Three people who were hired to work at a Newark recreation center allegedly used the facility to store drugs that were sold in nearby neighborhoods.
Alleged Drug Dealers
Newark, New Jersey is home to a city-run facility called the Rotunda Recreation & Wellness Center. In July 2019, news broke that three employees who were said to have ties to a local gang were allegedly using the facility to house and sell drugs.
Two of those workers were found to have previous convictions for drug-related crimes. One served 37 months in a federal prison and another served ten years for conspiracy to distribute heroin. According to a local news source, one of the individuals was still on probation when he was hired.
The people who run the Center stated that they had been unaware of this information.
Background Checks Were Missed
According to an article from a Newark publication, the three men who stand accused of drug trafficking did not get background checks before they were granted employment. Every potential hire is asked to schedule an appointment to be fingerprinted and initiate the screening process. However, the city has no records that indicate any of the men completed these steps.
Representatives from the center believe the trio may have been overlooked due to a misunderstanding about city policies. Officials said they did not think the background screening rule applied to part-time or seasonal workers.
Kecia Daniels, Newark’s Deputy Business Administrator, was the Personnel Director at the time these men were hired. She has taken responsibility for this problem and stated: “Sometimes with a city this size and an employee population this size, the background checks come back and they are either lost or not reviewed thoroughly.”
Reactions To This Situation
New Jersey Mayor Ras Baraka said he was “perturbed, angry, upset” upon hearing this news. While Baraka is a major proponent of second chance policies, there are steps that ex-convicts are expected to take before they can be granted employment. Newark offers a re-entry program that helps former inmates get training and find jobs. The men who were hired at the recreation center did not enroll in this program or participate in any rehabilitation efforts.
A city spokesperson released a statement about this incident: “This actually happened on the city’s watch. We’re investigating all aspects of this. We just want to cast a broad net to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Mayor Baraka expressed concern that this situation will cause residents to question the effectiveness of Newark’s re-entry program. He said the second chance program will continue to operate and plans to write an apology letter for the parents who patronize the recreation center.
The city is reviewing its hiring process. A major goal will be to ensure background checks are run on every applicant before they are authorized to work at a city-owned facility. People with minor convictions might still be eligible to work at these locations. Various factors will be considered in these cases such as the seriousness of an offense and whether or not the person has undergone rehabilitation efforts.
The Importance Of Always Running Background Checks
The incident in Newark is likely to cause many residents to wonder if it is safe to use city-run facilities. Every employer is responsible for conducting due diligence and background screening anyone who might work for and represent their brand. Failing to do this could result in a lack of trust and other repercussions.
When you’re bringing on full or part-time employees, contractors or volunteers, please contact us. Our expert team is highly experienced at building custom background check packages that are perfectly tailored for your business and industry needs. We’re available to assist you Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.