Mableton City Council takes up employment screening; business license deadline

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

by Arielle Robinson

Mableton’s City Council took further steps to move the hiring process along and bring businesses to the city at its work session and council meeting on Valentine’s Day.

City council unanimously approved allowing the mayor to find a company to handle screening services for new city employees.

“We’re starting to hire,” Interim City Clerk Susan Hiott said. “And we’ve made an offer already and the offer letter—and this is practiced by all cities—is contingent upon a background check and a drug test. So that means that the city must have a company in place to run those background checks and do the drug testing.”

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Hiott said that the city is deciding between three companies to handle screening. Those three are Paycom, Checkr, and SecureHire. 

Currently, Paycom handles the city’s payroll. This seems to be the preferred option due to familiarity, but Hiott said the problem was the language behind the agreement Paycom sent about background checks. This is part of why the city is stuck between choosing three options.

Interim City Attorney Emilia Walker-Ashby said about Paycom’s agreement that “it had a lot of indemnification language that would require negotiation…for example, it said that if they were sued for certain purposes, which almost included any purpose, with respect to the services that they provided that the city would cover their defense and indemnify them and pay attorneys fees and etc., etc. It’s not unusual language, but it’s just language that you can typically leverage out of contracts by negotiation.”

Hiott also said that the City of Tucker uses SecureHire and was told by an employee there that SecureHire had the better contract. Hiott said the interim city attorney can help finalize which company Mableton will select.

“The bottom line is we have to have this,” Hiott said. “It’s a service we need to prevent any liability of hiring someone that may have something on their record back there that could cause a major liability to us…But as far as which one, it’s going to depend on the negotiation of the contract and what’s the best fit for the services that Mableton is going to have for the citizens.”

Walker-Ashby recommended giving Mayor Michael Owens authority to decide between the three companies. This would give her space to negotiate with Paycom over removing the indemnification language.

“We may get to an impasse where Paycom says ‘no, we’re not going to remove it. You either indemnify us or you move on,’ and my understanding is that is what the city of Tucker was confronted with and they had to move on to another service provider. So I just don’t know yet how much leverage Paycom will give, so the recommendation would be to provide flexibility so that we can move to another vendor if things don’t work with negotiating with Paycom,” Walker-Ashby said.

Owens said he agrees. He said Paycom could potentially be useful because the city already uses it for onboarding, but it would be better to leave all options open.

Different drug tests and criminal background check prices vary, but overall, each company’s services have similar prices for the same products, Hiott said. All the different prices can be read here.

“The basic thing I think we would do would be a background check,” Hiott said. “And in some instances we may need a credit check, and of course the drug test.”

Councilwoman Keisha Jeffcoat asked if the screening includes degree verification, to which Hiott replied yes.

Concerning what substances the drug test will look for, Walker-Ashby said that option is up to the council.

“The council can set the parameters as far as what you want the extent of the service to be,” Walker-Ashby said. “We can give instruction and guidance to the servicer as far as what you’re looking to test for. So if there are certain exemptions, like medical, of course, or I know that certain states allow, for example, marijuana use and I know that some entities, if you frequent those states, they’ll have an exemption if you can show proof that you were in a state where it was legal, so it’s just the extent that you want to expand or constrict the policy.”

Councilman TJ Ferguson asked if there is any kind of language around liability in the Paycom contract if the company failed to capture something in a background check.

“It is substantially lopsided,” Walker-Ashby said. “I’ll just say that—in their favor—but that’s typical, I’m not saying that that shows any element of bad faith on their part.”

The city council also voted unanimously to allow Owens to extend the deadline for business license fees through April 30.

“This is directly connected to the business license rollout that we’ve had and working with companies and business owners across the city as we transition the business license and occupational tax process from the county to the city,” Owens said.

Mableton businesses that have not yet applied for or renewed their licenses will not be charged late fees or penalties for doing so after the deadline, which is normally by January 30.

Owens said because the city is still transitioning to handling business license applications and renewals the extension is warranted. Cobb County previously handled them.

“I want to ensure that there’s no burden or additional burden on our business owners within the city,” Owens said. “…I feel this is the best thing to do in interest of our business owners and those people that are out working hard day to day…I want to make sure that not a single business is penalized for this activity.”

Ferguson asked why April 30 was chosen.

“I don’t know that,” Owens said. “I want to make sure we have enough time…extending it out to April 30 just provides a lot more time…I don’t know if there’s a magic behind it, besides giving more time.”

Walker-Ashby agreed with Owens.

“No, there’s no magic,” Walker-Ashby said. “…Given the system just coming out I felt that an extra two months would be reasonable. But you can shorten it, you can extend it as well.”

Ferguson was assured. 

“I think the other part of this I just want everybody to know is that we are diligently working through the issues that anybody might be having, and just expressing that to them,” Ferguson said. 

After the vote, Ferguson said he would update the website with this latest information.

There are no non-web-based applications for business licenses, Walker-Ashby told the Courier in an email exchange after the meeting. But the city can help.

“All Mableton licensing is electronic through the City’s online GovPilot Licensing Portal so there are no non-web-based applications,” Walker-Ashby said. “We can easily guide people who may need help through the online process if they email or call.”

Residents can call 770-692-2034 or email businesslicense@mableton.gov.

Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She also freelances for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and is the former president of KSU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a former CNN intern. She enjoys music, reading, and live shows.

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