The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
City: No plans to expand background checks
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
The city has no plans to change its policy on background checks for job applicants, despite the recent arrest and firing of the downtown parking garage supervisor on drug and child pornography charges.
While Spotsylvania and Stafford counties conduct criminal background checks on all applicants for government jobs, Fredericksburg does so only for high-level positions.
Louis Philip Cox IV, 28, was hired by the city in August 2008 as a part-time maintenance worker for the Parks and Recreation Department, two years after records show he was convicted of felony grand larceny.
The following November, he was hired as a part-time parking attendant at the city garage.
In May 2010, Cox pleaded guilty to maliciously shooting into an occupied vehicle, according to Fredericksburg Circuit Court records. He served a month in jail for that, court records state.
In July of that year, he was promoted to parking garage supervisor, according to information provided by Assistant City Manager Mark Whitley.
Applications for city jobs include a line asking whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. Fredericksburg City Manager Bev Cameron declined to say how Cox answered that question and would not specifically discuss Cox’s case.
But Cameron said the city doesn’t run background checks on every job applicant. It examines criminal records and credit reports primarily for applicants seeking high-level posts.
“We are going to continue to do what we’ve always done,” Cameron said.
He said the criteria for criminal and credit checks all relate to the level of risk involved in the job.
The city conducts criminal background checks on job applicants who will work with children or serve in
law-enforcement positions, Cameron said.
A credit history is run on any applicant who might work with large sums of money, he said. And senior managers may be required to have both criminal and credit checks, he said.
Having a criminal record doesn’t automatically disqualify someone from getting a city job. If an applicant has a criminal record, Cameron said the city considers three issues:
1. The nature and gravity of the offense.
2. The time that has passed since the offense or the completion of a sentence.
3. The nature of the job that is being held or sought.
In Stafford, background checks are done on all new hires, said County Administrator Anthony Romanello. If an employee moves up or into certain positions, further checks will be done, he said.
In Spotsylvania, seven years of an applicant’s prior history is checked, said county spokeswoman Kathy Smith. That includes a Social Security trace and a check for criminal charges and of Department of Motor Vehicle records.
In the city, any employee who is required to hold a commercial driver’s license is subject to a drug test, which is required by federal law, Cameron said.
Also, DMV records are checked for all employees—both pre-employment and during employment—annually, Cameron said.
Cameron said that employees who drive as part of their regular duty would probably be held to a higher standard than those who drive a city vehicle less frequently, such as once every six months.
As an example, he said, transit drivers are required to participate in a random drug-testing pool.
Employees are not required to report arrests to their supervisors, he said. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be held responsible if they do get in trouble.
“While employed, employees are expected to exercise good judgment and to conduct themselves professionally and courteously, as well as to behave in a manner that is conducive to the efficient operation of the City. Failure to do so may constitute a violation of the City’s ‘Standards of Conduct’ and may lead to disciplinary action, which may include termination,” Cameron wrote in an email.
Cox was fired from his job two days after his arrest June 12 on charges of manufacturing marijuana and 10 counts of possessing child pornography. At a hearing June 19, a prosecutor told a judge more than 600 images and 30 movies of child pornography were found on one of Cox’s computers.
In Spotsylvania, there is a “limited requirement” for employees, Smith said. For example, they would have to report a moving violation such as a speeding ticket if it is received while operating a county vehicle.
Employees must report pending criminal charges, Smith said.
In Stafford, employees are not required to report any charges they face while working for the county, Romanello said.
A hearing to address the latest criminal charges against Cox is scheduled for July 10 in Fredericksburg District Court.
—Reporters Jeff Branscome and Katie Thisdell contributed to this report.