Originally created 08/02/97

Miller calls for review of state employee records



ATLANTA - Georgia's governor ordered every state agency on Friday to review employee records and fire anyone who lied about their criminal past on a job application.

The order came a day after the state Department of Juvenile Justice board held an emergency meeting to adopt new hiring policies because dozens of employees had lied about criminal records.

Earlier this week, Gov. Zell Miller ordered Juvenile Justice Commissioner Eugene Walker to fire those employees.

Now Mr. Miller wants every other department head to follow suit.

"Having learned of the situation at the Department of Juvenile Justice, I want to make absolutely certain that no other agency in state government employs people who lie about their prior criminal records," the governor said.

Mr. Miller's order means department heads may have to review all their employee applications and submit them to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for a background check. There are more than 75,000 state employees. The GBI can charge state agencies $15 a piece for a fingerprint check.

Most law enforcement-related agencies already do background checks and fingerprinting, including the Department of Corrections.

The Department of Corrections runs background and fingerprint checks on all employees, for both prison and administrative positions. Once the person is employed, the department checks for pending charges from time to time, said spokesman Mike Light.

"They even checked my background, and the commissioner's," Mr. Light said. "He passed."

The Department of Pardons and Paroles uses similar standards for its employees. Probation officers must submit to fingerprinting, backgrounding and a credit check. Spokeswoman Marsha Bailey said it's unlikely they will come up with anyone who lied because the standards are already so high.

Nonetheless, the department will review its applications. "That'll be a major undertaking, but we'll do it," she said.

State Auditor Claude Vickers said most of his employees are hired right out of college and he does not go beyond checking out references.

"If I need to make the change, I'll make the change," Mr. Vickers said.

While Department of Juvenile Justice employees were given background checks if they were put in charge of young prisoners, local department managers had the discretion to hire someone as long as they hadn't been convicted of rape, murder or child molestation.

When Mr. Walker mandated that his guards become certified like all other police and law enforcement, he discovered numerous employees had criminal histories. The convictions ranged from shoplifting to sodomy and armed robbery. Those employees had lied about their crimes on their applications.