Bingham said responsibility for performing past background checks rested with Ellison and his then-boss, former juvenile court Judge James Payne.
Payne left the juvenile court post in early 2005 to head the Indiana Department of Child Services, the agency responsible for protecting Indiana's children. Eleven of the 24 found to have criminal records were hired after Payne left office, including five since Bingham's appointment in April.
Bingham blamed confusion during the leadership transition for the lack of checks on some recent hires.
Payne said Friday that all workers hired under his tenure underwent background checks. "Everybody who was employed went through the county personnel . . . and the policy was that everybody went through a criminal check," he said. "I don't know that anyone could have slipped through."
Payne acknowledged that the center had hired some workers with criminal histories and said that was done with knowledge of their ecords. (emphasis added)
"In juvenile court, we believed in rehabilitation, and we looked at those offenses as part of that," he said. "I know we had some people there with criminal records. But those criminal records -- some of those were long ago; others were so minor as to be insignificant."
Thirteen of the workers with criminal records were hired during Payne's tenure, including Robertson.
In the case of Gates Robertson, the guard charged with drug possession, Payne's policy allowed him to be hired as a guard in spite of three prior criminal convictions, including battery, criminal conversion and theft/receiving stolen property.
In an editorial today, the Star demands that Judge Payne publicly account for his role in creating the mess at the juvenile detention center. The editorial reads, in part:
The judges and administrators responsible for overseeing the detention center must be held accountable. And that accountability should start with former juvenile court Judge James Payne, now head of the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Payne ran the detention center and the juvenile court for nearly two decades before Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed him to manage DCS in December 2004. As the juvenile court judge, Payne developed a well-deserved reputation as a micromanager. Yet, on his watch convicts were hired to guard children and criminal background checks apparently were rare or nonexistent.
In his current role, Payne is responsible for managing Indiana's child protection and foster care services. The current revelations are quickly eroding public trust in his abilities.
Payne needs to come forward immediately with a thorough explanation of how the mess at the detention center developed and why he did not confront it.
The Star editorial position is a reversal from a position at least one editorial writer, Rishawn Biddle, had prior to yesterday's development, who defended the newspaper against AI's criticism that the Star's editorial series this past week had failed to call Judge Payne to account for his role in creating the problems. Biddle, responding then to AI's criticism, wrote:
You may be right to question whether he who heads DCS should be the one to do so. But that's not the question at the heart of the series -- laser focus is key to explaining an issue at times -- and therefore it didn't come up.
AI is glad to see the Star come around to our thinking on this matter. Even Rishawn is urging Payne to offer an explanation for his actions today.