Looking for Ways to Improve Background Checks on City Employees

By Michael Klazema on 2/2/2018
The City of Schenectady, New York is working on improving its background checks for city employees. According to an article published by the Times Union, the city has been working to implement changes since last summer. So far, Schenectady has a resolution on the books calling for city employee background checks—not a law. To access the New York state criminal history database, the city would need a law in place. Schenectady officials were prompted to change city policies after hiring several people who turned out to have criminal records. Last summer, the city terminated the employment of a housing inspector after learning he was a registered sex offender.

Before that, a city code enforcement officer was found to have criminal history he did not disclose on his job application. The code enforcement officer, Kenneth Tyree, is currently facing charges for criminally negligent homicide over a 2015 incident where an apartment building fire resulted in the deaths of four people. Tyree allegedly failed to inspect the building for code violations—an oversight that contributed to the deadly blaze.

These two incidents spurred the Schenectady City Council to pass a resolution last September that would have implemented mandatory fingerprinting and background checks of all city employees. Previously, the city had only conducted criminal background checks on public safety workers, leaving other government employees unvetted. The city’s legal counsel, Carl Falotico, told the Times Union the resolution “wasn’t good enough for the state.”

As a result, Schenectady’s city employers do not have access to state criminal history databases. If the city wants to use those databases, it will have to pass a law outlining the specifics of the required background checks. Local politicians are reportedly working on the legislation. Once the law has been authored, the City Council will call a public hearing, followed by an official vote. If the vote passes, then background checks could soon be an across-the-board requirement for city job applicants in Schenectady.

Falotico noted candidates wouldn’t be automatically turned away from jobs because of criminal history. Instead, he said the goal of the new legislation would be to learn more about potential employees and encourage candidates to disclose past criminal convictions on their job applications.

New York is one of the nation’s biggest adopters of ban the box policies. There is a state policy in place that bans the use of criminal-history-related questions from all applications for state government jobs. In addition, there are currently 13 jurisdictions in the state that have their own ban the box policies, including Rochester, Buffalo, Albany County, Syracuse, and New York City. NYC, Buffalo, and Rochester ban the box for both public and private employers.

If the new legislation passes in Schenectady, then the city would be adopting a policy that is almost the opposite of ban the box. Not only would the new law push candidates to disclose criminal histories on their job applications, but Falotico also said it would make lying on a city job application an act of perjury.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • February 15 — The University of Illinois conducted 11,700 background checks on candidates and new employees in 2017. Of those checks, 35 prompted the university to rescind its job offers.
  • February 13 — The National Limousine Association recently put out a press release calling out ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft for sub-standard background checks. The organization is campaigning for a legislative push that to require such companies to implement fingerprint background checks and universal drug screenings.
  • February 09 — San Francisco’s District Attorney office recently announced plans to dismiss and expunge thousands of marijuana offenses. The crimes were on the books before San Francisco’s Proposition 64, which decriminalized many marijuana drug offenses.
  • February 07 — Virginia’s House of Delegates recently passed three bills with the stated goal of improving and simplifying the adoption process in the state. The first of these bills requires circuit courts to conduct and consider national criminal background checks before proceeding with adoptions.
  • February 02 — Schenectady is looking to make criminal background checks and fingerprinting mandatory for all city job applicants. Right now, the city only has a resolution in place, which does not allow it to access the state’s criminal history database.
  • January 26 — What can employers learn from the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal? The case is rife with implications for employment law, due diligence, negligence, and liability. 

  • January 22 — Colorado legislators are voting on whether to join the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact. The Compact allows nurses to work across state lines in more than 26 states if they have passed the required background checks.
  • January 17 — A San Antonio nonprofit failed to conduct background checks on a staff accountant recently accused of embezzling from the organization. The employee had previously been convicted of felony bank fraud.
  • January 08 — A Denver Public Schools bus driver lost her job after crashing a school bus while talking on the phone. The incident brought the driver’s past misdemeanor charge to light and raised questions about whether the woman should have been driving a school bus at all.
  • January 04 — As of New Year’s Day, daycares in Nevada must follow multiple new statewide regulations. Among the stipulations are expanded background checks and training for daycare employees.