Saline City Council Votes to Background Check Board and Commission Members

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Perhaps you've seen the City of Saline invite citizens to volunteer on a local board or commission. Maybe it's the Parks Commission. Or the Arts & Culture Commission. 

If you take the city up on that invite, the City of Saline will run a background check on you.

City Council voted 5-1 to approve a new background check policy at Monday's council meeting. Councillor Janet Dillon voted against the policy. Councillor Jack Ceo, for the second straight kmeeting, participated remotely and was unable to vote.

The policy says all new appointments to the City of Saline's authorized boards, commissions, committees, task forces and other officially-recognized city bodies are contingent upon completion of a background check. All people applying for vacancies on the city's volunteer boards must authorize the city's human resources department to conduct a background check through the State of Michigan ICHAT system. The check will
be compliant with both Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements. 

If a potential candidate is flagged for any reason, the HR department and/or city manager will discuss relevant issues with the candidate before making a decision on a recommendation.

Councillor Janet Dillon had several questions. She asked what the city was looking for in background checks and if every person on every committee was subject to the same process.

O'Toole said the city can only search areas directly related to a position they will fill.

"We would have to see something recent and relevant to the work they would be doing for the city. If that threshold isn't met we would move forward with the recommendation. If something is flagged we are obligated to have a conversation with the individual so they have an opportunity to explain any mitigating circumstances. That would weigh into any decision to recommend or not recommend," O'Toole said.

She asked about the privacy of anyone who might be subject to one of the background checks.

City Manager Colleen O'Toole said council members or the mayor would not be privy to the results of background checks, even if they had recommended a person for a particular post. However, that council member or mayor will learn whether or not the city's human resources department recommends the city proceed with an appointment.

Dillon said she had concerns about backgrounding candidates for committees that don't deal with finances or children.

Council voted 6-1 to approve the measure.

No members of council spoke in favor of background checks.

Members of city council are not subject to background checks, O'Toole told The Saline Post in February.

O'Toole said she wasn't aware of other cities who conducted background checks on volunteer committee members.

"I am not immediately familiar with other cities utilizing this practice. I believe it is more common in the private sector," O'Toole said. "The recommendation to adopt this practice arose out of the Risk Mitigation Task Force."

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