Local News

September 21, 2012

Most local agencies in compliance with state immigration law

Officials at several local agencies say it was an oversight that they haven’t filed forms showing they are complying with state immigration law.

Last year, the General Assembly passed a law requiring government agencies with two or more employees to file annual reports showing that they and any contractors they hire use the federal E-Verify program to confirm that newly hired employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. Agencies with fewer than two employees must file a report that they are not covered by the law.

Agencies that don’t comply with the law could lose access to state funds or loans.

As of Sept. 8, the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts reports that several hundred agencies across the state haven’t filed those reports. The department lists Cohutta as one of the cities that hasn’t filed a report yet.

“I had no idea we were on the list. That’s probably something we overlooked, and we’ll take care of that,” said Cohutta Mayor Don Henderson. “But I don’t think we have hired anyone since the law took effect. Most of our employees have been with us for years, and we don’t use a lot of contractors.”

Cohutta is the only city in Whitfield or Murray counties on the list. But several local authorities are listed as not having filed the proper paperwork. In fact, most of the agencies on the list appear to be various authorities and commissions, not cities and counties.

Officials with the Dalton-Whitfield Joint Development Authority (JDA), relying on a legal opinion from attorneys, said they do not believe the JDA is subject to the requirements of the law because the JDA has no employees or payroll but contracts with the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce for space and services. They said they will ask the JDA board whether it wants to adhere to the requirements of the law even if not required to do so.

Dan Rogers, chairman of the board of the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center, said he was not aware that authority was not in compliance with the law.

“Now that we are aware of it, we are filing the paperwork, and we should be in compliance soon,” he said.

Rogers noted that the trade center authority currently doesn’t have any employees. Trade center employees are actually employees of Global Spectrum, which has managed the facility for the past four years.

Trade center General Manager Shashank Gairola says Global Spectrum does use the E-Verify program.

“We comply with all the laws. In fact, we were using some of the programs they want us to use even before some of the cities and counties,” Gairola said.

Global Spectrum’s management contract ends on Dec. 31, and the trade center authority will resume managing the facility in 2013.

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb said he will ask the county human resources department to help any authorities in Whitfield County to comply with the law if they need help.

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