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City should get background checks on applicants.
CITY Manager Bev Cameron says Fredericksburg has no plans to change its policy on background checks for prospective employees. The timeline in the Louis Philip Cox IV case argues for a different decision.
Cox, who was until recently the manager of the city's parking garage, faces charges of illegal manufacture of marijuana and at least 10 felony counts of possession of child pornography. But these most recent charges are not the first time he's had run-ins with the law. His entries on the Virginia court system's database take up several pages.
In November 2004 Cox was charged with breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony and grand larceny. In January 2005 he was charged with grand larceny and petit larceny, third offense. In November 2005 he was charged with felony failure to appear. Then, in 2006, he pleaded guilty to breaking and entering with intent to commit felony, felony grand larceny, felony failure to appear, and petit larceny. He was sentenced to 19 years in the penitentiary, with more than 18 years suspended.
After these offenses, in August 2008, Cox was hired by the city to work part time for the Parks and Recreation Department. In November of that year, he was given the job of part-time parking attendant. In December, he was charged with maliciously shooting into an occupied vehicle.
In May 2010, Cox pleaded guilty to shooting into an occupied vehicle, for which he was sentenced to two years in jail with all but one month suspended. Just two months later, he was promoted--to parking garage supervisor.
It appears that Cox's ongoing pattern of criminal behavior affected neither his hiring nor his promotion by the city. And the number of offenses isn't the only issue; it's the type as well. You'd think someone who pleaded guilty to both larceny and maliciously shooting into an occupied vehicle wouldn't be placed in a position of authority in a parking garage. You'd think.
Did the city know about Cox's past when he was hired? That's hard to say: The city application form does include a question about prior offenses, but how Cox answered that is not public information. Regardless, anyone can lie, which is why an independent source of information, aka a background check, is needed.
People make mistakes, and certainly not everyone who has a conviction in his or her past should be automatically excluded from employment. Discretion and mercy should rule the day, but the application of these principles should be based on a true accounting of the facts.
Cox has, appropriately, been relieved of his city job. Still, his case should be the catalyst for a change in policy: Background checks for all is the order of the day. In the words of Ronald Reagan, "Trust but verify."