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New Rochelle to Add Background Check for Youth Workers

The change comes as a result of an audit from the state comptroller.

New Rochelle to Add Background Check for Youth Workers

An audit report released by the state comptroller said New Rochelle was among several municipalities that need to beef up background checks on people working with youth programs.

In New Rochelle's case, the audit said the city, along with one other municipality—the town of Manlius—did not screen applicants at all, "except for those personnel providing programs where state law mandates screening."

In a press release accompanying the release of the audit, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said that failing to perform background checks potentially jeopardizes the safety of children.

"It is essential that local officials take action to ensure they are consistently screening all persons who provide youth program services in their communities," he said. "Parents need to trust that all of the necessary steps have been taken to keep their children out of harm's way."

The other municipalities that were audited were the cities of Binghamton, Middletown and Utica and the towns of Amherst, Clifton Park and Seneca Falls.

Of the 1,994 individuals working in youth program services in the eight municipalities, the comptroller's audit did not turn up anyone with sex offender status or significant criminal histories.

DiNapoli recommends all municipalities conduct background checks for all employees, volunteers and contractors who are involved in youth programs. At minimum, local officials should check the sex offender registry which is maintained by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services and is available on the Internet.

The towns and cities can also do criminal history background checks and develop procedures to limit liability and ensure children's safety.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner William Zimmermann looked on the audit as a positive thing.

"It's another system of checks and balances," he said. "This was an interesting discussion."

Zimmermann said potential hires in the past have been, by and large, school employees who have already been run through the system.

That is something, he said, the audit will not allow the city to do any longer.

"Now my job is to work through the City Council … to adopt standards to comply with this," Zimmermann said.

He said application forms and other documents will have to be changed and personnel doing the screening will have additional tasks. He didn't expect there to be a budgetary impact, as would happen if fingerprinting were required.

Zimmermann responded to a draft of the audit, but it did not appear in the final version.

In a letter dated July 17, he wrote the city's intent was "working closely with our local City officials, mayor and City Council to develop administrative regulations that create a writeen set of procedures to strengthen and insure a comprehensive background check and monitoring policy be implemented annually for all individuals to be employed full-time, part-time, seasonal and on a contractual basis who will provide direct service to youth. Ultimately, our intent is to ensure that names of individuals who provide or are expected to provide service to youth are sent to DCJS to have these names checked against the sex offender registry prior to first day of employment."

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