Mableton signs DHS agreement to verify employee immigration status, regular meeting schedule a “work in progress”

a screenshot of the six districts in Mableon, with 1,2,3 to the south, 4, 5, 6 to the north

by Arielle Robinson

Monday evening, Mableton’s City Council and mayor discussed issues related to verifying the immigration status of potential city employees and setting a regular city meeting schedule.

City Councilwoman Patricia Auch was absent due to a medical issue. The mayor and council all sent thoughts and prayers to her and have been in touch.

City council unanimously approved an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to verify the citizenship and immigration status of all new potential city staff. It is to ensure that undocumented immigrants are not hired.

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Mayor Michael Owens said that Mableton is legally required to complete the agreement, officially titled the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) memorandum.

Under this agreement, the city has three days to check the immigration status of a new employee.

Interim City Clerk Susan Hiott also explained that the system will be used to verify the same for other businesses in the city.

“Whenever somebody does get a business license, they will sign an affidavit saying that they do not hire any illegal immigrants,” Hiott said.

Hiott also said that Mableton is required to submit yearly reports about the system to the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts by December 31.

Owens mentioned that two employees have already participated in the system.

A little later in the meeting, Owens and city council discussed moving from the transitional phase of city council meetings to holding regular meetings at a set date and time.

The mayor said that the city has to ensure that it has a consistent venue for meetings.

“That has been discussed and I think will continue to be discussed, and in full disclosure, we have not had that discussion with Dr. [Christopher] Boyd and the [Riverside] EpiCenter about that,” Owens said. 

Boyd is the General Manager of the EpiCenter, where the council has held its meetings since its first one in May.

“We have to have a situation where if we’re saying second and fourth Thursday, for example, that that is contractually agreed to so that we’re not working around the schedule of the EpiCenter when they have paid events and things to go by,” Owens said.

Owens said he thinks Thursdays have worked for most people, but more work still needs to be done to find a time that is sufficient for city staff and the EpiCenter’s schedule.

“It’s a work in progress, I think we have to nail down a couple of things,” the mayor said.

Owens said meetings would essentially be held every other week once it is decided whether they will have the meeting every first and third week of the month, or every second and fourth week. 

The mayor then asked what others thought.

Interim City Attorney Emilia Walker-Ashby said the second and fourth weeks would be better for city administration and staff, as it would allow them more time to better support the city on a monthly basis.

Councilwoman Keisha Jeffcoat made a suggestion.

“Maybe we could entertain possibly having alternate days, since those days some people have challenges with that, maybe one week do Thursdays, one week do Wednesdays or something like that,” Jeffcoat said. 

“We’re more than happy to entertain that,” Owens replied. “But I think the downside of that is we lose people’s ability to say we know it’s going to be on Thursday…there’s a consistency that comes along with that that I think people will appreciate. Of course, again, as we look through the whole of 2024, if a holiday falls on a Thursday then we need to look at adjusting something. But I really want people to get a sound idea of not even having to check the calendar knowing that—I mean I still want people to check the calendar—but just having a very good idea of what that’s going to be.”

Owens asked if there was any more discussion on the topic.

“Yes, as long as [Councilman] TJ [Ferguson] doesn’t recommend another Monday,” Jeffcoat said. (The council, staff, and mayor laughed at this comment).

The city also has to check the Cobb Board of Commissioners’ schedule so their regular meetings do not interfere with theirs.

Councilwoman Debora Herndon asked if the council would entertain moving the meetings to a different location.

“You all have probably heard it, everyone’s like ‘can you move the meetings to a place that’s a little bit more central?’ So is that something we’re going to be considering maybe after this year? As I understand the EpiCenter, we can make it work, it’s probably the easiest location for now,” Herndon said.

Owens said he was “absolutely” open to reevaluating that idea with the council and staff.

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