EDITORIAL: State rehires embezzler

Applicants must be asked about criminal convictions.

August 30, 2013 

This is the kind of decision that drives California taxpayers bonkers and breeds distrust of government. The State Personnel Board removed from the general job application two questions that commonly appear on job and college applications elsewhere: "Have you ever been convicted by any court of a felony?" and "Have you ever been convicted by any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?"

Job applicants shouldn't be automatically disqualified if they have a criminal record. People deserve a second chance. Depending on the offense and the type of job, a criminal history might not matter. All that said, state hiring managers ought to know if the person is guilty of a past crime.

The state Department of Human Resources says the form was changed in June 2010 to clear up confusion about which of the 4,000-plus job classifications were positions where it was relevant to ask about criminal history.

The department also told The Sacramento Bee's editorial board Thursday that safeguards are in place to keep convicted felons out of sensitive jobs. Criminal background checks, for example, are required for law enforcement officers, prison guards and others.

Still, all those precautions didn't stop a convicted embezzler from getting rehired by the state, as The Sacramento Bee's Jon Ortiz detailed Thursday.

Carey Renee Moore embezzled $320,000 as a state Department of Child Support Services purchasing officer. She bought a Lexus, a hot tub and sex toys. She was arrested in February 2007 and resigned for "personal reasons" just before she was about to be fired. Under workplace law, a state agency must accept a resignation and cannot put any documentation of a crime in the worker's official personnel file. That law needs tweaking.

In October 2007, she pleaded no contest to felony grand theft and served two years in prison. Free from being asked about her crime and using a different last name following a divorce, Moore got a job with the California High-Speed Rail Authority. In her application, she listed a "voluntary resignation" due to "personal family circumstances." That's one way to put it.

Hired in December 2011, Moore wasn't found out until her paycheck was docked for restitution. A rail official inquired about that in March 2012; four months later, she was fired for lying to get the job.

The Department of Human Resources is now examining all aspects of the hiring process. Figuring out how to guarantee there will be no more cases like Moore's ought to be high on its agenda.

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