- “I challenge the concept that somehow the law requires use of an affidavit, that the auditor’s office is legislatively charged with creating the affidavit for use – but that the issuing agency is not required to use that affidavit.”
15 Dec 2022
Mr. John H. Cranford
Coweta Judicial District
As promised, I write regarding your response to my complaint against Carroll County government in administering public benefits and the legislative intent and goals of multiple laws intended to ensure those benefits do not go to ineligible applicants. As I noted previously, I do not agree with most of your conclusions, and I respectfully urge you to take a second look at the matter.
I have tried to arrange my points to coincide with the numbered paragraphs in your letter.
1) OCGA 50-36-1 requires (most) agencies administering public benefits to verify the “lawful presence” of any applicant for public benefits. I believe it is clear that Carroll County did not fulfill that obligation over the course of a decade:
(“b) Except as provided in subsection (d) of this Code section or where exempted by federal law, every agency or political subdivision shall verify the lawful presence in the United States under federal immigration law of any applicant for public benefits.”
The law then mandates a detailed, plain language process for that verification which includes requiring the applicant to swear that he is eligible within the “lawful presence” definition on a standardized affidavit. The law says the source of that affidavit form is the state auditor’s office.
(2) The state auditor shall create affidavits for use under this subsection and shall keep a current version of such affidavits on the Department of Audits and Accounts’ official website.
I challenge the concept that the law somehow requires use of an affidavit, that the auditor’s office is legislatively charged with creating the affidavit for use – but that the issuing agency is not required to use that affidavit.
A reasonable consideration of the legislative intent and the language of the law seems clear enough. (*1) If the law intended to allow agencies to create their own forms, documents and affidavits bypassing the mandate that the auditor “shall create and keep a current version of such affidavits…” that option would be stated in the law. It seems a difficult stretch to conclude otherwise. There is no language or implication in the law that allows any issuing agency to create their own form or format. Again, to address otherwise this is to infer something that is not stated or even implied in the plain language text of OCGA 50-36-1.
Again, with respect, I regard a legal decision on the above as being within the realm and authority of a court – not an executive branch reading or opinion.
I urge you to reconsider your conclusion on this point.
2) From my Sept. 29, 2022 post “The SAVE affidavit used by Carroll County is not the SAVE affidavit designed by the Dept. of Audits and Accounts – the State Auditor. And in Carroll County there is no requirement for foreigners to complete the affidavit for renewals…”
OCGA 50-36-1 recognizes that it is not usual for an American to lose U.S. citizenship status but that it does happen (a naturalized citizen may be subject to denaturalization proceedings in court or as a result of a conviction for knowingly obtaining naturalization through fraud under 18 U.S.C. 1425 ) . The law was amended after original passage to allow for that fact and recognizes that foreign nationals (“foreigners) “lawful presence” status can literally change overnight for a variety of reasons.
The law provides that having proven eligibility through U.S. citizenship in the original application, issue, and verification process, that applicant is not required to prove eligibility again for renewals in the same agency/subdivision.
That provision and exception does not apply to foreigners, and by omission from the last sentence of the below pasted paragraph in the statute, they are required to prove eligibility with all steps of the process for all renewals. (4) The requirements of this subsection shall not apply to any applicant applying for or renewing an application for a public benefit within the same agency or political subdivision if the applicant has previously complied with the requirements of this subsection by submission of a secure and verifiable document, as defined in Code Section 50-36-2, and a signed and sworn affidavit affirming that such applicant is a United States citizen. (Emphasis mine)
The law does in fact clearly distinguish between citizens and non-citizens regarding whether they must complete a redundant affidavit and/or secure and verifiable ID in the renewal process. To ignore the last words of the above paragraph is not a complete consideration of the law or an accurate response to that part of my column or complaint.
3) As you noted, the affidavit that I received from Carroll county in my open records request (and have posted on in my Sept 29, 2022 column) “has a Revision Date of 2/25/2020.” You write that it “appears to be in compliance with the requirements of OCGA 50-36-1.” We agree that the “homemade” Carroll County affidavit does not include the sentence contained in the auditor’s version of the affidavit that reads “The undersigned applicant also hereby verifies that he or she is 18 years of age or older and has provided at least one secure and verifiable document, as required by 50-36-1 (f) (l), with this affidavit.
The secure and verifiable document provided with this affidavit can best be classified as:
Because of that absence, the 4000-ish applicants that I am informed have applied for and been issued public benefits in Carroll County in the last decade have not sworn to the full requirements of verification under the law because Carroll County decided to ignore the affidavit created for use by the state auditor. Whether or not the law required the above entry on the affidavit, it does require the secure and verifiable ID oath process.
This was the exact reason for amending the law to require the creation of a standardized, auditor’s provided affidavit form. I do not regard the Revision date of 2020 as anything other than another indication of Carroll County’s refusal/failure to comply years after the law went into effect.
Respectfully, I do not agree that the Carroll County version seems to be in compliance unless you insist on rejecting the premise that the auditor’s form is not actually created for use (*1 please see above) or that Carroll County somehow has legal authority to not use it. If that authority exists, I hope Carroll County government official can cite it?
Carroll County apparently skipped the entire secure and verifiable ID collection process
Carroll County not only decided not to include the above paragraph in their version of the affidavit, but apparently bypassed the entire process of collecting any secure and verifiable documents until late this year – after I made this atter public and filed my complaint.
I have a recorded acknowledgement of this on audio from a half-hour October 24, 2022 phone conversation initiated by Carroll County officials to me.
You can easily check on this yourself by asking Carroll County to produce the secure and verifiable ID examples collected in the prior to my public concerned citizen investigation.
Ignoring this important security step in administering public benefits is a violation of the law.
I will provide the audio I mention above upon request from your office.
4) You note that the E-Verify affidavit now posted on the Carroll County website now matches the version provided by the Attorney General’s office. That was not the case last month, as my post explains and illustrates. My original open records request to Carroll County asked for a copy of this affidavit in use. They were unable to provide anything close to the required document – even after a follow-up note from me. Then I was sent an affidavit form that was not in compliance with the law because it wasn’t the affidavit provided by the AG.
As I wrote, I notified one of the Carroll County attorneys of this fact. If they have now begun using the required AG provided affidavit it was after I explained that they were still in violation as you can see from my dated post.
The carelessness and defiance along with the cavalier attitude concerning the law has been evident at Carroll County on this matter since I began my effort to gain compliance early in 2022.
A shorter way to say it is that until I had pursued this to the public complaint level, none of the above was regarded as any sort of problem worthy of concern by elected and appointed officials at Carroll County. They took their time to comply with the rule of law only when it became a public problem for them politically. This is not a luxury enjoyed by taxpaying private citizens.
Allowing this to be ignored and without prosecution is reinforcing the already common attitude in other issuing agencies statewide that “unless we get caught, we can ignore the law designed to deter illegal access to public benefits.”
There are other agencies and political subdivisions within your jurisdiction that are in similar forms of violation of the laws we are discussing here. I mean no offense or disrespect when I note that your move to consider this matter closed will send a clear “we have nothing to worry about…” message to the officials in those agencies if your present consideration becomes more widely publicized.
As I have written to you previously, I do not agree with the conclusions in your investigation. I want to make it clear and repeat that I sent multiple, fact-filled and educated emails to the BOC starting early in 2022 on this matter. I was ignored and brushed off. They only began correcting their documented and admitted violations of multiple laws months later and after I made the issue public and filed my complaint with the sheriff.
It is difficult for reasonable people to regard those reluctant and delayed corrections as “good faith” actions that would allow dismissal of my complaint.
Additions to my complaint – Compliance reports:
OCGA 50-36-1 contains language that makes it illegal to do what Carroll County has clearly (and admittedly) done for about a decade and after they were repeatedly warned of violation. It also contains a reference to 50-36-4 which was created for the specific purpose of making it seemingly impossible to claim ignorance of the law or it’s violation through the required filing of annual compliance reports with the DCA.
“(k) It shall be unlawful for any agency or political subdivision to provide or administer any public benefit in violation of this Code section. Agencies and political subdivisions subject to the requirements of this subsection shall provide an annual report to the Department of Audits and Accounts pursuant to Code Section 50-36-4 as proof of compliance with this subsection. Any agency or political subdivision failing to provide a report as required by this subsection shall not be entitled to any financial assistance, funds, or grants from the Department of Community Affairs.”
OCGA 13-10-91 has a similar requirement for the issuing agencies to conduct “self-audits” on compliance:
(A) Public employers subject to the requirements of this subsection shall provide an annual report to the Department of Audits and Accounts pursuant to Code Section 50-36-4 as proof of compliance with this subsection. Subject to available funding, the state auditor shall conduct annual compliance audits on a minimum of at least one-half of the reporting agencies and publish the results of such audits annually on the Department of Audits and Accounts’ website on or before September 30.
I have not yet taken the time to gather any compliance reports Carroll County may have made or to validate the accuracy of their contents. I can inform you that my broaching this part of the law on the phone call I mention above was greeted with what seemed to me like honest ignorance and surprise. I would not be shocked to learn that no such reports were filed.
I hereby respectfully request that you reconsider regarding this matter as “closed” in your office and that you investigate the possibility of violations involving any filing of the required compliance reports and the possibility that if filed, such reports may contain false and fraudulent claims of compliance.
It is difficult to see how Carrol County can openly correct multiple, long-term violations and at the same time file accurate compliance reports.
I apologize for the length of this reply to your letter to me of December 8, 2022. I would be grateful for the promised phone call to me.
I appreciate your straight-forward and patient reply to my complaint. I am also grateful to you for sending my complaint to the Attorney General’s office and trust the same for this letter.
Please be advised that I have posted virtually all information and correspondence relevant to this matter on my website ImmigrationPoliticsGA.com. There is a “roundup” of my columns on the homepage and additional resources can be accessed using “Carroll County” in the search bar. I reserve the privilege of embedding educational links to this letter when it is posted online.
Respectfully submitted with my thanks,