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Immigration Enforcement Review Board set to discuss complaint against Decatur

Crime and public safety Decatur

Immigration Enforcement Review Board set to discuss complaint against Decatur

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City Attorney Bryan Downs File Photo by Mariann Martin


This story has been updated.

Former lieutenant governor Casey Cagle is no longer in office, but a complaint he filed against the city of Decatur while running for governor remains unresolved.

The Immigration Enforcement Review Board will meet Jan. 8 and the discussion of the complaint against Decatur is the first order of business along with “litigation matters.”

The meeting begins at 10 a.m. and will be conducted via conference call. People who wish to listen to that call will have to go to 270 Washington Street, SW, Suite 1-151, Atlanta, GA 30334.

City Attorney Bryan Downs said he is unsure what will happen at the Jan. 8 meeting.

Cagle filed the complaint against the city of Decatur in the midst of the Republican gubernatorial primary. That complaint, which accused the heavily Democratic city of violating state law prohibiting sanctuary cities, became a visible part of Cagle’s campaign for the Republican nomination. He lost to Secretary of State Brian Kemp in the July runoff election. Kemp was subsequently elected governor.

The complaint was mired in controversy and legal wrangling from the start.

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The city has lobbed two lawsuits at the board, accusing it of violating the state’s open meetings and records laws while asking a judge to throw out the preliminary ruling. That ruling, which came days before the Republican gubernatorial primary in May, agreed with Cagle.

While serving as lieutenant governor, Cagle appointed two members to the IERB. One former IERB member, Phil Kent, recused himself from Decatur’s case after the city uncovered evidence of him praising Cagle’s actions against Decatur. The city questioned whether board members had overstayed their terms, prompting Kent and Chairman Shawn Hanley to resign.

Downs said following Kent and Hanley’s departure, two more IERB members – Boyd Austin and Mike Yeager – also resigned from the board. Cagle had appointed both to the board.

The IERB’s preliminary ruling determined Decatur is a sanctuary city and said Decatur needs to repeal its policy regarding cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or risk being stripped of state funding. Decatur in 2017 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. Officers who violate the policy could face disciplinary action.

Downs filed two additional lawsuits against Kent and Hanley prior to their resignations. These “quo warranto”  lawsuits were filed on on behalf of Mark Douglas, a Professor of Christian Ethics and the Director of the Master of Divinity Program at Columbia Theological Seminary.

The lawsuits question “by what authority” Hanley and Kent held office, Downs said.

Downs said the city “went to great lengths to resolve this issue without resorting to the courts.”

Downs said the lawsuits against Kent and Hanley were resolved by their departure. The other lawsuits are pending, he says.

He noted that the IERB recently rescinded an order that set the ground rules for a May 15 IERB hearing on the case. That hearing led to the preliminary ruling issued by IERB before the primary.

“That order denied our request for a subpoena for Casey Cagle,” Downs said. “That order said, ‘Here is how the hearing is going to be handled,’ like a pre-trial order.”

Downs said the city took issue with that order in the Open Meetings Act lawsuit because the city believes the IERB drafted the order without first discussing it in a public meeting.

“They apparently met and decided to issue that order,” Downs said. “Well, that was a meeting. That meeting should’ve been public.”

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