Auditors are taking a closer look at how the city government of Hartford, Connecticut screens its employees. The investigation, which is being conducted by the Hartford Internal Audit Commission, was launched after it was discovered that the city’s mayor, Pedro Segarra, had attempted to appoint a convicted felon to a high-profile position. The auditing commission is now perusing the city government’s hiring processes for temporary or interim employees, as well as non-union workers and mayoral appointments. They will investigate the full hiring and screening process, but will pay extra attention to how the city does its background checks.
At first blush, auditors have not been able to determine precisely what screening benchmarks – if any – the city government’s human resources department requires employees appointed by the mayor to meet. Specifically, the human resources department has not been able to produce job applications or proof of background checks for two employees appointed by Mayor Segarra. The first is currently serving as Segarra’s interim chief of staff. The other one held the title of deputy chief of staff for a short time, but withdrew his name and his claim to the job after it was discovered that he had a felonious past. Between the two employees, HR only had a single resume for one of them.
Mayor Segarra appointed the temporary chief of staff last month. However, he chose to withdraw from the position when the media got a hold of his criminal record, which includes felony convictions for the possession and sale of narcotics and for the illegal possession of a firearm. In the aftermath of the media uproar, the mayor’s office admitted that it had neglected to subject the chief to any kind of background check before announcing his appointment on November 26. While the appointment didn’t last long – the media revealed his troubled criminal past on November 27, causing him to resign from the position – it still made the city government look careless and inspired an audit into their employment screening procedures.
In an effort to save face, Mayor Segarra claimed to the public that the chief had not disclosed his criminal record prior to his appointment, implying that he had somehow deceived the city government in his bid for the deputy chief of staff position. However, the chief of staff told The Courant, a Hartford-based newspaper, that he had never been given an opportunity to be honest about his criminal past due to the city’s “ban the box” ordinance. As a result, the media ultimately aired his criminal past before he could reveal them to his new employers. The city’s “ban the box” legislation however states that the mayor’s office should have run a background check immediately after offering the position.
Furthermore, the Hartford city government only does criminal background checks through the local police department, meaning that the screening process only has the power to uncover local offenses. In order to provide better security, the city of Hartford might consider adopting state or national criminal background checks. Both services are available through vendors like backgroundchecks.com and can uncover a much more comprehensive criminal picture of a potential employee’s past.