City might rethink hiring ex-convicts

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Last week's arrest of a Richmond County Recreation Department employee on theft charges brings the number of former inmates in that department to run afoul of the law in less than a year to three.

Andreas Spencer, a maintenance man at Lock and Dam Park, was arrested last week after a tip from his girlfriend led police to a stash of more than $1,500 in city property at his home in Jewell, Ga., according to sheriff's investigators.

Augusta's interim human resources director said this week that he doesn't know how many of the city's employees are on parole.

"We don't have a list that tells us who is on parole," Robby Burns said.

Sometimes, department heads don't even know about an employee's past.

City Administrator Fred Russell has said it might be time to re-evaluate the practice of hiring ex-convicts still on parole to work for the city - at least in the recreation department.

Last week, a sexual battery charge brought against Aquatics Center recreation specialist George E. Ivey was placed on the court's dead docket, and Mr. Ivey was back at work the next day, where he helps coordinate aquatics programs.

Assistant Recreation Department Director Robert Howard said his reinstatement was justified because Mr. Ivey was not found guilty of anything.

Julie Tillery, an officer of the Juvenile Court of the 10th Judicial District, said that was "ludicrous."

"Don't tell me that we don't have enough qualified people in this county that don't have criminal records to fill those jobs," she said. "I think having a second-chance program is fine, but not with our children."

In an article in The Augusta Chronicle about parolees working in the Recreation Department, Director Tom Beck defended the program and said Mr. Ivey's record with the department had been exemplary.

Mr. Ivey, alias George Ivy, Charles Jones, Charlie Jones, James Willis and Walter Woods, is on active parole until July 7.

Mr. Beck said Thursday that through the years, hiring former inmates to work on maintenance crews has been a good program, though there have been a few problems. Employees with no criminal records sometimes get in trouble, too, he said.

"One of them a few months ago was my golf pro with one of the cleanest records anyone could have," he said. "I still believe the vast majority have done a good job."

Mr. Ivey was accused in September of misdemeanor sexual battery by a 19-year-old woman who was performing community service at the Aquatics Center for speeding in a construction zone.

The victim's mother said her daughter agreed to allow the case to go into the dead docket last week after being advised that if it went to trial and Mr. Ivey was found innocent, the court would have no recourse if a future problem arose.

The dead docket puts a defendant on a kind of probation, and the court could revisit the case if it is deemed necessary.

Mr. Ivey was hired by the Recreation Department 17 months after being released from Montgomery State Prison in 2001. He was first arrested in 1980 on burglary charges and was later arrested 11 more times.

He served four prison sentences for crimes including aggravated assault, robbery and burglary, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections Web site and city personnel records.

The city does run background checks on potential employees, and if the applicant has a criminal record, that information is turned over to the department head, who can choose to hire that person or not, Mr. Burns said.

But some department heads apparently have parolees in their ranks and don't know it.

For example, Utilities Department Director Max Hicks said he did not have a parolee in his department, but after further checking, he discovered he did - an inspector.

Mr. Hicks said his compassion as a person would lead him to say the person needs a job, but the public-service side says the city needs to protect the public.

A third ex-convict, Robert Richmond Jr., was fired from his job at the Sand Hills Community Center in July after he was arrested for a second time last year.

He was charged with felony trafficking in cocaine, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

Mr. Spencer was charged with theft by taking after investigators found items belonging to the recreation department, including a heater, hedge trimmer, paint, ant killer and a mower.

He was convicted of aggravated assault in Glascock County in 2001 and served four years in prison, according to the Department of Corrections Web site.

Some recreation center managers and employees said they were stunned to learn that ex-convicts were working nearby and they had not been told.

Mrs. Tillery said parents have no idea their children are around convicted felons at recreation sites.

"Eighty percent of the people the recreation department serves are children," she said. "If parents knew a convicted felon was anywhere around, they wouldn't let their children anywhere around there."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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Reality
3
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Reality 03/30/07 - 05:00 am
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To say all people who have

To say all people who have commited crimes in the past are monsters is not accurate. You just have to guess which ones are and with children involved you err on the side of caution.

kudzo-n-roses
2
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kudzo-n-roses 03/30/07 - 05:21 am
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Is this any way to run a

Is this any way to run a city????? The last person out who hasn't committed a crime and stolen from the city in some way or another please bring the flag. What a stupid idea...hiring criminals and thinking they are not going to steal and cheat....take off those rose colored glasses you bleeding heart liberals.....face the truth !!!

wise
1
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wise 03/30/07 - 07:17 am
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Atleast the city is giving

Atleast the city is giving theses indviduals a chance to work again. I skipped school one day 20yrs ago and my boyfriend broke in to a house. I was 17 and did not help in any way but was charged with Burglary. I have been turned down by many major companies for employment due to my back ground.

getalife
4
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getalife 03/30/07 - 07:31 am
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Some of these criminals are

Some of these criminals are more criminal than others. The city needs to examine each case and weed out the ones with multiple convictions. It is good to give them a second chance after prison. There should be an extra review of any that will be working around children and with the public.

marien
29
Points
marien 03/30/07 - 07:47 am
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This is sad we have students

This is sad we have students graduating with degrees in recreation from college that can't find a job, because they don't have two or three years of on the job experience, but the city chooses to hire a criminal what is wrong with this picture or I forgot even some of the top heads at recreation department don't have degrees either.

luckie
2
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luckie 03/30/07 - 08:22 am
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I know Mrs. Tillery and I am

I know Mrs. Tillery and I am glad to see that she is making her voice heard. I have said all along that too many people here get hired for who they know. From county commissioners, to board members to other elite positions. Our city will not move up until more educational requirements are placed on particular positions. Those people with college degrees and masters degrees deserve these positions. The have proven themselves more disciplined by carrying out improvng themselves.

Queen4842
3
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Queen4842 03/30/07 - 08:54 am
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DAYAM, I can not believe you

DAYAM, I can not believe you voters in Augusta. This is rich and totally crazy way to run a city and you wonder why your crime rate is going up. LOL!

thereishope
1
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thereishope 03/31/07 - 02:48 pm
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It doesn't always mean that

It doesn't always mean that you are a good person, just because you have not served time in prison! Some people don't get caught! Mr. Ivey is a good person, my kids are around him all the time. Sorry "helpusinaug"! some people never get a brake and their past will always catch up! There are criminals, and there are criminals! Just like sex offenders, I was 16 once and had a 19 year old boy friend, we never got caught, therefore he didn't go to jail and doesn't have to register as a sex-offender! get it???

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