During a work session Monday, City Manager Brian Bulthuis brought Mayor Tommy Allegood and the Board of Aldermen up to speed on his research into the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE.
The program, developed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is designed to determine whether all employees are legally able to work.
Bulthuis told the board the program includes E-Verify, in which the city and its contractors already participate per a new state law.
E-Verify compares information on a new hire’s I-9, which is an employment eligibility verification form, and data from the Social Security Administration.
There is no checking of workers who signed on before the system was in place.
“You can’t go back and look at old employees,” Bulthuis said. “You can only look at new employees.”
Bulthuis said if someone blew the whistle on a worker, the Acworth Police Department would have to contact the federal enforcement agency.
“As the city, we don’t have any enforcement ability whatsoever,” he said.
He said the system has not unearthed any illegal workers among Acworth’s 150 employees, only a newlywed with a name change not yet registered with Social Security.
IMAGE includes E-Verify and 11 other “best practices,” Bulthuis said.
One is a retroactive function, examining all employee records regardless of hire date and verifying Social Security numbers.
Another addition is to “ensure that contractors and/or subcontractors establish procedures to comply with employment eligibility verification requirements,” according to www.ice.gov/IMAGE.
Yet another is “encourage contractors and/or subcontractors to incorporate IMAGE best practices and, when practicable, incorporate the use of E-Verify in subcontractor agreements.”
Contractors and the firms they hire to perform parts of a large job, such as constructing a police station, may constitute a stumbling block.
“The city would be required to start monitoring all subcontractors and sub-subcontractors. That would be an additional step that we’re not required to do now,” Bulthuis said.
Right now there are no requirements for the city’s contractors to be in the IMAGE program.
Marietta resident D.A. King spoke during the work session.
“Please believe me, you don’t have an accurate picture of what IMAGE is,” he said. “To become IMAGE certified or applying for it in no way requires that you require a sub-sub-subcontractor to use E-Verify.”
King recommended tapping ICE Special Agent Rick Beamish to address a future work session. “You don’t have all the information to become IMAGE certified,” he said.
Allegood said he would consider the suggestion. “Let’s digest this,” he said.
Although the IMAGE website does not list a charge to be certified, neither does it offer compensation for completing its 12 steps.
Some of the requirements include added paperwork for human resources departments and specialized training, which would come out of the city’s budget.
Bulthuis did not present cost estimates at the work session, and Allegood said after the meeting they had not worked up those costs. Bulthuis said seven of the 12 requirements would have to be started from scratch.
“We don’t have those in place yet,” he said about items such as establishing an anonymous tip line.
The Acworth board made no commitment to place the agreement on a future agenda.
Last year the Cobb Board of Commissioners agreed to become certified with the program. Now that board is considering a measure to require contractors doing business with the county to apply for IMAGE certification.
Since the county joined, the city became more interested in the program’s effects on local government.
Alderman Tim Richardson brought up the topic, and the board scheduled the work session.
“We’ve been asked the question, are we going to become IMAGE certified and are we going to make our contractors be certified?” Allegood said. “We don’t know. Everyone is going to have this conversation at some time. We’re getting to it early.”