Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A review of the background check system used by Baltimore County in Maryland by the County’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that more than 1,000 County employees had never undergone a background check while other County employees had been charged with crimes that were not reported to the County.

In 2020, the OIG received a complaint that Baltimore County was employing a convicted felon in a position that required the employee to interact with the public in and around private residences. The OIG decided to review the County’s policies and procedures regarding criminal background checks for civilian or “general” employees.

In October 2008, Baltimore County implemented an Employment Background Program that required prospective general employees to be fingerprinted and undergo criminal background checks before starting work to preserve the safety and security of County residents and maintain the integrity of County government operations.

However, “there were approximately 1,188 employees working for Baltimore County who were hired prior to October 2008, and therefore, have never had a criminal background check as part of their County employment as they were hired prior to the implementation of the Employment Background Program,” the review noted.

In addition, several employees “had some type of criminal charges and/or financial issues listed in the Maryland Judiciary Case Search database. While some of the criminal charges were still pending, there were a number of criminal charges that resulted in convictions,” Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan wrote.

A random sample of 300 county employees used for the review revealed that one out of three of them had either a criminal charge, faced a significant financial issue, or both. However, under the county’s Employment Background Program, “none of these risk factors were required to be reported,” Madigan wrote in the review.

Since the County may not know about employees facing criminal charges or who pose a financial risk, Madigan recommended the County require updated background checks when employees are promoted or transferred, perform annual background checks, and reduce the backlog of background checks related to COVID-19.

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