City says background checks have improved after questionable hires

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Richmond’s Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall is currently reviewing the case of a former city employee who resigned from her job with the Department of Public Utilities days after she was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia for corruption.

Raytosha Elliott’s resignation comes seven months after another city employee, Richmond’s former Finance Director Dominic Ochei, told us he was fired after CBS6 raised questions about his background.

City spokeswoman Tammy Hawley said the city has improved its background investigation process since then, but after learning about Raytosha Elliott, City Council Member Jon Baliles wonders if those improvements are enough.

“We need to make sure that instances like this don’t happen too often,” Baliles said.

CBS6 told you on Friday that Elliott began working for the city of Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities in November as an Operations Manager, but resigned one week ago just days after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Georgia indicted her for taking kickbacks while working for the Georgia Department of Defense.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleged Elliott received kickbacks to steer contracts to companies run by her friends who never did the work.

When CBS6’s Melissa Hipolit requested an interview with Marshall about Elliott, Hawley wrote this in an email:

“Byron has asked DPU for some additional information that he wishes to review related to this matter, and until his review is done, he won’t be speaking to any specific incident,” Hawley wrote.

Angela Fountain, a spokeswoman from Richmond’s DPU, said she can’t comment on specific individuals, but said Elliott’s position with Richmond did not involve awarding contracts.

“There are no direct procuring activities involved in this position,” Fountain said.

According to a DPU newsletter from December, Elliott did “assist” with procurement activities.

Fountain said all new hires undergo criminal background checks and three reference checks.

“If those methods do not generate anything that causes us concern, then that’s basically what we depend upon,” Fountain said.

It does not appear that prior to the indictment, Elliot had a criminal history that would have been picked up by a background check, however, a simple Google search reveals some serious red flags about her employment history in the state of Georgia.

In fact, Georgia’s Department of Administrative Services banned Elliott from practicing business in the state for 18 months.

When CBS6’s Melissa Hipolit asked Fountain if Google searches are ever part of DPU’s hiring process, Fountain said, “we only use industry standard methods to do background checks.”

Baliles said it is clearly time for the city to add Google into the mix.

“Employers today check Facebook pages before they hire someone, and we need to broaden our base, not just from government agencies, but also from Facebook and Google…you can find out a lot, it’s kind of scary,” Baliles said.

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