WCTV Exclusive: Criminal Backgrounds of Leon County Employees

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Leon County, FL - More than one in six Leon County employees have an arrest record, including in some cases, felony charges.

Rural waste site attendandt Curtis Walker was hired in 2010.

We've confirmed the county did a background check on Walker before hiring him.

That background includes 1996 felony convictions for improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed firearm.

In August of this year, Walker was charged with possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.

That case is pending.

His attorney tells us Walker is out of jail on bond, is still working and says no one considers him to be a threat.

It's all part of the Leon County employee criminal background checks we showed Debbie Spitler who owns her own employment agency.

"My experience with private sector companies is that it would be tough to place people with some of these backgrounds," said Spitler.

Walker isn't alone when it comes to having a criminal background.

We checked the records of 794 full and part time Leon County employees.

Thirty-nine or about five percent have felony arrest records.

One hundred thirty-nine or 17.5 percent have some type of criminal record.

In a statement, the county supervisor says he believes other organizations of roughly the same size would produce similar results.

That same statement also includes hiring and promotions policy.

The county has been doing criminal background checks since 2003.

And when considering an applicant with a criminal background, the county follows federal law, looks at the nature of the offense, time elapsed since it happened and the nature of the open job.

The most common charge we found with 35 people was passing worthless bank checks.

An example, we found one employee who's faced 57 counts of check fraud since 1990 including a felony conviction in 2007.

Meanwhile, Lashonda Owens, a nurse with no criminal record can't find a job.

"The economy is awful right now, even though I have all these certificates and I'm a licensed practical nurse, people are hesitant to hire," said Owens.

How does she feel about the criminal backgrounds of some Leon County employees?

"Everyone deserves a second chance," she said.

Public Works maintenance tech Beverly Colson has certainly had one.

She's one of three Leon County employees who've faced past charges of public assistance fraud.

The guilty finding against her for failing to report she had a job when she applied for food stamps and money assistance included a probation violation.

In addition to second chances, how about three identities?

Leon County records show park attendant Gwynn Lee has two different aliases.

He's been convicted of grand theft and parole violations and spent time in prison.

While most Leon County employees don't have felony records, more of them have misdemeanor records.

They include Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor who was included on the employee list the county sent to us.

Proctor also has his own mug shot.

He was found guilty of eight misdemeanor counts of failing to report campaign contributions in 2001 and was given probation.

Other misdemeanor charges county employees have faced include depriving a child of food and shelter.

Tormenting, depriving, mutilllating or killing an animal.

And misdeanor battery.

"I was surprised, I was really shocked," said Spitler.

We made multiple attempts to get someone from Leon County government on camera to comment on our special reports.

We also reached out to Commissioner Proctor and other people mentioned in this story.

We were unable to get comment in each case.

Performing a sex act with a child under 16, assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated battery of a pregnant victim.

Those charges are just a few of the ones some Leon County government employees have placed.

And if you live in Leon County, you're paying their salaries.

They're responsible for saving lives.

According to records exclusively obtained by Eyewitness News, a part-time Leon County EMS paramedic also has a criminal history.

In 1992 that individual was charged with two counts of performing a sex act with a child under 16.

The man, who was 22 at the time, pled no contest to one count as part of a plea deal after admitting to police he had sex with a 14 year old girl.

"Are they checking their references?", asked Debbie Spitler.

Spitler is the owner of Tallahasssee's American Employment Agency.

We showed Spitler the criminal background checks we did on Leon County government employees.

They include a public works employee the county hired in 1988.

A few years later, that employee was charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant victim.

Although he admitted to police he struck the woman, the case was dropped when court records show she decided not to prosecute.

However a few years later after that incident, he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

He pled no contest and was given probation.

Today, he's in a supervisory role making more than $34-thousand dollars a year.

Spitler says she's helped people with criminal records get jobs, but it's more difficult.

"If it's a more serious crime, such as violence or theft or things like that, an employer is less likely to hire," said Spitler.

Leon County government first started doing criminal background checks for hiring in 2003.

They're done in the hiring and promotions process.

In statement released to Eyewitness News, county leaders say when considering applicants with criminal backgrounds, they follow federal law, consider the nature of the offense, time elapsed since conviction or sentence completion and the nature of the job.

Once hired, there's a manual covering employee conduct outside work.

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