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Schenectady to start background checks on prospective hires

Schenectady to start background checks on prospective hires

Could start in coming months
Schenectady to start background checks on prospective hires
City Hall in downtown Schenectady at sunset in November 2016.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY — The city will likely begin conducting background checks on prospective hires soon, a policy that previously only applied to certain positions.

Some details were still being worked out, but the process would involve fingerprinting job candidates and running criminal background checks. The new policy comes after two city employees in recent months were found to have previously undisclosed criminal histories. Both have been fired.

“It’s something that’s been on our radar for a little while now, but yes, some of the issues that have come up this year have certainly pushed us to move on it,” City Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said.

The City Council must first pass legislation authorizing background checks using the fingerprint system. The measure, which passed out of committee this week, would likely be approved during next Monday’s regular council meeting.

Once that’s done, the city must work out some procedural details with the state before implementing the new policy, Falotico said.

The fingerprint system is the same one used by police departments to check criminal databases, Falotico said. He said he expects the new process will apply to all city employees, including seasonal workers, though specifics were still being established.

“This doesn’t mean we’re not going to hire anybody who’s been convicted of a minor offense in their lives,” Falotico said. “We’re making sure people have fully disclosed everything on their employment application.”

The background check also won’t apply to everybody who applies for a job, Falotico said. It will generally be used for those to whom the city is ready to offer jobs.

The city already requires fingerprinting for certain positions, such as police officers, crossing guards and others who deal directly with children, Mayor Gary McCarthy said Monday night.

The cost of the background checks amounts to about $80 per candidate, officials said.

In March, former code inspector Kenneth Tyree was indicted in connection with a fatal 2015 Jay Street fire. In addition to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges, Tyree is accused of lying on his job application in 2013 because he had two prior felony convictions, including one in December 1985 related to a phony check scheme and one in 1980 for burglarizing a Clifton Park home.

In July, a city Waste Department employee was fired after officials learned he was a registered sex offender.

Matthew Clark had worked as a garbage truck driver since May 2016. Officials became aware of his criminal history when he applied for an open city housing inspector job. Clark was convicted in March 2006 of forcibly touching a 15-year-old girl.

In both instances, officials said knowledge of the former employees’ criminal histories likely would’ve changed their decision to hire them.

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