I-Team: Convicted criminals working with or near kids

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CLEVELAND – The FOX 8 I-Team is raising new questions about the City of Cleveland’s hiring after we found convicted criminals working for the Parks and Rec Department and for Parks Maintenance and Property.

Mayor Frank Jackson has told us repeatedly he is proud of the city hiring people with criminal records and giving them second chances. And many council members and taxpayers support that. But the mayor could not tell us which jobs go to people with records even violent felonies.

The I-Team has now found employees working for the city's parks maintenance and property with records for involuntary manslaughter, rape, gross sexual imposition and unlawful sex with a minor.

We also found other parks and recreation workers convicted of aggravated vehicular assault, a drug trafficking charge, and receiving stolen property. Another busted last year was convicted for driving impaired and having a concealed weapon.

City officials say they don't keep specific records on employees with criminal backgrounds, and we’ve reported, the city, long ago, even stopped asking people if they have a felony record when they apply for work.

Last month, Mayor Frank Jackson told the I-Team, "We have people who have done time and committed some pretty heinous crimes.” He added, "They've come to work for the city of Cleveland, and they've done quite well."

Again, some city council members and residents say they are in favor of the program, believing people deserve a second chance, but they want to make sure workers with violent criminal histories are properly supervised .

We met Pastor Karlie Hale, of One Love Community Church, outside Cudell Rec Center. He says he prays that those convicted of past crimes get city jobs.

"Give them a chance as long as they are properly screened," Hale said.

The I-Team started investigating the city's second chance program after the arrest last month of Lance Mason, a former judge. He was hired by city hall after doing time for attacking his wife. He is now accused, years later, of killing his former wife.

The I-Team has previously reported that dozens of people with felony records work in the city's waste department.

When the mayor was asked what kind of restrictions the city places on those convicted of crimes, he responded that there is a state law that prohibits those convicted of certain crimes from working around children.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office says those convicted of crimes can work most jobs, but are prohibited from working in child care, or as certified in-home aides, unless certain conditions have been met.

The I-Team tried asking city officials for comment about the workers we found with criminal records in recreation centers and parks maintenance around children. We have not yet received a response.

We also met Bridgette Hale outside Cudell Rec Center. She told us she’s a convicted felon who had been hired by the city for seasonal work with a landscaping crew. Hale pointed out she is grateful for her second chance. But even she wonders about some people with criminal records around children.

Hale said, "The job was exactly what I needed, and I thank God. I believe Christ forgave me, and I had a second chance; I think people deserve a second chance."

But she added, "I am a mother, and someone violent, I would be concerned," she said.

**Continuing coverage on the I-Team investigation, here**

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