Lawmakers Call Ohio Background Check System 'A Scandal'

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10 Investigates, joined by the Columbus Dispatch, uncovered holes and problems with Ohio Criminal Background Check system earlier this month.

The joint investigation showed criminals were being wrongly identified as having no record, fingerprints went missing from the state’s database in some cases for at least six months,  and other issues that neither the public nor law enforcement were aware of.

Senate discussions included some of the complicated issues involving the state’s background check system.  However, today’s discussions involved three main issues:

  • Employees working with the background check system complained of technical problems for years.
  • There are thousands of missing criminal records.
  • Hundreds of people mis-identified as having no criminal record when they actually did.

10 Investigates revealed 3 years of employee emails and IT help desk tickets from inside the Attorney Generals Office. Employees describe the state criminal background check system they run as having "widespread issues" and "getting ugly" They frustratingly write "THIS IS STILL HAPPENING" in all caps when the system repeatedly went down.

This system keeps police officers informed of criminals on the streets and tells school districts and daycare whether they are hiring criminals. Two Democratic State Senators reacted to what 10 Investigates revealed, and repeatedly used one word to describe it.

"There was quite a scandal surrounding that,” said Toledo Democratic State Senator Edna Brown. Columbus Democratic State Senator Charleta Tavares also called the situation a “scandal.”

In his reaction, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper took it a step further.

“It's time for an immediate independent review of this critical function, including an audit of all relevant documents and emails, so we have a transparent accounting of the scope of the problem," Pepper said.

After taking heat from lawmakers, Attorney General Mike DeWine admitted to reporters that thousands of criminal court records are missing. He says it's local courts responsibility and that there are far fewer missing records since he took office.

"The easiest way probably to get to that is for us to tie in to the Ohio Supreme Court's network. They however, do not get everyone, but they are getting a higher percentage than we're getting,” DeWine said.

Attorney General DeWine adds that his office will "soon" look into a complete overhaul of the computer network forming the backbone of the criminal background check system.

DeWine described the situation as, "A problem that's plagued Ohio and every other state for years. We're getting there. We're not where we want to be."

DeWine as among a long list of state officials who went to state lawmakers today to ask for money in their next budget. 10 Investigates asked him how much money he believed it would take to fix the system's various problems.

The Attorney General's Office says they already budgeted for fixes, they don't need additional funds. 
As for the cost? Specific numbers were not available. 

During his testimony, the Attorney General repeatedly told lawmakers that there were 195 cases where they mistakenly told employers that the people they were trying to hire had no criminal record when they actually did.

However, that number is only the total in 2014.

10 Investigates asked for cases going back to 2012 and received a much longer list, amounting to an estimated 1,100 cases of mistaken identity.