Arrest of sex offender found umpiring games raises questions

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The recent case of a convicted sex offender found umpiring girls’ softball games in Hueytown raises some questions.

Firstly, how can a registered sex offender be hired to work with children?

CBS42 learned Tuesday that background checks on umpires in youth sports don’t generally happen.

CBS42’s Sherri Jackson spoke with a member of a Parks and Recreation Board who says they leave it up to the hiring organization who often asks for consent to do the background check.

Among the tools used to gather news in the CBS42 News Room is a program that checks court records and convictions.

The rap sheet on Fred Allen Thomas III stands up, but there are some free services available to anyone through the county sheriff’s office that show Thomas is a registered sex offender.

Jackson talked with John Engh at the National Alliance for Youth Sports about the necessity to follow through on the promise of background checks.

“Whether it’s a volunteer organization or city using the fields, it’s like a workplace. You may say you are going to do resume checks and check references, but you have to follow through or this is what happens,” Engh said.

Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale says they educate registered sex offenders about the rules. He says if there is a reasonable expectation that they will come in contact with children for their employment, they are not allowed to perform that job.

“If there is a reasonable expectation that children will be in the area or come in contact with them for their employment, they cannot do it,” Hale said. “They sign for it, they’re explained to it, the deputies are available to answer their questions, and so we’ve given the sex offender every opportunity to be knowledgeable.”

However, in Thomas’ case, that choice was left up to him, and he failed to present himself as a registered sex offender to those responsible for utilizing him as an umpire.

“I hate to say it, but there’s no excuse now to not be able to look that information up,” Engh said.

CBS42 also learned that for middle school and high school sports in Alabama, umpires and referees are considered independent contractors.

Therefore, no background checks are run.

To visit the National Alliance of Youth Sports Volunteer Agreements Form and best practices for organizations involving children and sports, click here.

2014 WIAT-TV CBS42

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