December 17, 2015

More than 2,000 APS employees don’t have background checks

Mugshot of Timothy Jason Martinez, taken in Denver in August, 2015

Albuquerque Public Schools has nearly 2,300 employees who have not been subject to a background check, an internal audit found.

Albuquerque Public Schools

Albuquerque Public Schools

The employees are those who had been at the school district since 1999. The office of the Attorney General sent a letter to the district with recommendations on how to improve the process.

Background checks in Albuquerque schools have become a more high profile issue following a scandal that found a high-ranking Albuquerque Public Schools executive resign just before NM Political Report broke news that he was facing trial in Colorado on multiple charges of sexual assault of a child. The former Deputy Superintendent of APS, Jason Martinez, was also facing domestic abuse charges and eventually was arrested in Colorado for breaking probation.

Martinez never had the required background check and the scandal eventually forced Superintendent Luis Valentino to resign.

The letter from Attorney General Balderas’ office was sent to acting superintendent Raquel Reedy, the entire APS Board of Education and others in the district. Balderas had pledged to look into the background check problem shortly after the Martinez news came to light.

Mugshot of Timothy Jason Martinez, taken in Denver in August, 2015

Mugshot of Timothy Jason Martinez, taken in Denver in August, 2015

The letter expressed concern than an audit of the background check process by APS “identified 2,270 current APS employees, who were hired before 1999, who also do not have background checks on file.” This was in addition to four current employees, presumably hired after 1999, who did not have a current background checks on file.

“The district worked in collaboration with the AG’s Office and welcomes its recommendations as we strive to ensure the safety of all APS students,” spokesman Rigo Chavez said in a statement. “We will be reviewing the recommendations and working with the state Public Education Department and other state agencies to see that our policies and procedures, as well as the implementation of those policies in a timely manner, protect students to the best of our ability.”

Balderas was told APS identified 4,000 employees who did not undergo a background check at first, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The letter encouraged regular audits of APS employee background checks as well as the creation of “a publicly accessible database of all verified, background checked APS employees.”

Balderas also encouraged the school district to develop standards and plans in the employee handbook on how employees should report “any interaction with law enforcement that occurs wile that individual is employed with APS.”

APS said they first received Balderas’ recommendations late Wednesday morning.

There is also something for the upcoming legislative session; the office wants changes to existing law on background checks. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office said that this was the public database and about penalties for administrators and districts.