Posted: 2011/10/8 12:10 Updated: 2011/10/8 12:10
About Background Checks
Sticking this here, because it seems like as good a place as any.
For a couple of years now, WhosPlayin has been conducting background checks on local political candidates. I want to fully disclose this for a few reasons:
1. Candidates for public office should either be clean or should have some good amount of time since their "youthful indiscretions". The public deserves to know what the record says.
2. Candidates or would-be candidates deserve fair notice, and should have the opportunity to decide ahead of time whether they want their business out there for the community at large to see. They should have an opportunity to comment on disputed items.
3. I'm not a professional investigator, and there are some limitations to what I can find.
We use a variety of online sources, including paid searches from commercial online information clearinghouses. We also use government information, such as PACER for federal courts, Texas DPS Criminal History search, and County court records. The nature of it is that you can't find what you don't think to search for, and not everything is available online. Since one of the services I use has national coverage, I don't usually individually search records from other states and locales unless I have reason to believe I'll find something. So it's entirely possible, though not very likely that I could miss something from another state.
We tend to err on the side of caution, because many people out there have similar or identical names. So, we try to check records against full names, birthdates, and known locales. When in doubt, we exclude the information and try to find more details. Sometimes I make information requests from government agencies when more information is needed.
Sometimes when I find something, I just simply ask the person to comment. Surprisingly, some of the candidates think they can just ignore it and it will go away. If you are a candidate, and I've contacted you about your history with a specific question, it's safe to assume that I've found something, and am gathering more information. It's your chance to give your side of the story and make sure that you are heard, and have an opportunity to dispute something when you think we may have it wrong. Candor and honesty go a long way towards reassuring the public that your record doesn't reflect who you currently are. Or you can just ignore my phone calls and emails. It's your campaign and your choice. We do have a deletion policy that we're in process of getting fully implemented.
Lastly, minor things like traffic tickets are generally ignored unless there is a serious problem with them, or they indicate any sort of hypocrisy. Almost every driver has managed to get one, even if they are generally a good driver. We also know that plenty of bad drivers don't get enough of them. But a small number of them spread out over time doesn't really reflect badly on the ability to serve, in my opinion.
So, to recap:
- I could miss something.
- I probably won't post something serious unless I've got absolute proof in my hands, and I usually will make an effort to contact for comment.
- If I post it, I usually have a government document in my hands to back it up.
- Bad stuff eventually gets deleted from the blog.
If you want to help out, you can donate a few bucks to the fund (not tax-deductable) that we use to pay for access to background check services or copies of public records. (See donation link in the side menu.) If you are good with research and have time to make trips to the courthouse for documents that are not online, you could volunteer. (email firstname.lastname@example.org) And of course, as always if you disagree or think we got it wrong, feel free to leave comments on the article.
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