KITTERY, Maine — Driving record checks were entirely left out of the hiring process for this year’s Kittery Community Center summer camp staff, according to the town’s internal investigation into the hiring of a counselor who crashed a mini-bus carrying 11 children earlier this month.
In addition, the court record check conducted by the town’s human resources department only included the county of residence for the applicant, a narrow review of possible criminal history.
Thirteen people, including 11 children under age 10, were sent to the hospital when the KCC’s SAFE program van crashed on Interstate 95 in Greenland Aug. 10, while on its way to a day trip at Candia Springs Adventure Park. One child suffered life-threatening injuries, according to state police, but all have since been released from area hospitals.
New Hampshire State Police believe the driver, John Guy, 21, of Kittery, a KCC summer camp counselor, experienced a medical emergency while behind the wheel. Guy was placed on leave pending the conclusion of both the town and state police investigations.
Following the crash, court documents and driving records revealed a past that included two convictions of driving to endanger, three instances of operating after suspension, two instances of failure to display valid inspection sticker and two speeding violations in 2013 and 2015. In addition, Guy told court officials in York District Court he had a history of epilepsy and grand mal seizures, as well as recent involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Town officials and police have declined to release details about the medical emergency they say Guy suffered, possibly leading to the crash. It is not clear what, if anything, the town knew about Guy’s epilepsy.
But the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles was provided with enough information to issue an indefinite license suspension to Guy effective Aug. 13, after receiving an adverse report of driving, according to Kristen Muszynski, spokeswoman for the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.
The results of Kittery’s internal investigation, conducted by Interim Police Chief Don O’Halloran, were released Friday, and show an effort to enhance documentation for hiring KCC staff in 2017 did not specify who was responsible for each part of the process. As a result, statewide driving record reviews were left out for all summer camp staff this year.
In her report to the families of those affected by the crash, Town Manager Kendra Amaral said aside from the driving check, there were no other irregularities in the hiring process of Guy. Some details, she said, cannot be released due to legal restrictions regarding personnel information.
“The internal investigation concluded that the driver had a valid driver’s license appropriate for operation of the van (a 2010 GMC Savana transport van), with no medical restrictions, during the time of employment with the town,” she said. “He was trained on the safe operation of the van.”
Amaral said the SAFE program van was typically driven by a program supervisor or other full-time year-round staff, but on occasion, camp counselors performed driving duties when needed. Guy had driven three times prior to the Aug. 10 accident, Amaral said.
Amaral said the discrepancy within the KCC likely occurred in late 2017 during a revamp of protocols for hiring. The KCC is the town’s recreation department.
“The effort produced a detailed hiring and on-boarding checklist that was developed with the former KCC Director (Janice Grady) and human resources,” Amaral said. “It was known that both the KCC and human resources were responsible for different parts of the hiring and on-boarding process. The checklist did not specify who was responsible for each part of the process.”
As a result, the driving checks were not conducted. Amaral said historically, the KCC performed the driving check and human resources performed the general background check, which included a Social Security trace, county criminal court search, sex offender registry, national criminal database and terrorist watch list.
“Because the job description did not include driving as a duty,” Amaral wrote, “the requirement to collect the driving record was not apparent during the hiring and on-boarding process.”
According to the state of Maine, licensed child-care facilities are responsible for completing background checks on all employees and volunteers, including a Bureau of Motor Vehicles check. However, a driving check is only required for individuals responsible for transporting children.
In addition to his driving violations, Guy had a few minor run-ins with the law in South Portland over the last two years, including a guilty plea in May to violating condition of release stemming from a Jan. 18 arrest. Amaral said the investigation found the court record review only captures the county in which the applicant resides, “resulting in a limited and narrow review of court actions involving applicants.”
A national criminal background check did not return any convictions either, Amaral said.
Moving forward, the town is developing and implementing an action plan to resolve the issues identified by the investigation. The plan includes reviewing and documenting responsibilities for each part of the hiring process for each town department, reviewing all job descriptions to ensure they properly list when driving responsibilities are or may be part of job duties, and reviewing the background check service plan (InforME) and other states’ services to determine what combination will provide the most complete picture of applicants.
Amaral said “in the immediate term,” the town has enhanced the level of background checks for new hires including a full driving record review.
The town will also review the KCC SAFE program to determine if contractors only should handle transportation, and the distance and timing of field trips.
“We are reviewing our handling of the emergency and identifying changes to the transportation tracking and notification process for parents, in an effort to speed up communications in case of an emergency,” Amaral said.
In conclusion, Amaral told parents she is committed to addressing the identified issues. When reached for comment Friday, she said her approach in getting out as much information as possible “is what the community deserves.”
Amaral confirmed Guy’s seasonal employment ended Aug. 24. Guy has not returned requests for comment.
New Hampshire State Police Lt. John Hennessey said their investigation into the crash is still ongoing.
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