By Patrick Winderl
Hill County will begin doing background checks for more of its potential employees. The checks will be done as part of a pre-employment screening process.
Deputy county attorney Cyndee Peterson, who is the county's personnel officer, said the checks will not done on every applicant, but only on those applying for certain positions. Jobs that require working with money, like those in the offices of the county auditor and treasurer, will be among those requiring background checks.
Right now the Hill County Sheriff's Office is the only county office that requires background checks as a condition of employment. The investigations are done by the state and must be requested.
The background checks will be done to discover any criminal convictions that could disqualify a candidate for employment. The county will not use information about criminal charges against potential employees unless they resulted in a conviction, Peterson said.
The background checks will be conducted by the Montana Department of Justice, Undersheriff Don Brostrom said. The department will only search for convictions in Montana. Each search will cost $8.
Peterson also has recommended that the county use a different company to perform drug tests for county employees. During a meeting with the County Commission on Tuesday, Peterson said a Chinook company has offered to provide the tests for less than half the cost the county now pays. Changing companies also would allow faster results for urine testing, Peterson said.
Employees of Hill County are now tested by a company in Billings, Peterson said. Urine samples are taken at Northern Montana Hospital and sent to the Chemnet Consortium lab in Billings. The tests, which cost $28 apiece, are paid for by the county. It takes two to seven days for the results to return.
Hi-Line Monitoring has offered to provide the tests for $12 apiece, Peterson said. In addition to saving money, having the tests done locally will speed test results, she said. Instead of waiting for a response from Billings, tests performed in Havre would provide immediate results.
Hi-Line Monitoring will use strip tests, in which a small strip of plastic is inserted in a urine sample. A change in the strip's colors indicates the presence of drugs or alcohol.
If a positive result is indicated, the urine sample must be sent to a lab for confirmation and to determine what substance was detected, Peterson said. That would cost the county an additional $6 for each submitted sample.
Hill County requires drug testing for all potential employees, for employees suspected of drug use, and on a random basis for everyone who receives a county paycheck.