Background checks left uncompleted for thousands in NYC

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department of investigation
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NEW YORK — For years, New York City agencies hired employees who were never fully vetted.

The information came to light following the firing of David Hay, a deputy chief of staff with the Department of Education, who was just arrested on charges that he was involved in a child sex crime. He’s part of a backlog of about 6,000 unfinished background checks, Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett said.

“In January 2019, shortly after taking office as DOI Commissioner, I recognized the serious issue I inherited involving a significant backlog in DOI’s Background Investigation Unit of approximately 6000 applicant files, some dating back to 2015,” she said. “Thousands of background investigations had not even begun and City hiring agencies were not receiving crucial background information expeditiously, despite the fact that most City employees subject to a background investigation begin working before their background investigation is cleared. It was clear to me that this situation was urgent and we began to take immediate steps to assess and address it.”

Garnett noted that it’s not clear whether a completed background investigation would have revealed information related to the charges against Hay.

A team at the DOI has spent months clearing the backlog. In the past six months, they’ve cleared more than 1,000 applicant files.

“We are continuously evaluating the process to see if there are additional improvements that can be made, and will assess the Hay situation to see if it illuminates any broadly-applicable issues,” Garnett said.

DOI background checks deal with issues includingtax compliance, previous arrests, and the truthfulness of a candidate’s claimed work history and educational background.

“Our investigations enhance a hiring agency’s internal hiring process but do not supplant it, meaning the hiring agency can and should be conducting its own standard review that may include reference checks and requiring other information from a candidate,” Garnett said.

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