An applicant with a criminal record is still eligible for hire at a DC homeless shelter if there's no felony conviction within the last 10 years. An alleged child abductor fit this description.
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- At the homeless shelter at D.C. General, children outnumber adults, according to Jamila Larson.
Larson is the executive director of the Homeless Children's Playtime Project, which offers children programs at DC area shelters.
That's why she advocates for creating safe environments at the shelters. Who the shelter hires will ultimately shape that environment.
The D.C. City Council's Committee on Human Services is looking into the hiring process and the overall conditions at D.C. General.
The District contracts shelter operations to a non-profit called The Community Partnership, or TCP.
Recently testifying before the Human Services Committee, Sue Marshall, Executive Director of TCP, said they use a third party firm to conduct background checks on applicants.
"They do a check against federal criminal records, national sex offender registry and for every county or jurisdiction which the prospective employee has lived - they do a seven year check," Marshall said.
The D.C. Department of Human Services tells WUSA9 that a background check of Kahlil Tatum, the alleged abductor of missing 8-year-old Relisha Rudd and former janitor at the shelter, did reveal felony convictions that were at least 20- years-old, stemming back from the days his legal name was still Karl Lee Tatum.
Tatum had an extensive criminal record that included felony convictions of burglary, grand larceny and breaking and entering. He was convicted in 1983, 1986, 1987, 1991, 1993 and 2004.
DHS said an applicant with a criminal record is still eligible for hire if there's no felony conviction within the last 10 years.
"If it involves anything relating to a child it's an automatic exclusion," Michele Williams with DHS added.
Being a janitor is not a job that involves working with children but the nature of the job could bring one in close proximity to children.
Either way, Marshall says shelter employees are prohibited from having anything beyond a professional relationship with people living at the shelter.
"Frequent reports of this particular employee - Mr. Tatum - flirting with, maybe not flirting with but paying particular attention to children and gifts being bought for and trips being bought - if these statements are accurate, then one wonders how effective this policy is and how effective the supervision is?" asked Councilmember Jim Graham referring to reports that Tatum was known to shower children at the shelter with gifts and money.
DHS added, since it's not against the law to employ people with felony criminal records at the shelter, the type of felony and other relevant information is considered when making a hire but they do prohibit hiring people with pending charges.