James Earl Williams was working as a girls’ basketball game officiant for the Granbury and Glen Rose school districts from late 2017 to early 2018.
In the fall of 2018, Williams was charged with failing to comply with sex offender registration when he failed to notify the police of his work as a referee. While in custody, he was also charged with the 2015 kidnapping and sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl.
These new charges, however, are not his first encounters with the criminal justice system (he was, of course, already a registered sex offender).
Imperative ran our Diligent Criminal Background Investigation on Williams and what we found doesn’t look good:
- *1987: Received deferred adjudication for theft of property.
- 1994: Convicted of “kidnapping with the intent to inflict bodily injury or subject the victim to a sexual offense” in Hawaii.
- 1999: Pled guilty to prostitution.
- 2001: Convicted of theft between $50 and $500.
- *2001: Charged with driving while license suspended but case dismissed in 2007 when he failed to appear in court and was not apprehended within six years.
- *2002: Violated protective order (in a domestic violence case); case was dismissed as part of a deal and he was ordered to pay costs of $176.
- 2016: Convicted of attempted kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl.
* Because these dismissed charges are more than 7 years old, they would not be reportable on a background check, per the FCRA. Of course, there’s plenty of reportable, and disqualifying, information without them.
By the time he began refereeing sports games for the school districts, Williams had already been twice-convicted for kidnapping young women.
Clearly, he should have never been hired for this position.
So, how was a registered sex offender allowed to referee girls’ basketball games?
A simple background check would have revealed Williams’ criminal history. Lucky for Williams though, when he was originally hired by the North Texas organization that sources and assigns referees for the school districts in question, a background check was never performed.
A representative of that organization, Larry Pollard, said that he “did ask the man several questions… [but] that did not include whether Williams had been convicted of a crime.”
Even if he was asked, who knows if Williams would have told the truth. Which is why the background check is such an important step in the screening process.
A background check should be used as a tool for verifying or disproving the information that a candidate provides to you. After all, if they lie to you walking through the door, can you really expect their behavior to change?
Unfortunately, this was not the only time that background checks were omitted in the hiring process.
Pollard regularly skipped over background checks for the officials he assigned to games, stating that “most are men and women that he’s known for years.”
Pollard did attempt to verify at least one of Williams’ claims, though.
Williams had previously claimed to be a member of the Fort Worth Basketball Officials Association, an organization that also happens to run background checks on their members.
“I asked guys in the Fort Worth Chapter if they knew him, they said yes. [He said that] he was a member and I just accepted that as fact.”
Plot twist, Williams was never a member of that organization.
But, it seems like Pollard has learned the importance of verifying candidate and employee backgrounds. He has since begun “gathering paperwork from all officials working with his group so that background checks can be run on each.”
Employer Lesson: Word of mouth is very powerful and hiring people who are vouched for by colleagues or trusted organizations is a common mistake made by many small and medium-sized employers.
But you shouldn’t wait until something bad happens to start reviewing your screening policies.
Watch our on-demand webinar Seven Steps to Making Bulletproof Hiring Decisions to learn how to create a thorough background screening process that starts before a candidate even walks through your door.
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