The following article is a sad reality in certain industries of the employment sector. Conducting a criminal background check only in the state where the currently live. That leaves a lot of room to miss criminal convictions. We recommend that they conduct a check based upon the residential history for the previous 7 years.
Assault, burglary, driving while intoxicated, theft, domestic violence, indecent exposure and prostitution, possession of cocaine and marijuana, selling alcohol to minors — what do all of these crimes have in common?
They are just some of the crimes committed by people who work for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the agency in charge of protecting the state’s children.
KEYE Investigates found at least 370 employees have a criminal background, and some have direct contact with foster children.
Romanus Ike was one of Ashley Gallardo’s caseworkers when she and her brothers were in foster care. Yet her brothers requested a different caseworker soon after Ike’s assignment.
“He was really uncomfortable to be around, really, he always wanted to be a little too close,” she said.
That was about a year after Ike was arrested and charged with indecent exposure. He was caught performing a sex act on himself in a public park. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct and paid a $500 fine.
Gallardo said such conduct should rule out anyone from being able to decide what is best for vulnerable children.
“At that time, I’m a young girl, going to school, and what he did was disgusting,” she said. “It’s really just perverted, and it’s disgusting. That’s all I can say. Like how could anyone let him be around kids? That’s just gross.”
She first learned about his arrest when she decided to do some research at the courthouse. Gallardo said she was shocked to find a couple of her former caseworkers also had criminal histories.
“God, this guy was in my life,” she said. “He was in charge of me and my brothers. He made decisions for us.”
It was no secret that at the time of his arrest Gallardo worked for Child Protective Services. It was written on his bail bond in 1998, and he’s still working as a caseworker. A conviction of disorderly conduct would not bar someone from employment.
Richard Landon was arrested for indecent exposure in 1997, and in 1994 he was arrested for prostitution after soliciting an undercover cop. He works for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services as a systems analyst.
Cordelia Jones is a CPS investigator. She is on probation for a drug possession charge in Williamson County.
CPS investigator Cynthia Crayton has numerous criminal cases in her background, mostly thefts by check. She still owes $193 in fines for driving with an invalid license.
David Mendoza pleaded guilty to assault with bodily injury to a family member and violation of a protective order. He is a CPS supervisor in El Paso.
The number of employees with criminal histories is small compared to the total number of those employed by the Department of Family and Protective Services. Most offenses were misdemeanors.
The most common offenses were thefts by check and DWI.
KEYE’s search revealed some financial crimes such as forgery, fraud, credit-debit card abuse, larceny and shoplifting. In addition to DWI, there were cases of marijuana, cocaine and controlled substance possessions. Some employees were charged with failure to identify a fugitive from justice, interference with the duties of a public servant, interference of an emergency call, evading arrest, and hindering apprehension or prosecution. Several cases were burglary related. There were also violent offenses such as assault, assault with bodily injury and assault of a family member.
The findings caught the attention of State Rep. Patrick Rose, who said “it’s unacceptable.”
Rose is in a position to push for change. He chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, which oversees the agency.
“I think there are several solutions,” he said. “The first is to make sure we get all background checks across all states and any convictions. We can do that by requiring FBI fingerprint background check on the front end upon employment. And as we move forward, we have to have annual background checks here to make sure all current employees that have direct access to kids don’t have these convictions.”
The department conducts criminal background checks in the state when someone is hired. Employees are then required to report their arrests or convictions. Annual background checks are conducted on approximately 250 employees whose jobs are to approve foster homes for the placement of children.
Rose said he would like to see better coordination between the justice system and CPS. One idea would be to require local jurisdictions to immediately notify the department when an employee is arrested, charged or convicted of a crime. The department could decide if any immediate action should be taken.
Gallardo said she thinks that is a good idea. She added that it’s important for those who have contact with foster children or are responsible for making life-changing decisions on their behalf be closely screened and monitored.
“We trust these people,” Gallardo said. “They are all we have in the end, because we’re just taken away from out families, and that’s all we have.