Local News

Criminal Background Checks Not Done On All State Employees

Posted September 29, 2005

— She is a fugitive wanted in Georgia on theft charges. He is accused of running a sales scam on E-bay. And they both got jobs with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) before they were arrested during the past week.

Last year another DHHS worker allegedly killed a woman when he plowed a state-owned dump truck into a minivan. Records revealed the man had a prior DWI charge.

In all three cases, the state did not conduct criminal background checks on the employees.

"Basically, there's legislation that says who you can do criminal background checks on; and up until now, it's been very limited," Debbie Crane, spokeswoman for


, said.

It's limited to employees who deal directly with people, such as EMS workers and law enforcement officers, and workers who handle money or sensitive information such as medical records.

During this year's legislative session, DHHS officials asked lawmakers for the power to do more background checks.

Lawmakers gave them the authority, but they have not yet expanded it to all employees.

"You don't want to hold up a qualified employee and dealing with other issues, but it's something our secretary is looking at and she may very well decide to extend it to all employees," Crane said.

But most other state agencies, even the

Department of Crime Control and Public Safety

, do limited criminal background checks on employees.

N.C. Senator

Neal Hunt

said it's time for the law to change.

"Anyone who works for the state of North Carolina should have a criminal and credit check," Hunt said. "It doesn't make any sense not to do that."

Just to compare, the Wake County Public School System performs background checks on all employees and volunteers.

Hunt said if it was good enough for Wake County and most businesses, it should be good enough for the state.


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