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By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Salisbury City Council has approved a new policy requiring background checks on city volunteers who work with children and vulnerable adults.
The policy especially affects the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department, which has about 100 volunteers a year. Most work with youth athletic programs.
The council was poised to approve the screening policy in January until Councilman Bill Burgin questioned why five, seven and 10 years after certain criminal offenses were the appropriate lengths of time before a volunteer could serve the city.
He particularly asked whether a drug offender ó 10 years after his or her conviction ó should be allowed to be a volunteer.
Council members agreed to give Burgin more time to do some research and feel more comfortable about the policy.
In the end, the council approved an addition to the policy. It disqualifies any person from being a city volunteer who has ever been convicted of any drug distribution offense, regardless of the time that has passed since the crime.
The key word for him, Burgin said, was “distribution.”
A screening of potential city volunteers will include Social Security verification, an address trace, a state or county criminal check, a national criminal history database search and a check of sex offender registries.
In addition to the drug distribution offenses, the city would disqualify a volunteer if that person has been found guilty of:
– Any sex offenses, regardless of the amount of time since the crime. Examples would include child molestation, rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sodomy, prostitution, solicitation and indecent exposure.
– Any felonies involving violence, regardless of the time since the crime. Examples would include murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, kidnapping, robbery and aggravated burglary.
– Any other felony offenses (not related to sex or violence) that have occurred in the previous 10 years. Examples include drug offenses, theft, embezzlement, fraud and child endangerment.
– Any misdemeanors involving violence within the past seven years. Examples include simple assault, battery, domestic violence and leaving the scene of an accident.
– Any misdemeanors involving drugs and alcohol within the past five years or multiple offenses in the past 10 years. Examples include driving under the influence, simple drug possession, drunk and disorderly conduct, public intoxication and possession of drug paraphernalia.
If a potential volunteer has any pending cases in court or has been charged with any of the disqualifying offenses, he or she would not be allowed to serve as a city volunteer until the case has been resolved. If the person is later acquitted, prosecutors drop the case or a judge dismisses the charge, the person could be considered for volunteer service.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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