Town Struggles to Craft Cost-Effective Background Check Policy

By Michael Klazema on 6/12/2013

After accidentally hiring a Level 2 Offender to work in their recreation department, the town of Moreau, NY continues to struggle to implement an effective and affordable background check policy for all new town employees.

The Offender in question, Robert Roberts, worked for the recreation department for just under three weeks and spent time near a local elementary school as part of his duties. While no incidents occurred and Roberts was quickly fired, town officials and residents agree that this sort of thing must not happen again.

Roberts was able to land this job by lying on his job application. Because no background check was performed, his criminal background was not discovered.

In their first response to the Roberts hiring fiasco, town officials proposed that all new employees for all town departments be subjected to criminal background checks.

This could be accomplished using a tool like US OneSEARCH from, which compares prospective employees’ names against a collection of over 450 million records culled from state and local databases across the country. US OneSEARCH also includes a search of the Offender Registries, which more than likely would have revealed Roberts’ conviction for a sex offense crime and his subsequent registration in the offender registry for his state. The US OneSEARCH could be especially useful to the town of Moreau, which has struggled to fill three open positions since the Roberts incident, because it enables employers to receive the results of the background check almost instantly.

After further consideration, town officials are now backing off of the idea of requiring background checks for all positions due to the costs of the background checks. Now, officials propose only requiring the background checks for individuals who would have contact with minors, seniors, or disabled people as part of their jobs. This move would save the town a few bucks, while at the same time ensuring that vulnerable groups are protected from predators.

Some town officials are also calling for the timing of the background checks to be reconsidered. In the town’s first attempt to add background checks to the hiring process, the background checks were run before job applicants had completed their physicals. This resulted in one individual passing the background check but failing the physical. The individual could not be hired, and the background check fee was essentially wasted. After this incident, town officials are realizing that background checks need to come after physicals and any other types of screening in order to be most cost-effective.

This realization will not only save the town money, but potentially also help ensure fairness in hiring practices. Many states that enacted socalled "ban the box' laws, now forbid employers to ask about criminal backgrounds at the start of the hiring process. This means that individuals with criminal backgrounds get a chance to prove their worth in a job interview instead of being summarily disqualified at the very start. In the town of Moreau, presumably individuals will get to progress through the interview stage and the physical before being subjected to a criminal background check. It is not clear what types of criminal convictions will be considered grounds for denying employment at this time. Hopefully, more details will come out when the Town Board finally approves the new background check policy later this month.


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