EMU fires sex offenders

Two Eastern Michigan University employees were fired two weeks ago because of past convictions of criminal sexual conduct, according to documents obtained by The Eastern Echo under the Freedom of Information Act.

EMU employed both at the time of their crimes, and the employees were on the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry.

In 1998, one of the employees was convicted of criminal sexual conduct with the intent to commit sexual penetration. Because the convicted do not need to alert their employers, EMU officials did not become aware of the offense until 2006. The employee served his jail time on weekends, from September 1998 to April 1999, while continuing his duties at work during the week.

According to Craig Reidsma, director of employment at EMU, the university currently has no written policy on how to deal with employees who are convicted of a crime. He said the university is considering implementing periodic background checks.

“We’re constantly reforming and reevaluating our policies and processes,” Reidsma said.

He said currently each situation is handled on a case-by-case basis: A formal investigation is conducted, and then a meeting is held between human resources and the department in which the accused is employed, to determine whether the convicted can remain employed.

“We try to ensure due process,” said Dave Trakul, EMU’s director of employee relations and policy.

When EMU found out about the 1998 conviction of the employee, a meeting was held with Trakul, the employee, his manager and the union president. It was determined the employee could keep his job.

On Jan. 13, 2010, the university terminated the employee.

In October, The Eastern Echo, led by reporter Andrea Lorfel, launched an investigation into the university’s policies regarding the employment of sex offenders. Reidsma and Trakul said the investigation is what brought the issue to their attention; the university then decided to reassess the employment statuses of the two employees.

Reidsma said it’s not the policy that has changed, but the people and culture at the university. “We’re more stringent in application of discipline on that subject.”

Trakul added that today there’s a greater focus on safety.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3866, which represents the former employees, has challenged the terminations.

“My job is to represent the terminated employees and make sure that nothing illegal was done in terminating their jobs as long as they continue to pay their union dues,” union president Nick Graham said.

Additional reporting by Andrea Lorfel

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