Report: Bozeman Hiring Policy Wasn’t Voluntary

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – An investigator says candidates for city jobs in Bozeman were asked to provide login codes for e-mail and social networking Web sites such as Facebook as part of a background check — and that giving such information was required.

According to a city form, applicants were asked to list “any and all current personal or business Web sites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums,” including Facebook and MySpace.

The practice started for police and fire department job applicants, but eventually applicants in other departments were also asked to sign a waiver giving permission to check social networking sites.

The city suspended the policy in June after intense public criticism and hired Missoula attorney Michele Puiggari to investigate. She was paid $8,000.

Puiggari said in her report released Friday that city employees made inaccurate and misleading statements to the Bozeman City Commission at a June 22 meeting. The report said commissioners were told that providing such information was voluntary, when in fact it was required.

But the investigation found that those statements stemmed from miscommunication, incorrect assumptions and a lack of knowledge about the processes involved.

City Manager Chris Kukulski said he was unaware that the city had asked for e-mail and other online account information until after the June 22 meeting, when he requested copies of forms involved with background checks. He said that at the meeting, he had simply told the commission what staff had told him.

“The information I gave I believed was true at the time I gave it, but learned later it wasn’t as precise as when I said it,” Kukulski said. “I’m sure there’s a lot to take from this and learn from it.”

Mayor Kaaren Jacobson said Friday that city staff “simply got carried away” in their desire to hire the best people possible.

“I don’t see any unsavory intent here,” she said.

Commissioners received the report earlier this week and will hold a public hearing on the matter Oct. 12.

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