Archive for Sunday, October 14, 2007

Felons on KU payroll

University does not conduct criminal background checks on most employees

October 14, 2007


A registered sex offender and a convicted identity thief are among at least seven employees with felony convictions in Douglas County District Court working for Kansas University's Facilities Operations department.

In the process of investigating a claim that there was a convicted felon in a leadership position in the department, the Journal-World discovered felony records for the other employees. Six of the seven felons have completed their probation and no longer are under court supervision. No person in a leadership role had a felony conviction.

The seventh person, a custodian and a convicted identity thief, still owes more than $12,000 in restitution for applying for credit cards in the name of another person and then using them to ring up thousands of dollars in purchases. This revelation follows a university investigation this month into the release of hundreds of pages of personal documents found in trash and recycling bins - areas typically available to a custodian.

University hiring practices

All seven felony convictions came within the past 10 years, most within the past five.

Kansas University does not conduct criminal background checks of most employees, but KU spokeswoman Jill Jess said the university does review the sex offender registry and asks for voluntary disclosure of previous convictions before offering employment.

Jess noted, however, that those practices began recently. KU began checking the sex offender registry in 2003 and asking for conviction disclosure in 2004. The sex offender and identity thief were hired before those dates. Jess also said the identity thief already was a KU employee at the time of the conviction.

"The university does not require notification if current employees are convicted of a felony," Jess said. "If we do find out they have a conviction, they would not be terminated unless we determine their job performance would be hindered or compromised."

KU's human resources department has a policy that states a person's history of convictions can be considered when offering employment. However, Jess said, a previous conviction would not necessarily disqualify someone from employment.

"An employee who has a conviction but does not disclose it on the application would be subject to immediate termination," Jess said.

Felony convictions

The sex offender's conviction stems from a 1998 incident in Baldwin City. The offender pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual battery and served time in prison. The employee works in Facilities Operations' lawn care department. State law does not restrict where sex offenders who are no longer on parole may work.

Though it does not conduct background checks, the university does maintain a list of registered offenders who are on campus, either as students or as employees. There are now four sex offenders - three students and the employee - on KU's list.

Gavin Young, a spokesman for the state Department of Administration, said no policy prevents a convicted felon from working for the state, except those seeking jobs in law enforcement and other similar positions.

"There is a spot on the application that asks if you've ever been convicted of a felony," Young said. "The standard process would be to verify everything on the application after a candidate is selected."

Lack of resources

The University of Missouri system recently expanded its policy to require background checks as part of the process for hiring all faculty - university staff have undergone background checks for a decade. At MU, a conviction does not necessarily disqualify someone from a job. The type of conviction and when it occurred are considered in relation to the job in determining whether someone should be disqualified because of the conviction.

That's not standard practice at other major research universities.

Representatives for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Iowa said their schools do not routinely conduct background checks.

"We do criminal background checks on people selected for security-sensitive positions," said Iowa spokeswoman Judie Hermsen. "We leave it up to the division hiring to determine whether the position is security-sensitive."

For those positions, employees are asked to provide their criminal conviction history and consent to a background check that goes back seven years, Hermsen said. Hermsen said sex offenders would only be identified through the background check process.

Jess, of KU, said workers who handle cash and provide child care are subject to background checks, in addition to police and safety employees. But, she said, the university can't conduct checks of all employees.

"Currently, resources have not been identified for a complete background check," Jess said. "We hire so many people each year."


Sharon Roullins 10 years, 8 months ago

Now why does this not surprise me? I wonder where all the liberals have gone?

inatux 10 years, 8 months ago

LJW, please let the cops do the investigating.

In our society of ungrace, it's not surprising to me that we hang out to dry the easy targets. Here's how it works in America: you screw up, you get caught, and then you're punished for the rest of your life.

My money says that when get to the bottom of this, they're going to find it's not an ex-con who's behind this but either a student or a professor.

Any ex-cons working for the LJW?

geekin_topekan 10 years, 8 months ago

Seven that were actually caught.Felonies are commited everyday on and off campus.

jayhawks71 10 years, 8 months ago

Think people! If someone DOESN'T hire a felon who has served his/her time & paid (or is paying) his or her debt to society, what career might you expect that person to return to? You might not LIKE the idea, but at least they are earning an honest living at this point... they could be robbing your house to survive, or you could simply let your tax dollars pay to feed and shelter them. I think I will pass on that option. Let them work and keep their probability of leeching off of the taxpayer or the taxpayer's goods as low as possible.

Fatty_McButterpants 10 years, 8 months ago

I'm assuming that these people have served their sentences and finished with probation. If so, they have paid their debt to society and should not be precluded from gainful employment for the rest of their lives because of a mistake/bad decision they made.

booze_buds_03 10 years, 8 months ago

Alright geek from topeka, I'll bite. Enlighten us about all these felonies happening "everyday" all over campus that you seem to know so much abou

TriSigmaKS 10 years, 8 months ago

The state of NC requires for all universities in their UNC system (16 universities) that background checks are performed on all applicants that are offered positions. Just an fyi.

toefungus 10 years, 8 months ago

If an employee lied on their application, they should be terminated.

geekin_topekan 10 years, 8 months ago

I am guessing that drugs are a major one.Pot?Ecstacy?I hear that Herion is actually making a comeback among the priviledged this time.

jonas 10 years, 8 months ago

Ex-cons without gainful employment tend not to stay ex-cons for very long. As operations management is a grand-sounding title for the groundskeepers and custodians, I don't see how anyone could really have a problem with this idea. If not there, then where should these people work?

geekin_topekan 10 years, 8 months ago

How many times day are cars stolen or vandalized,property damage,stolen ipods,laptops and car stereos?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 10 years, 8 months ago

And Jonas prayed to the Lord his God out of the belly of the whale, and said, "Ex-cons without gainful employment tend not to stay ex-cons for very long.... I don't see how anyone could really have a problem with this idea. If not there, then where should these people work?"

Are we not an accepting, forgiving "Christian" nation?

( sorry, I always spit a little when I use that term )

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if the convicted identity thief had anything to do with the "improperly disposed of records?"

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 8 months ago

Wow, I am impressed with most of the respondants to this blog! I was going to trash the J-W for it's pandering piece, but you have all beat me to it. Just a note, the sex offender registry in Kansas is a real joke. There are real, live vicious offenders on that list as well as guys who boinked thir underage girlfriends (one who is married to her and has kids who are suffering from the stigma posed by our vote-hunting lawmakers)or might have told a glory-hunting cop that they masturbated, (It IS IN THE LAW, YOU CAN BE CONVICTED FOR YOUR THOUGHTS, I SAW IT HAPPEN). And then there are news outlets who revel in the opportunity to jog Joe Six Pack and Sallly Vacuum Cleaner with the stunning news that there are "convits and crooks" running amok in the world. It is a frankly disgusting situation, and of course this newspaper is only happy to hook onto some great headlines. If they knew where to buy some red ink and make the newsprint flash off and on, like the TV reporters like to do, they would do it. Great story J-W, hope YOUR offenders will not cause Dolph to have a case of the vapors.

amanda_lazer 10 years, 8 months ago

I agree with Jayhawks71. They have to work somewhere, and if they can't find employment either our taxdollars will support them or they will find less legal means to support themselves. There are convicted felons working more sensitive jobs than a custodial position at KU, so get over it. Unless they were a child sex predator and working at a grade school, I could understand. As far as the identity theft individual, almost any job (unless it was a trade job) will allow access to financials such as credit card #'s and checks. Even a parts delivery person has access to that stuff. Is this all LJWorld has to write about? Seriously. I personally know someone who was convicted of federal crimes and was hired by the Federal Government. If they can get over it, I'm sure everyone else can.

Frank Smith 10 years, 8 months ago

I agree that ex-offenders should be excluded from some jobs. However, I think the offense itself should be considered, and how long ago the offense occured. If I were in HR I would take a real good look at retaining the guy who was convicted of identity theft. I'm guessing he got a wrist slap.

The poster is right in his or her point that it's probably not that hard to get on the sex offender list. Adultery is a sex crime in Kansas, for instance. Someone convicted in another state for such henious crimes as selling a vibrator would need to spend a lot of dough to register with the Kansas county sheriff where they reside and would join the public list. The list has been expanded by for-profit prison industry supporters (who stand to make more money, the more people are locked up) such as Senator Derek Schmidt. Now someone growing a couple of pot plants in a window box to deal with migrane headaches needs to register, on conviction. Penalties for non-registration are so severe, failure to reregister for over 90 days by a Johnson County resident going to school at KU could result in an almost 10 year prison sentence.

Hug_It_Out 10 years, 8 months ago

I think the School of Fine Arts should be charged with a Felony for trying to steal my spirit.

Tychoman 10 years, 8 months ago

Offtotheright why are you assuming the the majority of the custodial workers at KU are felons?

Msshaden...WHAT? Politics has nothing to do with this. You're a real class act.

davidnta 10 years, 8 months ago

Reality check: Most places do not do criminal background checks. They will always say that they will, but the reality of it is that they don't. Do a simple search for a sociology study that will show this at KU's library (if you're not affiliated with the university that would allow you to access it online).

Also, these people are working custodian jobs and working to keep the campus clean. They need a job to survive and take care of themselves. So why not give them jobs that would otherwise go to illegal immigrants (see the irony here in this statement?).

BlackVelvet 10 years, 8 months ago

Anyone care to wager that the LJW won't publish an article about how many of THEIR employees are convicted of a crime? (either Felony or Misdemeanor)? or, how many felons are employed by the City of Lawrence?

I'd bet they won't even go there!

justtired 10 years, 8 months ago

i take it that most of the bloggers have not worked in a prison and seen the behavior. what if they were working around your children?!?!?!!?

BlackVelvet 10 years, 8 months ago

LJW is concerned with making it seem that KU is not concerned with your safety. Sensaitonalism. That's what LJW is concerned with. It's what sells newspapers. Period. What does it really matter if there are a handful out of (the 4500) employees at KU who are convicted seems important when they post the headline they posted. doesn't it.....

black_butterfly 10 years, 8 months ago

Well let's just be glad they are working somewhere and not being supported totally by the tax payers. Like someone else said, they have to work somewhere. Amarr has a convicted felon working for them also right up in the offices on the computers. LOL. I'm sure a LOT of businesses have convicted felons working for them, but I do feel the public has a right to know who these felons are, NOT just the sex offenders. ALL felons. We deserve to know who we are working and living around. Just my opinion.

badger 10 years, 8 months ago

They gotta work somewhere. And if they're willing to work and be contributing citizens and live normal lives instead of going back to a criminal background, I think everyone wins.

I think it's great that KU gives second chances to felons, so long as they're aware of the convictions and placing the ex-cons so that they're not in a position to commit similar crimes (identity thief in the records department, etc). It's a lot more compassionate than just leaving them to twist out there with no resources.

pace 10 years, 8 months ago

how what a hot tip, someone has a job that once was convicted of a crime, did his time and now is employed. I hope there are a million stories like that out there. While I thought the story on the math's department poor office procedures was fair, tying this story to it wasn't fair.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 10 years, 8 months ago

The sex offender registry needs to be purged of he so-called "Romeo" offenders. These are the guys who are 18 or 19 who still have girl friends who are underage and wind up getting hung because an angry parent wants them gone.

Most of these guys move on and do nothing more. The problems are the pedophiles and violent rapists. Those need to be tracked.

marklperry 10 years, 3 months ago

Well, I happen to know that KU will not hire a convicted felon if you identify it on your application. I know someone that worked for KU for 14 years and got 4 DUI's over a period of a few years - off the clock, of course. And no, he didn't kill anyone, thank God. The 4th DUI made him a felon, and he had to resign to go do his 4 month jail sentence. A job in the department which he used to work opened up that he was 100% qualified for, but HR stamped "NO" on his application because he was a felon.

He was convicted, fined and sentenced. He served his time and paid his debt to society. He sat in jail for four months without an income, paid for an attorney and all of his fines. Why do we continue to punish someone after they have served their sentence and paid their debt to society?

I guess if KU's Human Resources had their way, all convicted felons would be sitting at home all day watching re-runs of Geraldo and collecting unemployment checks and food stamps! Is THAT the solution? Why not give them free healthcare also if we won't let them work?

Jason Bowers-Chaika 10 years, 3 months ago

Having worked with convicted felons as their mental health case manager, I can tell you that it is difficult but not impossible to get employment as a felon. There are companies that get tax credits for hiring felons. One positive for the employer of a felon is that they will show up for work or they may likely get sent back to prison for a parole violation.

marklperry 10 years, 3 months ago

Kansasdaughter - You're assuming my friend doesn't have a driver's license, but he does. That being said, why doesn't KU's HR offer the job to him? He's the "top choice", but HR still says, "NO". He's on parole, but not house arrest. He's forbidden to drink alcohol as part of his parole. Best thing about hiring someone on parole is they will come in to work and obey the parole board's wishes or they'll go back to jail.

marklperry 10 years, 3 months ago

offtotheright - Gee, you hit the nail right on the head, didn't you! The person I know wants to work at KU, since he worked there for 14 years before he had to quit and do his 4 month jail sentence for DUI. Now KU's HR won't hire him back (which has discrimination written all over it). We're not supposed to punish people for their entire lives - that's why the justice system puts people in jail. The odd thing is he WANTS to work there, and HR said no. Their next choice in line decined, and the third person was offered the job but never showed up. So, are we doing anyone any favors here? I thought KU was full of smart people, but I guess I'm wrong....

GSWtotheheart 9 years, 11 months ago

marklperry-don't presume to know why KU's HR dept stamped NO on your friend's application cause you don't know why they didn't hire him backyou can assume but you know what they say about that...

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