TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) – Baltimore County has not conducted background checks on a large number workers, leading the government to employ people who have committed crimes or endured financial difficulties that could create security problems, according to a new report.
Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan highlighted these issues in a report on Baltimore County's employment background program, which she made public today. Her office revealed that in a random sampling of 300 employees, more than 25% had one or more "significant financial issues in their background" that ranged from defaulting on creditors to evading taxes and even filing for bankruptcy.
Some even faced criminal charges.
Due to oversight gaps, county officials were at risk of unknowingly hiring people who had committed crimes but had yet to be arrested for them, Madigan noted in a Nov. 4 letter to Stacy Rodgers, the county's administrative officer.
The Office of the Inspector General's report found that a large number of county employees had never undergone a background check because they were hired prior to the creation of the County's Employment Background Program in 2008. To date, "no policy exists for updating background checks" and there isn't a way to "identify employees with outstanding warrants or who have significant financial problems," according to a press statement issued by the Office of the Inspector General.
Madigan noted in her letter that "there would be costs associated with implementing the types of enhancements to the Employment Background Program" that were recommended in the report. At a minimum, the "County should appropriately weigh those future expenses against the potential costs to the County of not identifying the types of personnel-related risks identified in this report," Madigan told Rodgers.
Madigan noted some had been convicted of offenses "such as assault, battery, robbery, driving while intoxicated, and illegal possession of a handgun," she said.
Other employees suffered from financial difficulties such as defaulting on credit obligations, failing to pay rent for extended periods of time, or filing for bankruptcy protection. Among that group, there were those who had state tax, federal tax, or district court-related liens filed against them, Madigan said in her letter to Rodgers. The employees were not required to report these things to the county.
Rodgers agreed with Madigan's assessments in a letter on Dec. 30. But she made clear that the county had strived to be proactive about maintaining better criminal background check procedures for government employees and county staff. Rodgers noted that some agencies had already asked their staff to enroll in a free service called RAP-BACK, which keeps a record of arrests and prosecutions so that government agencies can receive updates on the criminal history of employees.
Unfortunately, the RAP-BACK program is unavailable to the county's general employees under the current Maryland law, Rodgers said in her letter. The county plans to address this gap by using fiscal year 2023 funding to cover additional background checks, she said.
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