during a rare news conference last night.

Vernon Morris, a housekeeping manager for the Division of Facility Management, Construction and Design, tipped off Capitol Police officers after he noticed discrepancies in contract staff’s documents.

“We uncovered dozens of violations of federal law,” Blunt said, adding that the company had contracts with the state dating back to 1998. “As we speak, a coordinated effort with the Immigration, Customs and Enforcement Office - or ICE - is underway. And these suspected illegal workers are in the process of being detained.”

Sam’s Janitorial Service, which employs about 80 workers, had contracts to work in Jefferson City locations such as the Truman State Office Building, the James C. Kirkpatrick State Information Center, the Department of Conservation Building, the Health Lab, the Broadway Building, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Building and the Professional Registration Building.

The agency also had contracts at the Fletcher Daniels Office Building in Kansas City and government buildings at 1500 Vandiver Dr. and 1512 Heriford Drive in Columbia.

Mark James, director of the Department of Public Safety, said Morris’ tip prompted a month-long investigation. Blunt said the inquiry revealed that many Sam’s Janitorial Service workers did not have legal working documents.

In addition to canceling the company’s contract, Blunt signed an executive order late last night calling for a “sweeping audit” of all Missouri government contracts to make sure they “operate under the rule of law.”

“Legal immigration is a fact of life in the United States and it’s a good thing,” Blunt said. “But we cannot tolerate companies that unlawfully employ workers at the expense of honest, hardworking citizens.”

State government commonly hires third-party contractors to perform government services. In addition to janitorial services, the Division of Facility Management, Construction and Design uses private companies to design and build facilities and manage construction projects.

But Blunt said he wasn’t leery of using third-party companies to perform government services.

“Contractors are important,” Blunt said. “They create jobs, they lower costs for taxpayers. I think it’s responsible public policy to use contractors when you are able to stretch tax dollars to do more. We need to be vigilant about the use of those tax dollars. In this case we had a contractor that had been contracting with the state since 1998. And it turns out that there’s significant problems, and we’re banning that contractor from doing business with the state of Missouri.”

Illegal immigration has been a notable topic this session in the Missouri General Assembly. State Sen. Chris Koster, R-Harrisonville, and state Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis County, unleashed a comprehensive bill that would force employers to sign up with a federal service that tracks the immigration status of potential workers.

The legislation would also ban illegal aliens from attending Missouri’s public colleges and would bar landlords from renting to illegal aliens. The bill has yet to be heard in committee.