Alabama 2-Year system completes background checks

Published 8:44 pm Thursday, October 9, 2008

MONTGOMERY – Background checks have been completed on all those employed through Alabama’s two-year college system, and 73 of 9,349 employees had confirmed felony records.

Chancellor Bradley Byrne announced Thursday that 23 of those were retained after being reviewed, eight were terminated, four left voluntarily, six were not renewed and 32 are still being reviewed.

Crimes of those terminated included theft, sexual assaults and one homicide.

“Some of those were easy because they were clear and quick but as they get further back in time they become more difficult,” Byrne said after the State Board of Education’s monthly work session.

“If somebody’s been out for 20 years and they’ve been on good behavior and they’re performing in their college,” that would be considered, he said.

The board approved a policy last December that generally prohibits the hiring of those convicted of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude.

That led to the system going back to check about 10,500 backgrounds – all its part-time and full-time employees. More than 1,100 employees already had background checks through their college or through the K-12 system where they worked previously.

Byrne said the checks had an unintended benefit – 37 employees learned they were victims of identity theft when their backgrounds were checked.

Criminal findings were initially linked to 200 employees but all but 73 were cleared after further investigation.

The system hired Integrity Group, LLC to do the checks and picked the New Market company because its $472,500 bid was the lowest of 17. A complete background data investigation cost up to $1,000 and any additional investigation beyond that costs $65 per hour plus expenses.

Integrity Group compiles information from national and state databases and public records for its checks instead of using fingerprints and that was one of the objections from the Alabama Education Association.

The teacher’s union wanted the two-year system to conduct its checks through the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, which does fingerprints in handling background checks for the state’s K-12 department.

“There’s been a lot of anguish because they falsely identified people and caused more than 100 employees anguish by falsely identifying them as felons,” AEA spokesman David Stout said Thursday.

“Secondly, the cost of the contract in our opinion was too much and thirdly, had they done fingerprint checks, there would not have been false identifications,” he said. “We never opposed the background checks, just the method.”

The total cost of the background checks to date has not yet been compiled from each college, spokeswoman E.J. Cooper said.