NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – New Rochelle employees who work with children could be subject to fingerprinting, drug-testing and more thorough background screening in response to a state audit that reported the city needs to conduct better background checks.
The audit, “Background Checks at Municipal Youth Programs,” by the Office of the State Comptroller, looked at eight municipalities in the state. It found that seven of them, including New Rochelle, were inconsistent when it comes to screenings of employees, contractors and volunteers in all youth programs sponsored by the municipalities.
The audit found that New Rochelle checked personnel only for programs for which the state mandates screening. Background checks are currently required by the state for individuals who have contact with children in camps, child care programs and therapeutic programs. That does not cover all youth programs operated by the city, according to the report.
All city personnel are drug-tested prior to employment and annually thereafter, a measure that is already very effective, said Bill Zimmerman, commissioner of the Parks and Recreation Department. The city would also broaden which potential employees are crosschecked with the national sex offender registry. These checks would be done annually on employees. In addition, the department recommended implementing one-time fingerprinting for those who come in contact with youths. However, teenage lifeguards and youth counselors would not be included in this extended background check.
Zimmerman estimates fingerprinting could cost the city up to $120 per person. In New Rochelle, 82 employees and 55 contractors work for youth programs in which 2,000 children participate, the report said.
Zimmerman said at the most recent meeting of the City Council that the same level of checks would be done for program volunteers.
“The nice thing about the fingerprinting … is once we have it in the system with a registry, we would get updates each and every year,” he said.
In addition, the city will ask for certification from youth sports organizations, verifying that background checks have been done on coaches.
Council member Shari Rackman expressed concern about pushing extensive checks on coaches.
“Youth baseball and football really rely on parent coaches. If you start pushing too hard, you end up with no coaches and no teams,” she said.
The new procedures are expected to be included in the 2013 budget discussions.
The state Office of the Comptroller's website has the full report online.