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Phoned-in meeting about Lt. Gov. Cagle’s complaint against Decatur becomes a cluster

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Phoned-in meeting about Lt. Gov. Cagle’s complaint against Decatur becomes a cluster

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Immigration Enforcement Review Board members met in November to discuss the complaint against Decatur. Left to right: State assistant district attorney Jennifer Colangelo, Immigration Enforcement Review board member Phil Kent and board Chairman, Shawn Hanley. File photo by Mariann Martin

By Mariann Martin, contributor 

A state board handling a complaint against the city of Decatur attempted to have a meeting via conference call on Wednesday. It did not go well.

The special-called meeting of the Immigration Enforcement Review Board was canceled Wednesday morning after the vice-chairman could not call in to the conference meeting.

The meeting, called specifically to address the complaint against Decatur, had already been delayed 20 minutes when people could not call in due to a shortage of phone lines.

The meeting was scheduled to discuss issues related to a complaint filed against the city of Decatur by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in November.

In the complaint, Cagle accuses city officials of violating state law barring sanctuary cities. That allegation is not true. Decatur officials have twice rejected calls from residents to become a sanctuary city. They have, however, put a longstanding policy in writing regarding cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The city said it does not detain immigrants without a valid warrant from ICE and never has.

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Cagle’s complaint has become a complicated legal morass, with the city of Decatur filing two lawsuits against the Immigration Enforcement Review Board alleging open records and open meetings violations. One member of the board, Phil Kent, has recused himself over allegations of bias in favor of Cagle, and three others on the seven-member board could potentially have conflicts of interest.

Listen to audio of the IERB’s May 9 meeting. 

In a private phone conversation after Tuesday’s conference call, board chair Shawn Hanley said he does not plan to recuse himself. Hanley was critical of Decatur’s policy in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, but said he does not think he has a conflict of interest.

“I will continue to make decisions in a fair and impartial manner,” Hanley said.

Hanley apologized for the problems during the phone conference call, saying they were simply unfortunate technical issues. The board would make every effort to allow anyone to call in who wanted to do so, he said, noting that everyone could call in after the delay.

The meeting was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., but people calling in were disconnected. The board had set up 20 phone lines for the public meeting, according to conversation between people on the conference call. Those lines were apparently filled before the start of the meeting. Decaturish tried to call in multiple times before 10 a.m., but was not able to join until 10:05. At that point, Hanley announced the meeting was delayed until 10:20 to allow everyone to join.

As people joined the call, Hanley said vice-chairman James Balli was dealing with an accident or emergency he was trying to resolve. At about 10:25, Hanley said Balli could not call in, and the meeting would be cancelled. Later, Hanley said the issue was technical rather than an emergency.

Hanley attempted to provide information about what would happen next, but intermittent audio quality made it difficult to understand what he was saying.

In the private phone call, Hanley said the meeting had been scheduled to provide information of how the public hearing would proceed next week. Since the meeting had to be cancelled, Hanley said he would send out that information by email.

Next week’s hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 15 at 10 a.m. in room 506 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

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