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Authorities listed at risk of losing state funds
Two say they comply with immigration law
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Forsyth County News

Two local tangential government boards are disputing Georgia’s contention that they have failed to comply with a section of the state’s anti-illegal-immigration law.

The list, released this month by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, included nearly 600 city and county government agencies.

That status places them in jeopardy of losing access to millions of state funds, including community development block grants, until they file the required reports with state auditors.

The list didn’t include local governments in Forsyth County, but did feature the Forsyth County Public Facilities Authority and the separate development authorities for Cumming and Forsyth County.

According to the Department of Audits and Accounts, the agencies that made the list are not in compliance with the state’s requirement that they file annual reports certifying they and their contractors are using a federal program, E-Verify, to check new hires’ immigration statuses.

State Auditor Greg Griffin did note in his letter, however, that some might be exempt under the law because they don’t have enough employees.

Two of the agencies listed in Forsyth County countered that they are in compliance with the law.

Attorney Ken Jarrard, who represents the Forsyth County Public Facilities Authority, said he sent information about the group’s compliance Monday.

According to the e-mail to the state department, the five-member panel meets just twice a year and has “entered into no contracts involving public works or the physical performance of services for calendar year.”

Jarrard said because there were no contracts or services provided, the authority is “not subject to E-Verify and we have confirmed that with the Department of Audits and Accounts.”

The Forsyth County and Cumming development authorities are also on the list.

The city’s development authority was re-established in September 2011 to work toward the creation of the city’s North Georgia College & State University campus.

“My understanding is that the law doesn’t apply to us because we have no contracts, we have no employees and we’re not a public employer,” said Dana Miles, attorney for the city authority.

“But I’ll be glad to look into it. And if we need to file some sort of report that says that, obviously the city will do what it’s required to do.”

Cumming City Administrator Gerald Blackburn had a similar viewpoint, saying the law applies only to commissioners, various contractors and public employers, or those performing services for public employers.

But to be clear, Blackburn said the authority would likely send a letter to the state department to let them know it doesn’t fall under the law.

Though he does not represent it, Jarrard said he would “be very surprised if the Forsyth County Development Authority has done any actual contracting for public works or the physical performance of services.”

“So I believe it unlikely that they have any obligations with respect to E-Verify,” he added.

Bobby Thomas, who chairs the authority, could not be reached for comment.

In neighboring Hall County, the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission and the Gainesville Hall Development Authority each made the list.

Representatives for the Gainesville-Hall Development Authority and the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority say they are in compliance.

A representative for Chicopee could not be reached.

Ashley Fielding of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.