The following letter was released today and with the Town Manager’s permission, it is being posted here on ourkittery.com to provide continuing transparency.
TOWN OF KITTERY
Office of the Town Manager
200 Rogers Road, Kittery, ME 03904
Telephone: 207-475-1329 Fax: 207-439-6806
Kendra Amaral Town Manager
August 31, 2018
I am writing regarding the August 10 Recreation Department van accident in Greenland, NH, in which two staff members and eleven children in the Town’s summer program were involved. While we are deferring to – and cooperating as appropriate with – the New Hampshire law enforcement agencies to investigate the actual accident, we have been investigating the personnel hiring and driver assignment issues raised by the accident.
I tasked the Interim Police Chief Donald O’Halloran, to conduct an internal investigation of the hiring process for the Kittery Community Center summer camp counselors and the decision-making process for driving assignments in the SAFE Summer Camp program.
The following is to provide you with details regarding the results of the investigation. Please note, some details are not able to be released due to legal confidentiality restrictions regarding certain personnel information.
The internal investigation concluded that miscommunication within the Kittery Community Center led to the new summer camp staff (inclusive of the van driver) being hired without a state-wide driving background review as part of their overall background check. Subsequent to the hiring, the employee was selected to drive the van when needed.
The internal investigation found there were no irregularities in the hiring process for the van driver. The internal investigation concluded that the driver had a valid driver’s license appropriate for operation of the van, with no medical restrictions, during the time of employment with the town. He was trained on the safe operation of the van.
The van was utilized a number of times over the course of the summer program to transport children on field trips. Typically, it would be driven by the program supervisor or other full-time year-round staff. Two of the camp counselors (inclusive of the driver involved in the accident) also performed some driving duties when needed. The driver involved in the accident had driven three times prior to August 10.
The miscommunication within the Kittery Community Center appears to have occurred late in 2017 when there was an effort to enhance the documentation of the protocols for hiring of the KCC staff. The effort produced a detailed hiring and onboarding checklist that was developed with the former KCC Director and Human Resources. It was known that both the KCC and Human Resources were responsible for different parts of the hiring and onboarding process. The checklist did not specify who was responsible for each part of the process.
The KCC has historically performed the driving background checks and Human Resources has historically performed the general background check. The background check conducted by Human Resources included a Social Security trace, County Criminal Court Search, Sex Offender Registry, National Criminal Database, Terrorist Watch List. Because the job description did not include driving as a duty, the requirement to collect the driving record was not apparent during the hiring and onboarding process.
The driving duties were identified/assigned by the KCC staff after the hiring and onboarding process occurred based on the needs of the program.
The internal investigation concluded that the court record review protocols, in place since 2014, only captured the county in which an applicant presently resides, resulting in a limited and narrow review of court actions involving applicants. The town did run a national criminal background check on all seasonal employees including the van driver, however no convictions on the driver were returned.
The national criminal database is proprietary and did not contain a record of the convictions.
We are developing and implementing an action plan to resolve the issues identified in the investigation. This includes reviewing and clearly documenting responsibilities for each part of the hiring and onboarding process for each department (inclusive of the KCC); reviewing all job descriptions to ensure they properly list when driving responsibilities are or may be part of the job duties; and reviewing the background check service plan, InforME, and other states’ services (e.g.: New Hampshire) to determine what combination will provide the most complete picture of applicants. In the immediate term, we have enhanced the level of background checks for new hires including a full driving record review.
We are also reviewing the SAFE Summer Program to determine what changes to the program offerings should occur such as utilizing only contractors for transportation, and the distance and timing of field trips. We are reviewing our handling of the emergency and identifying changes to the transportation tracking and notification process for parents, in an effort to speed up communications in case of an emergency.
I am committed to addressing the issues identified and making sure we are taking every possible step to provide safe and engaging programs at the KCC. If you have any questions or wish to discuss this, please do not hesitate to contact me at 207-475-1329 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kendra Amaral Town Manager