Background checks may be expanded

San Francisco may soon expand background checks for potential workers to include whether the person has previous convictions in states outside California.

The issue of background checks arose from the case of Terry Childs, the city worker convicted of computer tampering for withholding passwords to the FiberWAN network, which handles more than half the computer traffic for The City.

Under San Francisco’s current hiring practice, authorities have access to the state Department of Justice records, checking for criminal history in California.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has introduced a resolution that would immediately give San Francisco officials access to federal records and fingerprints, allowing them access to conviction records from other states, said Jennifer Johnston, chief policy adviser for the Human Resources Department.

That’s not to say that someone who has been convicted of a crime will be barred from employment, Johnston said.

“This isn’t an anti-conviction measure,” Johnston said. “We still believe in equal-opportunity employment. This is not creating additional barriers for those with convictions.”

The resolution was spurred by Childs. In 2008, the 45-year-old Pittsburg resident locked city officials out of the main computer system and withheld the passwords, releasing them only to Newsom during a jailhouse visit.

It was later revealed that Childs had prior felony convictions in Kansas for robbery and burglary in 1983, for which he served four years in prison. Also, he was convicted of firearm possession in 1995.

Had The City known that, perhaps it would have given pause before hiring him, officials said.

“Terry Childs fell through the cracks of The City’s employment and background-verification process because he had an out-of-state felony conviction The City wasn’t legally authorized to check at the time,” said Tony Winnicker, Newsom’s spokesman. “This legislation will give The City access to national law enforcement databases to help ensure people with out-of-state felony convictions, like Terry Childs, are never again placed in critical positions or have access to sensitive information.”

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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