Former Nature Center employee passed background checks
Published 1:04 am, Thursday, February 11, 2010
The former New Canaan Nature Center employee who was fired in April when child pornography was found on his work computer passed two background checks before he was hired, according to Director Laura Heckman.
All Nature Center job candidates must pass criminal and sex offender background checks before they can be hired, Heckman said.
"This person passed both," she said.
The computer on which child porn was found had been assigned to a male property maintenance worker whose job duties, according to Nature Center attorney Matthew Maddox, did not put him in contact with Nature Center students.
The employee was hired in early 2009 and terminated in April 2009 after a fellow Nature Center employee reported that the employee had pornography on his designated computer.
The employee was led off the property on the day of the incident and terminated the following day via mail, Heckman said. The employee has not since been allowed to return to the Nature Center property, she said.
The case is under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Bridgeport, according to Maddox.
Maddox, who said the former employee is in his mid to late-50s and is not a New Canaan resident, did not release the employee's name or any information about the format of the amount of pornography, since the federal investigation is still pending.
Maddox and Heckman both said that they are looking for answers as to why an arrest has not been made 10 months into the investigation.
"The Nature Center has been, and I have been, extremely, extremely anxious to see this investigation move forward," Maddox has said, adding, "[We have] made dozens and dozens of phone calls ... to the people conducting the investigation pressing for an arrest.
"There is no case of greater magnitude than this one, but the agent who is in charge has been involved in lots of other cases and it's my inference that this one hasn't been given top priority."
Heckman agreed: "It's very frustrating. It's a concern of ours [that he is still out there]."
She added, "We sat down with preschool parents and informed them of the investigation after it happened," Heckman said. "The parent body, of course, they were alarmed at first, but they have been very supportive."
New Canaan resident Dutch Doscher, whose 3-year-old daughter is enrolled in preschool at the Nature Center, said that he feels that his daughter is safe in the program.
"I feel like my daughter is safe there," Doscher said, adding, "I think they did the right thing -- the guy was out of there that day. The fact that he's still out there is disturbing, but it's not the Nature Center's fault that this guy is still running around out there."
The Nature Center is a not-for-profit environmental education center funded by its programs and events, membership dues and private donations.
Possession of child pornography is a felony punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
U.S. Attorney's Office Spokesman Tom Carson would not confirm or comment on the case.