By Samantha Smith
Discussions on possibly adding background checks to Buda board and commission applications hit the Buda City Council dais last week.
While the background check idea was indefinitely tabled by council, amending board and commission applications to possibly include voter registration status could be on the horizon.
The discussion on background checks for civil service applications was proposed by council member David Nuckels at an earlier meeting. Nickels cited requirements for potential city staffers to pass a background check before being offered a position.
Nuckels said the background check would have been an “additional tool for helping council members make more informed decisions” during board and commission appointments. He also said it would have allowed for full disclosure and “greater transparency” in the process.
“I don’t think they should be treated any differently than anyone else who works for the city and represents the city in public,” Nuckels said at an earlier meeting.
The topic sparked debate amongst council members as to the necessity of such an addition.
Council member Eileen Altmiller opposed the suggestion to add a background check to the existing application for boards and commission appointments. Altmiller said members of those commissions and boards have limited or zero interaction with the public.
“I guess I’m more concerned about making sure as a council we get our house in order before we start investigating people who want to be on a commission,” Altmiller said.
Council member Angela Kennedy held similar sentiments to Altmiller’s.
“I think we’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” Kennedy said.
Mayor Pro Tem Wiley Hopkins agreed with council member Nuckels, saying he would be interested in the application reflecting an applicant’s prior arrest record or criminal background.
Mayor Todd Ruge said if city council decided in favor of including background checks on board and commission applicants, records would be subject to open records requests and could be viewed by anyone.
“I think that’s opening up a huge can of worms,” Ruge said.
Ruge instead suggested board and commission applications could be amended to include whether or not an applicant is a registered voter, which is a requirement for prospective city council members already.
Ruge said asking about an applicant’s voter registration status would satisfy the need to know an applicant’s criminal background since registered felons are not allowed to vote.
It could also prevent an unnecessary intrusion on an applicant’s personal information, he said.
“We are still a small enough town where everyone knows each other, so it’s just not the right direction,” Ruge said.
An item on amending board and commission applicants could appear at the April 19 city council meeting. Discussion could include possibly adding voter registration status, and how long an applicant has been a citizen of Buda.