At the Cobb Board of Commissioners' Tuesday morning meeting, John Ciancia, of Jobs for Georgians, said several workers were fired in January after it was determined that Zebra Construction, a subcontractor on the project, had employed a subcontractor who was hiring illegal immigrants to help construct the $63 million courthouse. But two of those workers are back on the job site after likely obtaining fake identification, Ciancia said, and now are employed directly by Zebra Construction.
"We are certainly concerned about illegal workers at the courthouse," Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Woody Thompson said. "These people are already criminals by finding work illegally, so it doesn't surprise me that some may get false ID's."
According to an e-mail to all commissioners sent Thursday by Allen Kronenberger, project manager for Cobb County Property Management, the two workers were always eligible to work and left Zebra's subcontractor to work for Zebra when the sub-subcontractor was fired.
"They originally left the site when their original employer, (Victor) Candeleria, was fired due to non-compliance with the E-verify system. Although these workers had legal status, they left Candeleria and went to work for Zebra Construction and were fully compliant with E-Verify system. These two men are now on site and are expected to continue working," Kronenberger said in the e-mail.
But anti-illegal immigration activist D.A. King said the workers were not eligible to work when they were fired, and have since found a way to pass the E-verify system.
"E-verify verifies numbers, not so much people," King said. "If I can successfully steal someone's identification and use it to be hired, the chances are 50/50 that E-verify can't catch me. Additionally, there is a federal law that makes it quite clear that the contractor is responsible if any contractor hires known illegal workers. Turner already knew that they were illegal in February and knows they're illegal now, so that's not going to wash."
Kronenberger said the county and Turner Construction have already taken considerable measures to check employment status of the workers, even implementing a photo identification system for each individual that enters the work site. Each photo ID has been cross-referenced with E-verify to identify work status for each individual, Kronenberger said in the e-mail.
A total of 945 individuals have received the ID badges, Kronenberger said.
And on Tuesday afternoon, the county stepped up its security efforts. Following an afternoon meeting with County Manager David Hankerson, Sheriff Neil Warren and representatives from Turner Construction, the county had decided to assume control of security, Commissioner Bob Ott told the Journal Tuesday night.
Now, each worker will go through a new, more extensive background check conducted by the Sheriff's Office and get a new badge, Ott said. All courthouse workers will also be subjected to spot checks performed by sheriff deputies, he said.