Five Democrats in the Georgia General Assembly said that the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) has created a program that could put them and other state legislators in legal jeopardy.
GDOL spokeswoman Kersha Cartwright said Friday that this Legislative Portal Access pilot program gives legislators and members of their respective staffs access to certain people’s unemployment information. Legislators may use this information to act on behalf of their constituents. But each constituent must grant his or her consent first, Cartwright said.
State Representative Sandra Scott (D-Rex) said she and her colleagues have neither the resources nor the time to participate.
“It looks like the [Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler] wants a pilot program where the legislators are doing his job. He has no liability whatsoever placed on the Georgia Department of Labor,” Scott told The Georgia Star News, adding through this program she and her staff members will have access to their constituents’ Social Security numbers.
According to a press release, the other four legislators who dislike the portal are House Minority Leader James Beverly (D-Macon), State Representative Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta), State Representative Rhonda Burnough (D-Riverdale) and State Representative Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain).
“The legislators will stand to be the only ones to have criminal liability,” Scott said.
“It’s not our job to do the Georgia Department of Labor’s work.”
Cartwright, however, said that she and her colleagues aren’t asking legislators to perform the GDOL’s job duties for them.
“We are just giving them access to some of this information because we have been working with legislators on some of these different claims. This is just a portal where they can access this information,” Cartwright said.
“The key part of this, we are under very strict guidelines from the federal and the state governments that require us to maintain confidentiality at all times about unemployment information. That is for the safety of the employee and the employer. There is a lot of wage information. There is Social Security information. It’s all about confidentiality.”
Butler, meanwhile, told The Star News that he doesn’t understand why the five legislators are upset.
“I have no idea what they are coming up with about what the portal does. This thing is coming out of left field. All it is is automating a process where right now they are currently sending an email with a person’s information and then they have to call an individual to get an update on it. All this is is automating that process to where they can put it in the portal,” Butler said.
“It contacts the person and gets the information from them to where they can sign off on letting the legislator have access to their information, and then the legislator can check up on it wherever they want to. They don’t have to call us. They are not doing any work for us. I think they just don’t know what they are talking about. None of these individuals have participated in this program, but yet they are commenting on it like it’s doing all these things or it doesn’t do all of these things, but they’ve never actually participated in it. So how can they make any comments about it?”
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Representative Sandra G. Scott” by Representative Sandra G. Scott. Background Photo “Georgia Capitol” by Autiger. CC BY-SA 2.0.