Sex offender worked at a school

An Eyewitness News Exclusive
March 17, 2009 3:49:23 PM PDT
A Long Island security firm is now under investigation by the state, and the Hempstead School District has suspended their contract with the company as the result of an Eyewitness News Investigation. One problem is the length of time it takes for the state to run fingerprints on a security guard. It can take months and during that lag time the law says a security firm can put a guard to work, but you'd think they would at least check the state's sex offender registry and the same for schools who rely on these firms.

Rodney Richardson admits that he is registered level three sex offender.

Richardson was convicted in Freeport, Long Island, for first-degree sex abuse of a minor deviate sexual intercourse. And yet, Eyewitness News found that he'd been hired by Arrow Security in Bohemia, assigned to Hempstead Middle School. He sees nothing wrong with that.

Eyewitness News Reporter Sarah Wallace: "Are you supposed to be working at a school?"
Richardson: "I'm not working at a school around children.There's no kids there. It's adult education at night from six to 10 p.m."

But Freeport's police chief Michael Woodward sees everything wrong with that.

Wallace:"Your reaction to the fact he was working at a school."
Woodward:"Horrified, it disgusts me."
Wallace: "So when he says it's after hours? Your position?"
Woodward: "Doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, it's still a school facility."

The chief says Richardson may be in trouble for not reporting to Freeport police he had a new job.

But the bigger issue, how did Richardson get hired at the security firm in the first place, and then get posted at a school. Officials at the security firm say the law allows them to hire guards temporarily while the Department of State in Albany runs their fingerprints through the system. But that process can take months.

"We called in his social security number. At that point, New York state gave us clearance to hire him," said the attorney for the security firm, William Goode.

Wallace: "Business-wise, does it make sense to put someone out there if you don't know yet if they have a criminal background?"
Goode: "We assumed he didn't have a criminal background when we got the okay to hire him from Albany."

Arrow Security never checked the sex offender registry.

"We assumed New York state would be doing that. It has been our policy, since you have come to us with this story, we've enacted that for our company," said Goode.

Tuesday, the Hempstead School District released the following statement: "Arrow Security guaranteed the district that all security guards would be screened and licensed before performing security services for the school district.The superintendent has directed that the district immediately discontinue the service of Arrow Security."

"To be honest with you, by New York state law, I don't have to put down anything over a 10-year period of time," said Richardson.

Richardson said that he wasn't required to put down his sex offense conviction because it was more than 10 years ago,but the state form is clear there's no time frame. It says: "Have you been convicted in this state or elsewhere of any criminal offense that is a misdemeanor of a felony?"

Woodward: "A security guard position requires that irrespective of when it occurred, you still have to list it."
Wallace: "Security firm should have checked?"
Woodward: "Absolutely."

The state caught up with Richardson's criminal history through his fingerprints. Nearly two months after he was hired by Arrow he was denied a security license by the state.He was then fired by the firm, leaving a lot of questions.

Wallace: "So, for two months he's out there."
Goode: "Correct."
Wallace:"There could be other guys in the same situation who are also out there like that."
Goode: "Yes."
Wallace: "Is that troublesome?"
Goode: "To me, yes."

The Department of State says it is now looking into Arrow's business practices, and notes there is a history of disciplinary problems with the firm, including a year-long suspension for hiring unregistered guards. They have also been fined tens of thousands of dollars in the past.