City Under Scrutiny for Failing to Conduct Thorough Background Check on Violent Employee

By Michael Klazema on 9/27/2013
A recent incident of workplace violence in Boca Raton, Fla. highlights the importance of using a comprehensive criminal background check tool to reveal all criminal convictions on an individual's record before hiring.

On September 17, city employee Donell Allison allegedly attacked and beat city contractor Raul Reynoso. According to police, Reynoso was working on lawn care tasks for the city library when it began to rain. To escape the rain, he walked over to a city work truck and got in. The truck was Allison's, and upon seeing Reynoso move his lunch in order to enter the vehicle, Allison became enraged. Witnesses reported that Allison first pushed Reynoso, then slammed the truck door on his leg. Next, he punched him in the face and then slammed him face first into the pavement.

Reynoso was taken to the hospital where he is recovering from a fractured skull, brain hemorrhaging, and lacerations. Allison was arrested on charges of aggravated battery.

After the incident, reporters began looking into Allison's past. They discovered a history of violence, including multiple charges for battery as well as a misdemeanor conviction from 2006. The conviction stemmed from Allison attacking a witness who planned to testify against him in a battery case involving his girlfriend. Allison knocked the witness' tooth out and then took a plea deal. He served eight months in county jail.

The city of Boca Raton was not aware of any of this. Why? Because their background check process was flawed. Instead of running a comprehensive, national background check, they opted to run a state-based one. To make matters worse, they chose a check that only searched the Department of Corrections database to determine if an individual has ever been in state prison. Because Allison served his time in county jail, this background check came back clean.

Had the city used a more robust national background check tool such as US OneSEARCH from, they would have gained a more complete picture of Allison's history of criminal violence. US OneSEARCH compares a name and date of birth to a collection of over 450 million criminal records taken from state and local databases across the country. It includes department of correction records as well as court records to capture convictions regardless of where the sentence was served.

If the city had known more about Allison's past, they might have reacted differently when he began acting up at work. His personnel file is full of reports of offensive language as well as threats of violence. He was often assigned to solo tasks to prevent such incidents.

In July of 2011, a supervisor recommended that Allison be fired, but the deputy city manager decided to keep Allison. Had he known that Allison's behavior was part of a long history of criminal violence, he may have been less forgiving, and as a result Allison's co-workers - including Reynoso - would not have been put at risk.

Allison is currently on unpaid leave.

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