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Background checks start

Independence volunteers subject to new rules

Independence City Council

Independence City Council

February 04, 2014

INDEPENDENCE — Anyone who volunteers with the city of Independence will now be subject to a criminal background check by the Independence Police Department.

The council passed an ordinance at its Jan. 28 meeting, and declared it an emergency, which means it goes into effect immediately as opposed to 30 days later, which is the regular procedure for a newly passed ordinance.

Volunteers typically work at the library, museum, with the Community Emergency Response Team, or are interns working in administrative services, said City Manager David Clyne in a memo to the council.

Chief Vern Wells, who retired Friday, said the ordinance increases liability of the city, but it is good for crime prevention.

The liability may increase for the city if it is misused or not used, Clyne said in the memo.

For example, state law states that a city has no duty to protect its residents, he said.

"By having no such ordinance (to conduct background checks), the city can claim ignorance if a library volunteer kidnaps a child," Clyne said in the memo. "If we have the ordinance, then fail to use it and miss the warning signs prior to a similar kidnap, the city (may) hold some liability for failure to protect."

Councilors decided to approve the ordinance unanimously.

"The citizenry expects us to do those things," Councilwoman Nancy Lodge said. "We have a duty as a city council."

Councilwoman Marilyn Morton agreed.

"It just seems like basic intelligence to go forward with this," she said.

The city had an ordinance allowing background checks on volunteers plus people seeking a liquor license, solicitor's license, tow truck operators and youth-related volunteers.

It was eliminated under advice from the city attorney because it was thought to create unnecessary liability for the city, Clyne said in the memo.

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