University Hires Sports Info Director, Fires Him Two Hours Later After Local Paper Googles His Name

from the google-is-your-friend dept

It’s sometimes amazing to me how many organizations have so much trouble with background checks. Granted, there’s a lot to look through, and you don’t want to inadvertently overstep the bounds of reasonableness. That said, it seems to me it’s common practice these days to at least run a name through a Google search and make sure nothing horribly damning comes up as a result. I plan on doing this with my future children, in fact, shortly after I name them, just to make sure they weren’t up to any gangster crap while in the womb.

Actually, given this recent story about the University of Great Falls in Montana involving their hiring of a Sports Information Director and then firing him after a local paper Googled his name, perhaps there’s a business opportunity in all this.

UGF, whose athletic programs compete in the NAIA, introduced [Todd] Brittingham as the school’s new SID and marketing director in a news release. The Great Falls Tribune set out to learn more about him. Presumably they first searched his name. Presumably they found what anyone can find, on the first page of the search results—stories from 2012 about Brittingham pleading guilty to charges stemming from a relationship with a 16-year-old student at the Kansas high school where he was teaching and coaching.

In the end, Brittingham copped a plea to endangering a child and giving alcohol to a minor in exchange for the drop of felony diddling a child charges. Justice! In any case, as you can imagine, the university wasn’t terribly pleased at learning about this and fired Brittingham post-haste.

Gary Ehnes, athletic director at UGF, said he was stunned by the news. He said he was the one responsible for the hire.

“I’m devastated. You do a background check on a guy and figure that’s going to do it. But I guess we have to go further than that,” Ehnes said.

Go further? No, a Google search isn’t going further than a background check, a background check is going further than a Google search. You probably shouldn’t move to step two until you complete step one, especially when step one is the first thing we all do before going on a first date. That’s why I’m thinking of opening Timothy Geigner’s Step One Background Checks. Think of the money! I can contract with unwitting public institutions to perform simple Google searches for prospective employees. Sounds ridiculous, but there’s obviously a need for this service, and for once it’s a business need I can actually fulfill. Capitalism, people!

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Companies: google, university of great falls

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Comments on “University Hires Sports Info Director, Fires Him Two Hours Later After Local Paper Googles His Name”

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20 Comments
John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s possible, but not always very easy. If you’re checking into applicants, Google a name, and have a bunch of nasty things come up, what are you going to do? Spend the next few hours trying to make sure it’s the same person as you’re checking on, or roundfile the application and move on to the next one? Most will do the latter.

This isn’t a new problem with the internet, though. I have a very common name, and every time I changed my phone number or moved, I’ve spent the next six months fielding calls from PIs and collection agencies looking for other people who happen to share my name.

Nick (profile) says:

I get a job that required a background check, extensive record of living and work history with no gaps, and a drug test, and it’s a job that only requires high school graduation.

This guy pled guilty to various crimes, and skates in to a DIRECTORS job. And it wasn’t because they didn’t care about it, since they fired him once they knew…

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And it wasn’t because they didn’t care about it, since they fired him once they knew…

Technically, all we know is that they fired him once the paper found out about it. It’s possible the university already knew / didn’t care, but did care about the negative publicity from the story and fired him because of that. (Baseless speculation of course, Occam’s razor applies here.)

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Candidate for high profile job isn’t Googled and is hired.

Yet we hear about lowly people being Googled and not getting the job because some HR person thought there were to many party pictures.

One also wonders what fallout for the actual background firm they used who should have disclosed ANYTHING about that case.

But then most background data is flawed as there is no system in place to fix it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Google is dangerous to employers

As crazy as it may sound, there are two MAJOR reason why employers would be smart to stay away from Google when performing a background check:

1. This has been touched on a little bit, but information found on the Internet is not always reliable. If you make a hiring decision (or non-hiring decision) based on incorrect or faulty information, you could be liable. Plus, if something as simple as a picture of you drunk and partying in Mexico could sway a company against you, would you want them to see it?

2. This is a big one, and I’m surprised no one has mentioned it yet. There is certain information that employers CANNOT know about an applicant, or they risk being taken to court for discrimination. This includes the age of the applicant, nationality, sexual orientation, arrest (not conviction) record, and even criminal records — if the offense is more than seven years old. All of that can be found fairly easily and even accidentally, using Google. If it became known that the employer had access to that information before denying someone a job, again — they could end up in court, and most likely lose.

Most conscientious HR departments are fully aware of these pitfalls, and as annoying as they are, comply with the privacy restrictions put in the FCRA to protect applicants from over-zealous employers who might decide to use Google as a background check source, or Facebook, or random website forums, or … well, you get the idea.

R.H. (profile) says:

Age of Consent in Kansas

The reason that he was able plead to lesser charges may have been, assuming your summary identifying the girl as being 16 years old is accurate, the fact that, in the state of Kansas, he wasn’t committing statutory rape or, as you said, ‘diddling a child ‘. According to Kansas state law, the age of consent is 16.

It doesn’t make me feel good making this correction but, I feel wrong when I know something is incorrect and I don’t say anything.

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