County Announces New Policy for Criminal Background Checks

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles County officials Wednesday announced a new countywide policy to increase the training human resources staff members receive on criminal background investigations.

The move follows a county audit released in September that questioned Department of Health Services human resources personnel for letting convicted criminals keep working at the now-closed Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital.

Of the hospital's 1,604 employees, 152 were found to have criminal records or were facing charges.

Department of Health Services human resources managers decided that 99 of those employees should remain working at the hospital because their criminal records did not effect their ability to do their jobs.

Among them were a custodian who had been convicted of first-degree burglary and felony grand theft. Most of the remaining 53 cases were awaiting a decision.

A Department of Human Resources review of the decisions that was presented to the board Wednesday radically disagreed, saying 71 employees had convictions related to the ability to do their jobs.

Of all 152 employees, the review recommended that 19 be dismissed and 45 others receive disciplinary action, ranging from letters of warning to suspension. Letters of warning were sent to 29 employees who had failed to disclose at least one prior conviction.

Along with the additional criminal background training, Human Resources Director Michael Henry said his department would conduct a countywide review of department's Live Scan process in an effort to increase accountability.

Live Scan is a widely used process of capturing employees' fingerprints for background checks.

Supervisor Gloria Molina expressed doubt today that Henry's solutions would prevent similar debacles in the future.

"I guess the most disappointing part is not getting any assurances that this is the fix," Molina said. "I guess we'll all see each other soon and go through this again. It's really discouraging."

County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka, who worked with the Human Resources and Health Services departments to craft the solutions, was more optimistic.

"At this point in time, to say it's not going to work without giving it the opportunity is something that I hope wouldn't happen," Fujioka said. "This does represent a significant improvement."

At the recommendation of Supervisor Michael Antonovich, county staff will report back in two weeks on the progress made in employee criminal background checks.

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