NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – New Rochelle plans to tighten its screening policies when it comes to employees who work with youth programs, in response to a state audit that reported the city needs to conduct better background checks.
The city plans to develop procedures to ensure background checks are conducted annually and a monitoring policy is put into place for all employees working directly with children, according to a letter from city Parks and Recreation Commissioner William Zimmerman to Chief Examiner Ann Singer of the Office of the State Comptroller.
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 any 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.
In New Rochelle, 82 employees and 55 contractors work for youth programs in which 2,000 children participate, the report said.
Zimmerman recommends that all youth-related employment hires must include a background/reference check, local drug testing and fingerprinting. In addition, prior to any employee’s first day providing direct service to children and youth in the city, the employee's name will be sent to the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services to be checked against the state sex offender registry.
A monitoring process will be put into place to verify procedures have been completed, and the commissioner of parks and recreation must be required to sign a document corroborating that these background checks have been performed. All job applications will include an applicant waiver acknowledging agreement to submit to background checks for both sex offender and criminal offenses.
The new procedures are expected to be adopted soon and will be included in the 2013 local budget cycle discussions, according to Zimmerman.
The City Council plans to discuss the results of the audit at its next meeting on Feb. 12, beginning at 3:45 p.m. at City Hall, 515 North Ave.
The state Office of the Comptroller's website has the full report online.