August 13, 2010

Background checks for oil spill workers

Posted: 11:20 AM ET

Jackson County, Mississippi, Sheriff Mike Byrd told CNN he was shocked when he met with the local head of BP security as the company was cranking up beach clean-up operations. The sheriff was told BP wasn’t doing background checks on oil-spill clean-up workers.

"I said, 'You're kidding me,' Byrd recalls telling the BP official.

Now, Byrd says, that lack of screening has resulted in a convicted sex offender being charged with raping a co-worker.

A CNN investigation into the incident reveals a web of corporate finger-pointing after basic background checks were not done on those hired to remove oil from the beaches in and around Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Byrd said he told the BP official that "you're going to have every type of person coming in here looking for a job and you're going to have the criminal element in here and we're not going to know who we're dealing with if we don't do background checks on these people."

Byrd believes if a simple background check had been done, the alleged rape could have been prevented. Charles Rundy Robertson, the man charged in the case, had failed to register as a sex offender. He was also on probation for a felony. Yet, because no background checks were done, he was hired as a supervisor.

In a statement to CNN, BP spokesman Robert Wine said, "BP does conduct full checks on its employees, and under normal business conditions can make it a part of the contract for full backgrounds to be conducted by our long-term contractors. This was not done for all contractors in this response; the responsibility lies with the employing company for their own staff.”

The company that hired workers for BP’s clean-up efforts was Aerotek. We spoke with the general counsel for Aerotek who told us, “We are not liable for anything that happens. Once we deliver the people to be supervised by our client, we don't have anything to do with them anymore."

Sheriff Mike Byrd said he asked BP’s local head of security why no background checks were being performed, and his response was, “…there’s so many of them [employees], we were told to do drug screens and that was it.”

Do you think more should have been done to prevent criminals from being hired for BP’s clean-up operation along the Gulf Coast? Also, Sheriff Byrd told CNN, he would have done the background checks for free. So, why do you think the companies involved still refused to have the checks performed?

Filed under: Abbie Boudreau • Uncategorized

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