You have HR policies in place for a reason - especially those regarding pre-employment background checks. But if you don’t follow those policies to the "T" for every hire, you could be opening your company up for some huge headaches like the ones playing out within the Albuquerque Public Schools.
The story begins when Albuquerque School Superintendent Dr. Luis Valentino befriends a former elementary school principal from Denver, CO named Jason Martinez. Martinez was the head of a kindergarten-through-eighth grade school from 2000-2012. When he left, he began working for a publishing company as vice president of education solutions. Earlier this year, Superintendent Valentino handpicked Martinez for a $160,000 a year job as deputy superintendent. Unfortunately, Martinez is facing child sex abuse charges in Denver for events that allegedly happened between 2010 and 2013. One count alleges he victimized a boy who was staying with him over the summer, another young accuser claims he was assaulted in a hotel room in Las Vegas. A trial is scheduled to start on October 9th. Valentino had no idea.
Now the finger pointing begins. The interim head of Human Resources for the school district, Karen Rudys, says she was informed that Martinez had been hired without going through the HR department. She says she was told nothing more than his salary and that he would be starting in June. Rudys says she made several attempts to get Martinez to provide fingerprints so she could conduct the mandatory background check.
On five different occasions Rudys contacted the superintendent to tell him that his new hire was ignoring her requests and had not completed a background check, even though he was allowed to start working. She claims each time Valentino responded that he was "aware of the issue," but still, nothing happened. When Rudys contacted him for the sixth time in August, she says the superintendent told her Martinez had resigned.
The school board is now looking into the issue, trying to figure out where the system fell apart. The board president has already put the responsibility on Rudys saying, "That is why you have an HR department." A letter from Rudys’ attorney states, "Ms. Rudys believes it is important for APS leadership and the Board to know that the process to prevent the type of scandal that has occurred was willfully circumvented by Jason Martinez and further, such circumvention was aided by Dr. Valentino, whether knowingly or unknowingly."
The lesson here is clear. It is not only essential that you have a clear, written policy regarding background screening for new hires, but you must follow that process for EVERY hire. No exceptions. The only bright spot for APS is that Martinez was discovered before any more children got hurt.