Of the allegations, the district "does not consider this an acceptable situation," according to a statement, though the statement also said the district "is not aware of any illegal workers" on the North Cobb High project.
On Monday, the Fox Atlanta television station aired a report in which an undercover camera was sent on the job site with a member of the advocacy group Jobs for Georgians. The person wearing the camera asked the man in charge of the masonry contractors if papers are needed to work on the site.
The man, who said his name was Edgar, and whom others identified as the owner of Edgar Gonzalez Masonry, also said he paid his employees in cash only, according to the television report.
Although the Journal tried to ask Superintendent Fred Sanderson directly about the issue, the district replied with the statement e-mailed by spokesman Jay Dillon.
The district said that it is required to obtain a signed affidavit from the general contractor ensuring the firm is using E-Verify, and that the district does have such an affidavit from Doster Construction Co., of Birmingham, for this project. North Cobb is the only project Doster is doing for the district.
"The school district has discussed this matter with the program manager Brookwood/PBS&J, as well as Doster, to re-emphasize the district's expectation of compliance with the law," according to the statement.
Doster won the North Cobb project with a bid of $13.3 million. According to the most recent project update on the district's website, the project was 30 percent complete as of Dec. 14, 2010, and the total contract amount had been boosted to $13.4 million, due to $79,000 worth of change orders.
The district had already paid $3.9 million to Doster, according to the Dec. 14 update. The ninth-grade center is to be completed by Aug. 1.
The North Cobb ninth grade center is one of three projects financed by the Special Purpose Local Option Sale Tax that the district is paying an outside project manager to oversee. In May 2009, the district hired Brookwood/PBS&J to supervise construction of ninth-grade centers at North Cobb and South Cobb high schools, and a replacement school for East Side Elementary. PBS&J was to be paid about $998,800 for overseeing all three projects.
Although state law requires contractors on public projects to confirm that their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States, contractors commonly use independent contractors, of whom employers are not specifically required to verify work eligibility.
But that's just an excuse to anti-illegal immigration activist D.A. King, who heads the Dustin Inman Society.
"The public employer, in this case the school district, is responsible, legally and morally, to ensure that the E-Verify is being used for all levels of contractors," King said. "The spirit of the law says each level of contractor must use E-Verify to check their newly hired employees."
The problem, though, is that independent contractors cannot be checked through E-Verify. King said there is an effort underway "to close the independent contractor black market labor loophole."
"Judson Hill has Senate Bill 27 aimed directly between the eyes of public-works contracts. It would eliminate any necessity for an audit by requiring that no one can be a public works contractor unless they are using the ICE Image system," King said. The legislation includes penalties for local governments and the contractors, he said.
That system would verify independent contractors, he said.
The school situation is reminiscent of controversies faced by the county government a year ago on the new courthouse construction.
"Nobody is surprised that this is happening," King said of illegal workers. "Nobody thinks that building employers in Georgia have the integrity to hire legal labor as long as they can make a larger profit and stand a better chance of being struck by lightning than being prosecuted."
Reporter Kathryn Malone contributed to this report.