It depends, however, on how far the city decides to go with the program, which aims to guarantee that all workers on the payroll are in the country legally. Will Marietta follow the lead of Cobb County and apply IMAGE only to its own employees, or go a step further and include contractors as well?
Early indications from Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin were that Marietta would go for the higher standard and require that its contractors verify all their workers are authorized to work in the U.S.
“As a city we use federal contracts, do a lot of DOT contracts; we work with a lot of different people, and I think we have a duty to make sure the subcontractors are in compliance also,” he told the Journal in February.
Yet, at a city council meeting in March, Shannon Barrett, assistant city manager, said the city wouldn’t include contractors in the process.
Tumlin didn’t return phone calls Saturday by press time to the Journal about his change of opinion regarding IMAGE certification for contractors working with the city.
Barrett said the process would be at no additional cost because the human resources staff and internal city auditor would add the work to their normal business day.
After the self-audit, federal agents perform their own audit of the employer’s payroll before issuing the certification. The agents come from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.
Barrett said Marietta won’t require its contractors’ employees to be certified, only its own employees, because the guidelines have changed.
“The decision to discard contractors from the certification requirements was more on an IMAGE side, not a Marietta side,” Barrett said. “It wasn’t something the city decided to do or not to do.”
Barrett said there were benchmarks that candidates were encouraged to meet, such as contractor certifications, but now ICE is just focusing on direct employees.
“That wasn’t the case when the county started the process,” Barrett said, referring to a split vote on the county commissioners’ decision last month not to include contractors.
But D.A. King, founder of the Dustin Inman Society, said the guidelines haven’t changed in two years. The ICE website lists “encourage contractors and/or subcontractors to incorporate IMAGE Best Practices and when practicable incorporate the use of E-Verify in subcontractor agreements,” as an IMAGE best practice.
“Nothing is different now than it was when Cobb County applied,” King said. “The city of Marietta is applying as an employer to be IMAGE certified, and a separate measure would be to require contractors (to be certified).”
King said it is “entirely up to the city” to decide whether to require their contractors to apply to become IMAGE certified, and that IMAGE has changed nothing on that measure.
Barrett said the 12 “Best Practices” are only guidelines, per ICE Special Agent Richard Beamish, IMAGE coordinator. The city is starting the process by focusing on the employees only, Barrett said, and already requires affidavits from contractors regarding the use of E-Verify.
Thunder leads, but will council follow?
Tumlin was the brains behind moving forward with IMAGE in the city, Barrett said. The mayor told council members last week that it would “create good rapport (with constituents.)”
The process requires entities to use E-Verify, which Marietta has done since 2008. City officials have already met with ICE, Barrett said.
Next, there will be an internal review of all 720 employees’ records and a self-audit before the city can formally request certification. Council members will also need to approve the idea of becoming IMAGE certified at the regular council meeting on Wednesday.
Marietta would be the third government entity in the county to seek the certification, following the county government, which is certified, and the city of Acworth, which has applied for certification.
“We turned in our IMAGE application and are just waiting to hear back from ICE,” Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood said. “Our work is done.”
Acworth won’t include contractors, either, because the city wanted to follow the county’s lead, Allegood said.
“We would have had to create an ordinance, and pass it, that would require contractors working with the city to be IMAGE certified,” Allegood said. “Then we would have to wait for them to go through the process and it would hurt the bid process.”
Allegood described the city’s decision to seek the title as “another best practice move.”