Personal Ties to Job Applicants May Cloud Judgment When Reviewing Background Check Results

By Michael Klazema on 7/2/2013

In the past three years, three high-level new hires connected with Richmond, Ga. Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall have departed amid controversy.

The latest hiring scandal involves Dominic Ochei, who was hired for the position of finance director in May. Marshall knew Ochei from their time spent working together at city hall in Atlanta.

While a background check was conducted on Ochei before hiring, the scope of this check is unknown. What is certain is that investigation into Ochei’s background by a local news reporter uncovered some information that proved very embarrassing to city officials.

The reporter’s research revealed that Ochei had been accused of financial fraud in 2009 in South Africa. The complaint involved a sum totaling more than $1 million. Research also showed that Ochei had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1992, a fact that could be deemed relevant to his suitability for a job in the financial sector.

Of course, employers have to be very careful when carrying out credit checks on prospective employees. It is against the law in many states to use information about an individual’s credit history to influence hiring decisions, except in cases where that information is deemed directly relevant to the responsibilities of the job in question. Finance director of a city would fall into the category of a position for which running a credit check should be acceptable.

However, the fact that Ochei’s bankruptcy was over 20 years old means it would not necessarily have been revealed by a basic credit check. Therefore, officials would have had to rely on Ochei to self-report the bankruptcy. Naturally he did not. Job applicants often lie on their resumes or misrepresent their pasts in order to seem more appealing to employers. This is why running a thorough background check to verify all information provided by an applicant is so important.

For example, employers can use a national criminal background check tool like US OneSEARCH from in order to reveal criminal records  associated with a job applicant. They can also use’s Employment and Education Verification tools to make sure that the job applicant really does have the claimed skills and experience needed for the position in question.

In a situation where a personal connection already exists between an applicant and an individual on the hiring committee, it can become even easier for deceptions to occur. In this case, it may have been easier for Ochei to explain away the fraud complaints because Marshall already trusted him. Ochei claimed that the fraud accusations were spurious, and Marshall admitted that the city was aware of the accusations before hiring Ochei.

Considering that Richmond’s finance department has a public image problem already, it’s surprising that officials did not take more care to choose a stellar candidate to fill the position of finance director. The department is currently operating under the shadow of a 2012 audit that revealed it generated thousands of incorrect tax bills, and it has lacked a permanent leader for the past two years.

Marshall told reporters that their investigations prompted an immediate review of Ochei’s background, and that based on relevant information that was not found—or perhaps just not given proper attention—during the city’s background check, Ochei is no longer employed by the city.


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