1 Volume 14 Number 3 March 2014 PRSRT STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID PERMIT NO. 164 MORTONGROVE, IL Time to reconsider your records department OPM Calls For Changes In Federal Background Checks Federal background checkers need greater access to state and local police reports and an overhaul of screening policies to prevent people such as Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis from getting security clearances, according to a report from the Office of Personnel Management. The review also called for a reduction in the number of workers the federal government clears for special access and more frequent follow-up investigations of clearance holders, among other proposals. See full article on Page 2 Why FBI Checks Might Be Necessary Story on page 2 Obama Pick Says You Should Hire Criminals Page 11 Manila Prices Lower than Ever Photograph by Steven Brownstein Steven Brownstein On the road
2 OPM Calls For Changes In Federal Background Checks Federal background checkers need greater access to state and local police reports and an overhaul of screening policies to prevent people such as Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis from getting security clearances, according to a report from the Office of Personnel Management. The review also called for a reduction in the number of workers the federal government clears for special access and more frequent follow-up investigations of clearance holders, among other proposals. The report echoed recommendations from two Pentagon analyses issued the same day that said the government missed opportunities to restrict Alexis s access to military installations. The Defense Department has not disciplined or fired anyone as a result of the that case, according to officials. The OPM review found that screeners are not always able to access state and local criminal records that could raise red flags about prospective clearance holders. The report said changes in law and perhaps more federal funding to help agencies update records systems may be necessary to improve access to information. OPM also determined that an explosion in the number of workers who are eligible for clearances since the 9/11 attacks has increased the risks and costs associated with the authorizations. About 5.1 million federal employees and contractors were eligible as of October. President Obama last year appointed a special council to review the federal security-clearance program in response to the Navy Yard shooting. The panel, known as the Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council, will be in charge of ensuring that the new recommended changes take effect. The group is led by OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, national intelligence chief James Clapper and representatives from departments such as Defense, Homeland Security and Justice. OPM oversees U.S. government background checks, but much of the work is done by contractors. Only federal employees make the final decision about whether to grant clearances. OPM s report described the use of contracted screeners as an appropriate practice and consistent with regulations, provided the necessary oversight, metrics and controls are in place. But the review found that the government lacks consistent standards for measuring the quality of its background checks. The Justice Department has alleged in a lawsuit that the government-services firm USIS, which screened Alexis and National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, submitted more than 600,000 incomplete background checks. The company was allowed to perform its own quality reviews in many cases. The Justice complaint did not mention Snowden or Alexis. OPM announced a new policy last month that prohibits contractors from auditing the quality of their background checks, saying the reviews would be fully federalized by Feb. 24. As To The Why We re Heading Towards FBI Checks Lawmakers said that details emerging from the Justice Department s civil case against a leading company that conducts security background checks for the federal government may speed legislation designed to clean up the onceburgeoning contracting business. The Justice Department had filed a complaint in a whistleblowers lawsuit it joined in October against USIS, a company that conducts background checks for nearly half of potential U.S. government hires. The filing accused the Falls Church, Va., firm of taking shortcuts in about 40 percent of the cases it handled at least 665,000 in total and, in the process, qualifying for nearly $12 million in performance bonuses from the federal government. Yet USIS officials told the government that all the necessary reviews had been done. Flushed everything like a dead goldfish, one USIS manager wrote in one of several s cited in the court filing about how cases were being sped along to meet revenue targets. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D- Mo.), issued a statement critical of the stunning failures of this company and the resulting threats to our national security. The Justice Department said in the complaint that USIS knowingly conducted flawed investigations of individuals seeking security clearances. through at least September 2012, USIS management devised and executed a scheme to deliberately circumvent contractually required quality reviews of completed background investigations in order to increase the company s revenues and profits, the Justice Department said in a filing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alabama. The background reviews were incomplete because they had not undergone a promised quality review, the government said. USIS said in a statement that the allegations did not fit the company s record or approach. Contact: Steven Brownstein Box Saipan, MP Beginning in at least March 2008 and continuing Meet Steven Brownstein On LinkedIn PUBLISHER Steven Brownstein CONTRIBUTORS: Mike Sankey, Les Rosen, Dennis Brownstein, Derek Hinton, Jamie Brownstein, Michael Brownstein, Robin Watjins, Craig Caddell, Maria Taylor COVER PHOTOGRAPH: Special Ad COVER PHOTOGRAPHER: Steven Brownstein PURPOSE: Dedicated to pre-employment screenings everywhere The Background Investigator is published by Steven Brownstein, LLC, PMB 1007, Box 10001, Saipan, MP Phone: Copyright 2013 by Steven Brownstein. Some material in this publication must not be reproduced by any method without the written permission of the copyright holder.
3 FBI Balks At Marijuana Background Checks The FBI is refusing to run nationwide background checks on people applying to run legal marijuana businesses in Washington state, even though it has conducted similar checks in Colorado a discrepancy that illustrates the quandary the Justice Department faces as it allows the states to experiment with regulating a drug that's long been illegal under federal law. Washington state has been asking for nearly a year if the FBI would conduct background checks on its applicants, to no avail. The bureau's refusal raises the possibility that people with troublesome criminal histories could wind up with pot licenses in the state undermining the department's own priorities in ensuring that states keep a tight rein on the nascent industry. It's a strange jam for the feds, who announced last summer that they wouldn't sue to prevent Washington and Colorado from regulating marijuana after 75 years of prohibition. The Obama administration has said it wants the states to make sure pot revenue doesn't go to organized crime and that state marijuana industries don't become a cover for the trafficking of other illegal drugs. At the same time, it might be tough for the FBI to stomach conducting such background checks essentially helping the states violate federal law. The Justice Department declined to explain why it isn't conducting the checks in Washington when it has in Colorado. Stephen Fischer, a spokesman for the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, referred an Associated Press inquiry to DOJ headquarters, which would only issue a written statement. "To ensure a consistent national approach, the department has been reviewing its background check policies, and we hope to have guidance for states in the near term," it said in its entirety. In Washington, three people so far have received licenses to grow marijuana without going through a national background check, even though the state Liquor Control Board's rules require that that they do so before a license is issued. "The federal government has not stated why it has not yet agreed to conduct national background checks on our behalf," Washington state Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said in an . "However, the Liquor Control Board is ready to deliver fingerprints as soon as DOJ is ready." In the meantime, officials are relying on background checks by the Washington State Patrol to catch any instate arrests or convictions. Applicants must have lived in Washington state for three months before applying, and many are longtime Washington residents whose criminal history would likely turn up on a State Patrol check. But others specifically moved to the state in hopes of joining the new industry. "Both Washington state and Washington, D.C., have been unequivocal that they want organized crime out of the marijuana business," said Alison Holcomb, the Seattle lawyer who authored the legal pot law. "Requiring, and ensuring, nationwide background checks on Washington state licensees is a no-brainer." The FBI has run nationwide background checks since 2010 on applicants who sought to be involved in medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, Daria Serna, a spokeswoman for that state's Department of Revenue, said in an . The applicants provide fingerprints to Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division, which turns them over to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The agency conducts a statewide background check and supplies the prints to the FBI for a national check. Because Colorado launched its marijuana industry by converting medical dispensaries to recreational pot shops, it's likely that no additional background checks were required for the key employees of those shops, Serna said. However, all new employees of recreational or medical shops must undergo the same background checks and those are still being processed, Serna said. "Doing background checks and making sure the criminal element has been locked out of the program has been enormously important in Colorado," said Michael Elliott, director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group. "The integrity of Washington's program may be put into jeopardy because the FBI is not willing to ensure that drug cartels and criminals are being locked out, and that is absurd." In Washington, officials use a point system to determine whether someone's criminal history is too troubling to grant them a license to grow, process or sell marijuana under the state's law, passed by voters in A felony within the past 10 years normally disqualifies an applicant, as does being under federal or state supervision for a felony conviction. The state received more than 7,000 applications during a monthlong window that began in November. Applicants are required to supply fingerprints and disclose their criminal history, with omissions punishable by license forfeiture or denial. But without a federal background check, there's no way for state officials to verify what the applicants report. Under rules adopted by the Liquor Control Board, the applicants' fingerprints must be submitted to the State Patrol and the FBI for checks as a condition of receiving a license. Asked whether issuing licenses without the FBI check contradicted that rule, Smith wrote: "Applicants have provided the prints necessary for running the check." Deborah Collinsworth, manager of the Washington State Patrol's Identification and Criminal History Section, said she first asked the FBI in April 2013 about conducting national background checks on potbusiness applicants. "They haven't responded because marijuana is still federally illegal," Collinsworth said. "That's the rub." AZ Scrutiny Suspends Web Sites Dealings A network of Arizonabased Internet companies that used public records to demand money from sex offenders and harass those who complained has imploded amid lawsuits, court hearings and new standards enacted by banks, social media and technology companies. The websites, including Offendex.com, SORArchives and Sexoffenderrecord.com, stopped seeking payments from people in exchange for removing profiles, blaming the change on "many conflicts, threats, unreasonable requests and false accusations about this website." The move followed decisions by MasterCard, Visa, Discover and PayPal to stop processing transactions from what many describe as extortion websites. Google also changed its formula to prevent sites from using search-engine algorithms to increase viewership and monetize on public records. Mumbai Police Clearance Certificate Employees Hard At Work Photo by Steven Brownstein
4 Swiss Sex Offenders Recentky, a question was asked: Is there a sexoffender registry available in Switzerland? Here s the latest: Sex Offender Registry Sought After Tragic Killing First published: 15 Sep 2013, The Local Europe AB Swiss campaigners have demanded a nationwide register of sex offenders, amid outrage following the murder in Geneva of a female therapist who accompanied a convicted rapist on day release. A three-nation manhunt continued for suspected killer Fabrice Anthamatten, on the run since the fatal outing, with forces in Switzerland and neighbouring France and Germany on alert and an Interpol arrest warrant issued. Leading activist Anita Chaaban said Adeline Morel's death was a wake-up call. "We've crossed a line," she told the Sunday newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag. "This can't go on," Chaaban said she aimed to push for a referendum to create a centralised, lifelong register of sex offenders, who would remain on the list even after having served their sentence. Plebiscites are the bedrock of Swiss direct democracy, and in 2004 voters backed a law crafted by Chaaban to put violent sex offenders behind bars for life. Separately, lawmaker Natalie Rickli of the populist Swiss People's Party said that she would table a bill banning day release for sex offenders. Switzerland is a federal republic where justice and police affairs are run by its 26 cantons, the equivalent of US states. Beat Villiger, deputy head of the Swiss cantonal justice and police association, told the SonntagsBlick newspaper that the rules needed a shake-up, with only men being allowed to accompany sex offenders on day release. Morel, 34 and the mother of an eight-month old child, had been alone with Anthamatten. An experienced therapist at a Geneva detention facility, she was taking him to a local horse-riding centre as part of his treatment, after a positive report on a previous outing. Police found her body in a wood near the centre. French and Swiss citizen Anthamatten, 39, was serving 15 years for a rape committed in France while on parole in Switzerland, where he had been sentenced to five years in another case. French justice authorities had allowed him to be transferred to a Swiss jail. Meet Steve Brownstein at NAPBS Mid-Year Conference in Washington D.C. Alberta British Columbia Manitoba XR2 Criminal Search PUERTO RICO The XR2 Puerto Rico search is insurance that you are getting the best possible results. We ve all been doing this long enough... Shouldn t you be offering your clients the best? Call Straightline International Nova Scotia Ontario Prince Edward Islands New Brunswick New Foundland Northwest Territories Quebec Saskatchewan Yukon Territories
5 The Public Record Update A Service from BRB Publications, Inc. San Luis Obispo Superior Court (CA) Cuts Criminal Record Services With severe cutbacks in the budget and loss of staff, public record services for criminal records from the San Luis Obispo Superior Court is now virtually at a standstill. Employers, schools, landlords, and the general public have been denied most all criminal record requests for nearly a month since the court implemented a new case management system. This is a "clerk searched" court. The criminal data is not online and the docket index is not available to the general public. There are five factors involved. 1. The court has a public access terminal which displays the basic criminal record index. However several years ago, the Court Executive Officer Susan Matherly moved the terminal to a back room and she will only allow the news media and attorneys access to this "public" terminal. All others, including the biggest users of public records (employers and their representatives) are denied access to the terminal and must submit lists. 2. Although the clerks will process criminal record requests at the window if the request is limited to one or two names or cases, all requests with more than two names have been held in limbo for four weeks. According to PRRN Member Judie Smith (who has over 1,000 name requests outstanding), the manager of the Criminal Department Karen Leibscher and Ms. Matherly both refuse to speak to her, or to other representatives processing work for employers, about the back log and when the requests will be completed. 3. As mentioned, the court recently instituted new case management system. This new system contains only open or current cases. When the new system was installed, the clerks lost access to case details for historical cases on the record docket: the old system was shut down. For example, the clerks now only have access to the name and case number for closed cases. So in order to find details such as the charge, the disposition, sentencing, VOP, dates, etc., the paper case file must be pulled and viewed. 4. All closed case files are stored offsite, most files are several blocks away. Therefore per state regulations (see a fee of $15.00 is charged for each case file pulled since it will take more than 10 minutes to obtain. For a great many requests/instances, this procedure and fee would not be necessary if the court had kept and made available the historical docket data. Because all case files now need to be pulled, the public is faced with a rather drastic fee increase for record searching in this county. 5. In regards to record requests originating from employers and landlords for background checks, these requests made to this court are highly regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and by CA Civil Code Plus, court data is only accessed and provided because of the expressed written consent of the consumer (who wants to be hired, etc.). The reality is the vast majority of the names are "clear" - meaning the record search shows no conviction. Thus, without the use of the terminal and historical docket index (which can provide the normal same day or 1 day turnaround time), the consumer who wishes to be hired now faces at least a 30 day delay in this county. The Court has a new Presiding Judge- Dodie Harman. The court's phone number is The court's web page is We welcome your comments and observations about The Public Record Update Please address your comments to Michael Sankey at Making copies of any part of the Public Record Update for any purpose other than your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is obtained from BRB Publications. Phone Public Record Retriever Network - The CRA Help Desk - BRB's Free Public Record Resource Center - Motor Vehicle Record Decoder - BRB's Public Record Blog - BRB's Bookstore - BRB's Public Record Blog - Oregon Recorded Documents Effective January 1, 2014, a $5.00 fee increase has been imposed for recording many different types of documents by the local County Recorder offices, per HB The recording officer is the County Clerk. Per passage of a different bill (HB 2093) amends Oregon Revised Statute This makes it illegal for Oregon County Clerks from recording certified copies of Death Certificates if the Death Certificate contains medical information related to the cause of death. Breaking News \\ Straightline introduces new London Metro Magistrate Court Search
6 Les Rosen s Corner A monthly column By Lester Rosen, Attorney at Law Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2014 Employment Screening Resources (ESR) has announced the release of the 7th Annual ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2014 selected by ESR Founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen. For 2014, the Ban the Box movement to eliminate questions about criminal records on initial job applications to give ex-offenders a more level playing field when looking for work topped the list. The ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2014 are available at ESR-Top-Ten-Background- Check-Trends. For the seventh consecutive year, Employment Screening Resources has identified trends that will evolve as the background check industry matures, says Rosen, author of The Safe Hiring Manual and a nationally recognized background check expert promises to be year of challenges in screening. Since 2008, Rosen has selected the top trends after closely reviewing developments regarding employment background checks that include legal cases, new government regulations, advancements in screening technology, and questions and concerns raised by employers, recruiters, and human resources professionals. Rosen chose the following ten trends to follow in 2014: 1. Ban the Box Movement that Eliminates Criminal History Question from Job Applications Picking Up Momentum: The Ban the Box movement that seeks to eliminate questions about past criminal conduct on initial job applications is quickly heading towards becoming a national standard and will be a hot issue for employers in The box refers to where an applicant is asked to answer yes or no about a criminal past. The idea is that asking about criminal records upfront serves as a potential early knock-out punch for ex-offenders that may otherwise be qualified. 2. Updated EEOC Guidance on Use of Criminal Records by Employers Becoming Core Concern for Human Resources: The updated Guidance on the use of criminal records in hiring decisions issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on April 25, 2012 carries the potential to impact the hiring processes of every employer and Human Resources professional in the United States in 2014 and beyond. Although not a law or legally enforceable regulation, it is critical for employers to understand the Guidance since it shows how the EEOC interprets the use of criminal records. 3. Use of Commercial Criminal Databases Becoming More Controversial as Employers Face More Risk when Screening: The use of commercial criminal databases and cheap do it yourself background check web sites will be the focus of increased scrutiny and controversy in 2014 as employers face more risk when screening job applicants as the demand for accuracy in background check reports rises. 4. Class Action Lawsuits for Failing to Perform Background Checks Properly Becoming Even More Prevalent: Given the need for employers to exercise due diligence in hiring and at the same time comply with the complex legal environment regulating hiring, employers can expect to see an increase in legal actions in 2014 including class action lawsuits for failing to perform proper background checks or failing to do them right. 5. Use of NAPBS Accredited Background Screening Firms by Employers Picking Up Steam: Given the increasingly complex legal environment, employers in 2014 will be faced with the challenges of ensuring that a background screening provider utilizes best practices to be in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance for the use of criminal records, and applicable state laws as well as accuracy. The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS ) has introduced a rigorous accreditation program for screening firms that is confirmed by an on-site independent auditor and is a way to ensure an employer is dealing with a knowledgeable professional. 6. Identity Theft and Offshoring Emerging as Important Factors for Employers to Consider when Screening: Employers in the United States are coming under increased pressure to protect the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of job applicants due to increased media focus on identity theft and the offshoring of information gathered for background checks overseas beyond U.S. privacy laws. In 2014 employers may need to closely examine their processes in the area of protecting PII when it comes to background checks. 7. Social Network Searches Being Used Less for Background Checks and More for Recruiting and Sourcing: While a hot topic in past years has been the use of the internet to help with employee selection through social media background checks, it appears that this trend is fading fast for a number of reasons. As a result, social network searches will diminish as a tool for background checks but will grow for purposes of recruiting and sourcing as well as employer branding. 8. Credit Reports Becoming Disfavored Tool in Employment Screening that May Disappear from Hiring Landscape: Employers should generally approach the use of credit reports for employment purposes with great caution, carefully examining if such use is regulated by state law, is relevant to the job, and be on the lookout for potential future restrictions in 2014 as credit report checks continue to become a disfavored tool that could potentially disappear from the hiring landscape. 9. More Employers Including International Background Checks in Hiring Processes: In 2014, the use of international background checks will increase as employers both open offices outside of the U.S. and hire people who have spent time abroad. With nearly 250 political entities in the world, each country is an adventure when it comes to background checks and employers cannot assume that screening internationally is the same as domestic U.S. processes. 10. Technology Decreasing Time and Effort Needed for Employers to Perform Background Checks: Technology will continue to decrease time and effort needed for background checks in In the coming year, employers can expect to see even more robust Applicant Generated Report (AGR) systems where applicants perform the data entry and also integration with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) where employers can simply click a button and be done.
7 NC Court Says Criminal Database Is Public Record A three-judge panel says North Carolina's criminal records database is a public record and the court system must disclose it when requested, even though the information comes from local courthouse documents. A Court of Appeals panel largely overturned a lowercourt decision that had sided with the Administrative Office of the Courts and Wake County's Superior Court clerk. The case involves attempts by data-collection company Lexis/Nexis to obtain a copy of the database within the Automated Criminal/Infraction System. The court system said it couldn't provide the database because local clerks were the custodians of the actual records. The Wake County clerk said she was unable to copy the database. Appeals judges found the database is a distinct public record as the law defines and subject to release. Background Check A House Every Toronto home has a history, but there are a few out there that have a past. The city averages about 56 homicides a year, and they all have to happen someplace. There are fires, clandestine marijuana grow operations, and other, weirder crimes that defy concise description. Sellers are legally required to disclose defects in a property, like physical damage that might result from a house having been used to produce drugs, but for things that are more psychological in nature, like crime-related infamy, it s buyer beware. That s why Housecreep is such an intriguing thing. Launched last spring by a Toronto-based multimedia developer named Robert Armieri and his statistician brother Albert, the website is a searchable database of addresses where bad or, at any rate, newsworthy things have happened When this was written, the site listed 2079 places, only 645 of which were in Ontario. Most of the properties were researched and added by Armieri and his brother, but Housecreep is built to take user submissions, Wikipedia style. Right now we have about, I d say, 130 users, Armieri said during a phone interview. At this point it s kind of just a hobby. Most of the entries deal with depressingly routine crimes murders and drug busts but there are a few bizarre and disturbing cases, like the Riverdale home where a shrivelled infant was discovered beneath some floorboards after being hidden there 80 years earlier. The site was created with an eye toward the rental market. When he came up with the idea, Armieri was living in Sudbury, looking for an apartment in Toronto. I was using different websites, like Viewit.ca, to find different apartments, and at the same time I was looking up the addresses in The Bedbug Registry, and I had the idea that it would be interesting if there was a website that allowed you to find out a little more about a home or an apartment. Armieri built Housecreep in his free time. To discourage users from posting false information, he designed a moderation system, and the site encourages users to include links to news stories as evidence. We just want the information to be out there and people can make up their own mind about it, Armieri said. But if we see something that is obviously misleading or that is a personal attack against someone, we will take it down immediately. Even without Armieri s help, a diligent buyer could always plug an address into Google, but Housecreep does make the process of digging up dirt easier almost dangerously so. Bruce Matthews, deputy registrar of Ontario s realestate industry regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario, stops just short of applauding the project. In a general sense, more information is better, he said. But it s important that you take into consideration the source of the information that you re looking at. And so, as always, buyer beware. Harris County, TX District Clerk s Office Offers Free Criminal Background Checks. Anyone can perform a background check by going on the District Clerk s web site, and clicking on the icon of the magnifying glass over a thumbprint. The free background checks are part of District Clerk s Chris Daniel s effort to modernize the district clerk s office and make non-confidential electronic records available to the public. The public should reap the benefits of modernization and new technology. Background checks tap district clerk s records going back to The background check is not comparable to an FBI criminal background check, which would include records from all 50 states. The searches on the district clerk s website provide records only of Harris County cases. These records will not reveal whether a person was convicted of an offense in another state or even a nearby county. You need a name and a year of birth to conduct a check. Records for offenses committed by juveniles will not appear in the district clerk s records. And some adult records also will not appear if a person has gone to court and a judge has agreed to expunge the records. The district clerk s office also allows the public to follow developments in a specific court case. You must first register on the district clerk s website. On the home page, click New User near the top of the page and then follow the steps for registration. To receive new filings in an ongoing case, you need to log in on the district clerk s website and put in the case number that you are seeking. After the list of case records appear, click on Notifications. You then will receive an when a new filing arrives for that case. Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel staffs 76 courts with clerks, maintains records for these courts and runs jury service.
8 Derek Hinton In My Opinion Providing Private Database-Only Criminal Records I m telling you, every time I run across a CRA that is providing private database-only searches without verification, I get a sickly premonition akin to watching old footage of Patsy Cline singing I Fall to Pieces. This practice of databaseonly criminal record reporting made news again recently in Chicago. A Chicago Tribune report revealed that a new ride sharing company, Uber, did not check some of the criminal records of its drivers, allowing thousands of drivers to ferry passengers for months, despite not knowing whether or not they had felony convictions. The Tribune later determined that the driver had a 2010 Cook County felony conviction for residential burglary, which should have barred him from partnering with the company. Uber acknowledged their multistate background checks have missed an "unknown" number of county-level criminal convictions, including the Chicago ride-share driver's felony. Missing critical information is one thing that can go wrong for a CRA or employer when employing a database-only search. The other thing that can go wrong, the other side of the coin, is not missing offenses, but reporting information that should not be reported. Employers are increasingly using criminal records in the pre-employment screening process. Job applicants are increasingly learning that this is done, and that a criminal record may put them at a disadvantage for some jobs relative to someone without a criminal record. So job applicants are taking more steps to seal or expunge criminal record offenses than previously. In addition, a significant number of states have programs that prevent an offense from appearing on the criminal record if the offender satisfactorily completes a post-offense program of law abidance. So it happens way too often in a database-only search that an offense is reported that should not be reported. And a job applicant who has spent money to ensure a criminal offense does not show on his record, or who has diligently completed a state program to ensure their offense is not permanently recorded is, in my experience, one righteously indignant, motivated person. And while job applicants have been learning, so have attorneys. There are many more attorneys that are educated and dialed in to the FCRA in general and this practice in particular, that are happy to represent indignant, motivated job applicants. To be clear, providing a database-only criminal record is not illegal if contemporaneous notice is provided to the applicant at the time of the reporting. However, that doesn t make it a good idea even if everyone agrees on the definition of contemporaneous, and to that end, there is a group of professional CRAs and industry associates, dedicated to promoting a better practice. ConcernedCRAs (www.concernedcras.co m) now has over 200 members and is dedicated to protecting the consumer both as regards private database-only criminal records and, the offshoring of consumer information. You may self-certify that you hold yourself to a higher standard and become a member if you are concerned about this issue for our industry. (Disclosure: I am a member of ConcernedCRAs, but have no other affiliation with them.) I had to grimace while reading the Chicago Tribune article. There in the advertising space, next to an article exposing defects in database-only record checks, was an ad for a database-only search that said: CAUTION: This background report is very graphic. We do not censor our reports. We trust you to use this information responsibly. Please do not abuse this tool, or we could be forced to take it offline. The content of the report might shock you, so please prepare yourself for the unexpected. If you are a professional background screener and that ad doesn t bother you, well, that bothers me. As one drop of oil can contaminate approximately 75,000 gallons of water, one company can contaminate a lot of companies doing a lot of good. If you are a CRA providing database-only searches, I hope you fully informing your clients what this means, but further, are transitioning to verifying any information found in a database search. Derek Hinton began his career with a CRA in 1984 and is President of CRAzoom, a company providing a complete NAPBA accreditation package and CrimApollo, a criminal record assessment and EEOC compliance service wholesaled to CRAs for their employer clients. Oops! It Was Just A little Error A Minnesota man who was fired from his job as a mortgage specialist after a background check found he d been jailed 14 years earlier can proceed with his lawsuit against the background check company, a federal judge in Minneapolis ruled this week. It turned out the man, charged with a misdemeanor, was never jailed but put on probation. The case was dismissed a year later. The suit is being litigated as state lawmakers consider legislation to revise court regulations on expunging records, including criminal histories. At a legislative hearing in November, dozens told lawmakers that laws designed to give reformed offenders a second chance should be overhauled.
9 Dennis Brownstein s Extreme Court News You've got to love this: Woman Forged Criminal Record Clearance Because She Was In A Hurry A Warwick woman today admitted she forged her own criminal record in order to secure a cleaning job, even though Magistrates Court heard she didn t have a record. Nelia Silva, 37, of Dunscombe Road, was given a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to two counts of forgery she also forged a criminal record for a friend and one count of submitting those forged documents. Silva was attempting to get a second job with Just Cleaners, who clean for HSBC, prosecutor Cindy Clarke told the court. As the bank s cleaning staff operate unsupervised at night, criminal background checks are required for anyone applying for the position. Raphael Simons, who was conducting the background checks, noticed that two of the documents did not appear to be genuine, which led to the discovery that Silva had forged them. Silva s lawyer, Saul Froomkin, said she was stupid and forged the documents either because she could not wait the two weeks it takes to receive a criminal background check, or could not afford the $100 fee that comes with requesting the document. Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner gave Silva a conditional discharge with 12 months of probation. Meagan Simmons Sues Website Over 'Attractive Convict' Mug Shot She's known across the Internet as the "attractive convict," but a lawsuit over the use of this Florida woman's mug shot meme means things could get pretty ugly for at least one website. Meagan Simmons was arrested on DUI charges in Her photogenic mug shot was posted to an arrest record database, and eventually found its way onto Internet image boards. There, it spawned a meme playing on Simmons' looks and her status as an apparent inmate, which enjoyed dozens of iterations (See our gallery below for some prime examples). As the Tampa Bay Times pointed out, Simmons, a mother of four from Zephyrhills, initially weathered her newfound fame with grace, doing interviews and celebrating after she "made the cut" when Inside Edition included her in an episode about attractive mug shots. At the time, Simmons told The Huffington Post that she'd even consider posing for Playboy. "If [Hugh Hefner] himself contacted me, I think that's an offer I couldn't refuse," Simmons said. But now, Simmons is suing a company who she says tried to cash in on her image, and invaded her privacy in the process. She slapped InstantCheckmate.com with the lawsuit, claiming that the background check website used her image for advertising and commercial purposes without her permission. The suit, which seeks monetary damages and an injunction to prevent further use of her image, claims the exposure invaded Simmons' privacy and disturbed her peace of mind. "At the end of the day, this is actually about intellectual property," Simmons' attorney, Matthew Crist, told the Times. "If someone is going to use your image, they need to pay you for it." Crist told the paper that the website used his client's image for financial gain, which makes its use different from the myriad memes made with Simmons' mug. Toronto RCMP Backlog Grows With a backlog that recently grew to nearly 17,000 requests, Toronto police say they can't keep up. A catastrophic backlog in Toronto police background checks could grow worse if the RCMP makes fingerprinting a mandatory part of the process. The Toronto is grappling with how to manage new requests for checks received each day, contributing to a backlog of almost 17,000 request. Waiting times for a check can stretch for months.
10 Atty Found Not Liable For Background Check Run For Client An attorney who conducted an employee background check on behalf of a federal contracting company cannot be held liable for Fair Credit Reporting Act violations, a D.C. federal court ruled last week, finding that the lawyer was acting as a protected agent of his client. In dismissing claims brought by former DHA Group, Inc. employee Gennaro Mattiaccio against attorney Nelson Blitz for conducting a background check on him, the court wrote in a Feb. 26 opinion that attorney-client privilege and fiduciary duty shielded Blitz from being found liable under the FCRA. Defendant Blitz acted at the behest of DHA Group as the employer s attorneyagent in preparing and evaluating plaintiff s background investigation, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote. Accordingly, the court finds that [Blitz] was an attorney-agent of DHA Group and not a consumer reporting agency and thus cannot be held independently liable. Mattiaccio filed a defamation and FCRA violation suit against DHA Group in 2012, after being terminated from his position as a lead proposal manager over claims that he had allegedly failed to disclose prior convictions to the company. Judge Kollar-Kotelly allowed Mattiaccio to file an FCRA claim against Blitz, who works with Executive Counsel PLC, in September, based on Mattiaccio s assertions that he had learned new, relevant information during discovery depositions. In his FCRA claim against Blitz, Mattiaccio argued that the attorney had obtained his credit report and criminal history unlawfully, had failed to provide Mattiaccio with a summary of rights as required by the act and did not respond to requests to correct allegedly incorrect information in the background report. Blitz moved to dismiss the claim, arguing that his communications with DHA did not constitute a consumer report under the FCRA, and that Mattiaccio had consented to a background check before he was hired. Judge Kollar-Kotelly agreed that reports created as a result of suspected employment misconduct are exempt from the FCRA s requirements, but declined to dismiss the claims on these grounds. The judge found that doing so would have required the court to make an inappropriate factual determination that the launch of the background investigation was not in retaliation for a complaint Mattiaccio had made against the company. The judge also refused to dismiss the complaint based on the argument that Mattiaccio had consented to a background check before his hiring, as he had claimed that the background check authorization form submitted contained false information and a forged signature. Judge Kollar-Kotelly did, however, agree with Blitz s argument that he cannot be held liable because he undertook the background investigation as an attorney -agent of DHA Group. Although she discarded the argument that Blitz was not a consumer reporting agency because he merely used the consumer information, Judge Kollar- Kotelly found Blitz s attorney-agency argument persuasive in protecting him from liability. In the context of the FCRA, several courts have explained that an attorney who conducts an investigation on behalf of an employee client is not a third party in the same way that a credit bureau or detective agency would be, the judge wrote. Judge Kollar-Kotelly also found there was no evidence that Blitz made the decision to fire Mattiaccio, nor was there reason to suspect that the information in Blitz's report was not filtered through an autonomous decision maker at DHA. Mattiaccio s claims against DHA are still pending in the suit. The federal contractor is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has more than 200 employees, according to the company s website. Colorado Bill Would Require Background Check And Skills Test Colorado lawmakers are hearing renewed debate over whether to join 44 other states in requiring private investigators to maintain state licenses. Democratic Sen. Linda Newell has sponsored a measure that would mandate background checks and skills tests for people doing business as private eyes. This is the second year in a row Newell has raised such a proposal, saying the current system attracts unscrupulous investigators. To protect consumers, the state requires plumbers, barbers and members of other trades to carry licenses, she told fellow lawmakers in a hearing last week. But "private investigation involves surveillance, investigation into people's private lives, database searching," she said. "If any occupation merits licensing," Newell asked, "shouldn't this be one?" Another measure, meanwhile, is pending in the House to do away with the current voluntary state licensing system for private eyes that was established in Colorado currently has only about 86 investigators who pay about $1,000 a year for voluntary licenses.
11 Should Government Force Businesses To Hire Felons? Obama Nominee Debo Adegbile Says Yes By Byron York The Senate will soon vote on President Obama's nomination of former NAACP Legal Defense Fund official Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. There are a number of reasons many Republicans oppose the nomination, most prominent among them Adegbile's passionate and continued advocacy on behalf of Philadelphia copkiller Mumia Abu-Jamal. But one objection to the nomination has received little public notice, and it involves a quiet but growing controversy over the issue of criminal background checks. It's not unusual for businesses to conduct a check before hiring new employees. If the check uncovers that the applicant has, say, a felony conviction in his past well, that can put a quick end to the application process. But Obama's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that the use of background checks in hiring is racially discriminatory. In 2012, the EEOC issued "guidance" to the nation's businesses, citing statistics showing blacks and Hispanics are convicted of crimes at significantly higher rates than whites. Therefore, the EEOC ruled, excluding job applicants based on their criminal records would have "a disparate impact based on race and national origin." The EEOC did not say past felonies could never be considered in job applications. But the guidance made clear that an employer who chooses not to hire a felon could have to present a detailed defense to the EEOC. "The employer needs to... effectively link specific criminal conduct, and its dangers, with the risks inherent in the duties of a particular position," the guidance said. Employers who cannot prove to the EEOC's satisfaction that excluding a felon from a particular job is a "business necessity" could be in trouble. And whatever the outcome, the company could have its hands full with a costly lawsuit from the government. "One bright-line policy you should not adopt is having a no-felons policy," EEOC commissioner Victoria Lipnic told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a March 2012 speech. "If you have that policy, that's going to be a problem if you're subject to an EEOC investigation." Hearing that, many employers might say: This is crazy. There are companies that will reject a job candidate because he posted something embarrassing on his Facebook page, and the Obama administration is warning businesses they'll be in trouble if they don't hire convicted felons? Of course a business, after a background check, might well choose to hire a felon. But that is the employer's decision -- not the Obama administration's. Some members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights were appalled. Calling the EEOC guidance "deeply flawed," commission members Peter Kirsanow, Abigail Thernstrom, and Todd Gaziano said the EEOC was wrong to conclude that excluding felons is racially discriminatory; failed to consider the effect of recidivism; and didn't even find out how well or badly felons perform as employees. "The EEOC adduced no evidence regarding whether people with criminal records are better, comparable, or worse employees than people without criminal records," the commissioners noted. At the moment, EEOC "guidance" does not have the force of law, no matter the threats from top EEOC officials. That's where Debo Adegbile comes in. When he was with the NAACP, Adegbile praised the commission's guidelines. Now, if he becomes the assistant attorney general for civil rights, he will have the power to pursue the same or similar policies. In written questions, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley asked Adegbile whether he would, if confirmed, "take action to abridge or eliminate an employer's ability to perform criminal background checks on potential employees." Adegbile embraced the EEOC position and suggested it would guide his own actions in the Justice Department. "If employers do perform background checks, the EEOC has released guidance on the subject," he told Grassley. As the Adegbile nomination nears a vote, the Civil Rights Commission's Kirsanow has written a letter to the Senate opposing Adegbile not just for his activities on behalf of Abu- Jamal -- still the hottest issue in the Adegbile debate - - but also for his support of the EEOC on background checks. "Mr. Adegbile's support for the guidance demonstrates his commitment to an ideological agenda at odds with the law and common sense," Kirsanow wrote. One thing is clear in the nomination debate: Republican opposition to Adegbile doesn't matter. The whole point of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to break the filibuster with respect to nominations was to empower Democrats to confirm Obama nominees all by themselves, with a simple majority of 51 votes. That allows Reid to tell Republicans what they can do with their opposition. Of course some Democrats have doubts about Adegbile, too. Sen. Bob Casey -- many of whose Pennsylvania constituents remember the Abu-Jamal case well -- is one "no" vote. But barring some unforeseen circumstance, a nominee with distinctly out -of-the-mainstream views can sail through the Senate -- no matter what his confirmation will ultimately mean to millions of Americans who go to work every day.
12 Craig's Verification Tips Language! Language! Language! You know the old saying Location! Location! Location! as it applies to restaurant success or failure, well in the International verifications business you could say Language! Language! Language! If, for instance, you call Brazil and expect people to speak English you may very well get an earful of indignant Portuguese rather than the verification you were hoping for. Here are four language tips to help make your international verifications more productive. 1.Knowing how to say Do you speak English? in the local language is a great way to establish instant rapport and at the same time determine whether or not you will need to use our second tip. People tend to be very forgiving and often quite helpful when you make the effort even if you feel foolish doing it. 2.Unless you have gargantuan volume you are not going to keep dozens of foreign language speakers on staff day and night. Therefore you will need a relationship with a translation firm that can ride shotgun on your calls. The cost can soar quickly so to keep it in check try the following: 1.Make sure the number you are dialing reaches someone before you engage the translator in the call. 2.Make sure you are ready to provide the translator with the pertinent information about the call as soon as they come on the line. 3.Give your researchers time limits on how long they can take for various tasks with a translator such as step (b) above or giving instructions, waiting on hold, and allowing the phone to ring. 3.At a minimum you will want someone on staff during the day who speaks Spanish. They can cover domestic calls that require Spanish as well as most calls in the Americas. 4.Prepare written requests for verification in the languages for which you use interpreters most, and use them to supplement your verbal attempts. Consider adding a line in the translated form that requests the reply in English if possible. This will save you the cost of translating written results. Study Shows Record Number Of Criminal Exonerations The number of exonerations of people wrongfully convicted of a crime in the United States rose to a record 87 last year that s 87 people who served time in prison for a crime they did not commit. The previous record was 83 in Further, a fifth of those people had pleaded guilty to the charges against them, often to receive a lesser sentence, and sometimes due to police coercion and fear. The report was released by the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, told Here & Now s Jeremy Hobson that while it is a record number, it s still a very small number of people. The great majority of people who are innocently convicted are never exonerated because they are never discovered, he said. Why Many Innocent People Plead Guilty To Crimes by Samuel Gross This isn t surprising in one sense, because the vast majority of defendants who are convicted of felonies plead guilty instead of going to trial, almost always in return for plea bargains. The reason they do is obvious. If you are offered a plea bargain, the deal might be plead guilty and get one year in prison, or six months in the county jail. Well in the same crime, if you reject the plea bargain and go to trial and are then convicted, you might get five years in prison, 10 years, maybe 25 years in prison. What this reflects is that they re getting more realistic. And were recognizing that in some cases, even an innocent person will take that sort of deal rather than risk the extreme danger of going to trial. Background Checks - What Employers Need to Know A joint publication of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Trade Commission Website: publications/ background_checks_emplo yers.cfm
13 Fewer Would Have A Criminal Record If Pot Is Legalized by Steve Israel The eventual legalization of marijuana may seem inevitable. But that doesn't mean advocates on both sides of the issue have stopped fighting for and against it. You have a drug addiction, you can recover. You have a conviction, it's for life, says Joanne Naughton, a retired New York City Police Department detective Those who oppose legalization see the increased use and acceptance of marijuana by young people as the primary reason it shouldn't be legalized. After all, in Colorado it's available in kids' candies like gummy worms, which can't legally be sold or consumed by anyone under 18. What you have is an incredible drop in the perception of young people who see marijuana as bad, says Ben Cort, a recovering drug addict who led the fight against legalization in Colorado and is now a director of the Colorado Center for Addiction, Dependency and Rehabilitation in Aurora, Colo. He cites a recent study that says less than 40 percent of all young people in Colorado see marijuana as a bad thing. It's legal and it's cool, is how they view it, Cort says Plus, the chances of a child under 18 getting addicted to pot are much greater than someone over 18, says Cort 1 in 6, versus 1 in 11. He uses this simple bit of logic to illustrate the dangers of legalization: If you have more people in the state getting high, you will have more addicts, he says, although Cort does stress that the majority of people using it won't end up as addicts. But the cost to society is much greater if marijuana isn't legalized, says a legalization advocate, retired New York City Police Department Detective Joanne Naughton, who worked undercover in narcotics. You have a drug addiction, you can recover, says Naughton, a speaker for LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) who recently spoke at SUNY New Paltz, where a second offense for marijuana can result in expulsion. She advocates for legalization, regulation and taxation. You have a conviction, it's for life. As for the legalization of marijuana meaning more kids who think it's cool to get high? I say a kid can already get it easily whenever he wants to, she says. But no one on the street is going to card you and ask you how old you are. Plus, with more tax money for education, marijuana use among young people could actually decrease, she says, citing statistics for tobacco use. In 1965, 40 percent of American smoked. Today (with more education), it's 18 percent, she says. And if we regulate it and license people who sell it, they will have an interest not to sell it to kids. Whatever side you take in the marijuana debate, one thing seems certain: the march toward legalization is gaining momentum, in part because of its acceptance by politicians who write the laws, says Gerald Benjamin, Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement and Director of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach at SUNY New Paltz. He points out that legislators across the country are now taking stances to legalize marijuana by law not just through popular referendums. You have a drug addiction, you can recover. You have a conviction, it's for life, says Joanne Naughton, a retired New York City Police Pima County, AZ Records Might Contain Inaccuracies The Pima County Consolidated Justice Court in Arizona is currently moving case information from an old system into a new system. The following information is important: At this time court record searching is extremely limited and the Court cannot provide an exact time table when the transfer will be complete. Also, the court is advising that all searches performed since Feb. 1, 2014 may be inaccurate. The court advises not to use data received after this date until the court is able to resolve the accuracy issues. So expect delays in regards to record searching at this court. This court services the city of Tucson. Note Pima County is the 42nd largest county in the U.S. The court's web page is Have Researcher Will Travel Contact: Steven Brownstein
14 McLean Civil Court Records Available Online Records in many civil court cases filed in McLean County are now available online. Hundreds of records in pending cases dating back to 2008 became available Jan. 15, said McLean County Circuit Clerk Don Everhart. Cases closed within the past 12 months also are available. The electronic access for cases involving lawsuits and other non-criminal litigation provides the record sheet with developments in a case, dates for upcoming hearings and names of the litigants. The information, available through the McLean County Circuit Clerk website, is not the official court record, said Everhart. "It's really more of a historical record than a real time record," he said, adding there may be some delays in updating information on the website. The circuit clerk coordinated the new access with the county's technology department and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court. McLean was the last county to implement the service in the circuit that also includes Livingston, Logan, Ford and Tazewell counties. More Cuyahoga Records Go Online Many county court records, previously only available at the downtown Justice Center will be online next month for the public to view. Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts Andrea Rocco said images of many documents filed in criminal and civil cases will be online starting March 31. The documents will include motions filed by attorneys and court subpoenas. Rocco said she has let attorneys and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office know that they are responsible for making sure nonpublic information such as social security numbers are not on documents that will be made public. The changes next month pertain only to the Common Pleas Court's General Division, which handles mainly felony criminal cases, foreclosures, civil cases involving large amounts of money. Download The Background Investigator Current Edition
15 Senate Bill Blocks Background- Check Firms From Reviewing Own Work A bill introduced in the Senate would prevent contractors who conduct background investigations for the government from reviewing and approving their own work. The Preventing Conflicts of Interest with Contractors Act would block the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the background check process, from contracting with companies to perform final quality reviews if those same companies are also responsible for conducting initial investigations. "Letting federal contractors review their own work is like letting the fox guard the henhouse," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the sponsor of the bill and the chairman of a Senate subcommittee with oversight of the federal workforce, in a statement. "This common -sense bill will put national security ahead of profits, hold federal contractors more accountable and make our nation safer." Last fall, the Justice Department joined an employee's whistleblower lawsuit, alleging that USIS, the government's largest private provider of background checks, improperly signed off on hundreds of thousands of investigations that had never been properly vetted a practice the company referred to as "dumping" or "flushing" records, according to the suit. USIS also performed background investigations of both National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, although DOJ's complaint is not related to either of those investigations. The company has maintained the alleged dumping of cases is contrary to the company values and has put in place a new leadership team and increased oversight. OPM Director Katherine Archuleta announced in early February that, going forward, only federal employees would conduct final quality reviews. At the time, about 50 USIS employees performed final quality reviews under a $288 million supportservices contract with the agency even though the company also holds a $2.46 billion contract with OPM to conduct the initial fieldwork on those investigations. OPM officials alleged that the company "misused" the first contract "to obtain information about OPM's oversight efforts and evade detection of its alleged fraudulent activities for more than four years," according to a report published earlier this month by Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Tester's bill, which has been co-sponsored by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Mark Begich (D- Alaska), writes Archuleta's decision into law. Otherwise it could be reversed by a future OPM director. "It's good news that the administration has taken swift action to strengthen accountability in the past several months, but we have to do more," McCaskill said in a statement. "This legislation will further boost accountability and remove conflicts of interest by ensuring the same contractor won't be able to both conduct background checks, and conduct a final review of that same background check process."