‘It was me.’ CMS Superintendent says he dropped the ball on lack of fingerprinting new hires

Updated: Jul. 8, 2019 at 6:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Security experts say fingerprinting adds another layer to a background check.

When you run someone’s fingerprint, agencies can search databases or get criminal information; for example from the FBI.

Originally Charlotte Mecklenburg School representatives claimed the reason they stopped fingerprinting new employees in the district was because they changed fingerprinting companies.

But now, Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox is changing his answer. He says it was his decision.

“We dropped the ball because we didn’t change the policy before we changed the practice," says Wilcox.

CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox says the district has not been fingerprinting new employees – for nearly a year.

Fingerprinting is a mandatory part of the background check process required for all new hires in the district, according to CMS legal policy.

But for some reason the district decided it wasn’t important.

We asked Wilcox who was the person that decided not to fingerprint?

He said, "All of these decisions ultimately rest with me as the superintendent. So I’m going to take responsibility and say that it was me.”

Wilcox admits the lapse of fingerprinting has been something multiple people in the district have known about for quite some time..

“Where we dropped the ball in the process of continued (fingerprinting)… I can’t really pin point that," says Wilcox.

The reason? Wilcox says CMS looked at the process that the fingerprinting company they use—BIB—was doing.

They found surrounding districts, who also use BIB, weren’t fingerprinting. Wilcox says that’s the reason they decided not to fingerprint.

“So at that time we paused and said let’s just move forward with this business practice. If were required to go back into this process for some reason that we didn’t know, we were prepared to do that," explained Wilcox.

But Wilcox says he did know the policy but it wasn’t being followed. According to CMS policy, the district fingerprints because it provides an extra layer of security – it checks an employee’s criminal history.

“This is not something that the superintendent or his staff can choose not to comply with. This is the boards policy… and it is my regulation quite frankly,” says Wilcox.

And when district attorneys found out toward the end of the school year, red flags we raised.

“As soon as we knew we were out of compliance, we began the process to get back in," says Wilcox.

Now the district is playing catch up—fingerprinting employees who weren’t originally processed plus fingerprinting new hires—through the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office. On top of that? Still no secured fingerprinting company contract.

“The community can rest assured that no one that we are hiring now will enter a classroom with out being finger printed and background checked," says Wilcox.

“Folks that we missed, were saying that they can return until they have fingerprinting done so I think we’ve kind of closed the door we’ve corrected the problem.”

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