Screening the Background Check Screeners?
August 6, 2009
This story proves that you can have all the right employment screening policies and procedures in place to mitigate risks in the workplace (okay, I’m not a fan of statewide background checks, but that’s for another time), but those practices mean nothing when you have an unscrupulous employee at the controls. The Palm Beach Post is reporting that a convicted murderer was working as a janitor at a local school until it was discovered that he served 15 years in prison for a murder he committed in the 1970’s. He had also been arrested 13 times for a variety of crimes including murder and rape, not necessarily something parents look for when entrusting their kids to a school.
To his credit, he reported this conviction on his application. Jacqueline Clervan-Harrell, a family friend of the employee, was the school administrator who was responsible for executing the background check. It seems that she conveniently “forgot” to conduct a background check on this particular employee. He had been working at the school for 3 years until the state found the conviction while doing a random post employment background check.
Thankfully, it appears this employee did not engage in any criminal activity while employed by the school. And I know that this will no doubt spark those that say that he has served his time and should be allowed to move on with his life. But, can you imagine the liability the school and the state would face if something would have happened? It clearly pays to screen (and monitor) the screeners. And by the way, does this individual have a case against the school since he divulged his conviction?
For nearly three years, a convicted murderer mopped classroom floors and emptied trash cans, undetected in the halls of Watson B. Duncan Middle School.
Curtis McRae, a 59-year-old school custodian, never tried to hide that he’d served about 15 years behind bars for killing a liquor store manager in the 1970s in a $100 robbery gone wrong. It was listed right on his school district application.
He should have been rejected outright because of his criminal history, under Florida law. But McRae had some help on the inside, a recently-released school district investigation revealed.
Jacqueline Clervan-Harrell, a woman McRae knew through his family in Pahokee, was the “gatekeeper” in charge of monitoring district fingerprinting and background checks.
She “basically circumvented the process for him to come on board,” said Darron Davis, Chief of Human Resources. She was also listed as a reference on his application.
No one noticed anything unusual for two years as the place on the form that should have borne McRae’s fingerprints sat blank.
A routine compliance check eventually flagged McRae. By that time Clervan-Harrell had retired. She could not be reached for comment.
When McRae’s fingerprints were checked against the FBI database, the results were disturbing.
He’d been arrested 13 times, including for murder and rape.
“I was shocked,” said Davis who not in charge of HR when McRae was hired. “It’s hard to swallow that that was something that was done. You just don’t circumvent the system particularly with things of that magnitude. You’re talking about our kids.”
McRae was fired in May.