Aspen School District expands HR director’s background check
The Aspen School District is doing an updated criminal background check on its human resources director in the wake of revelations that she was indicted by a grand jury months before she started the job.
Superintendent Dr. John Maloy, responding to questions emailed last week from The Aspen Times, confirmed the school district launched a renewed background check after it received anonymous mail this summer reporting Elizabeth Hodges’ transgressions. The Aspen Times also initially learned about Hodges through an anonymous letter.
“The updated background check was initiated following the anonymous letter received on July 24, 2018 which was copied to you as well,” Maloy said in an email.
Maloy added that “the district will take it and all relevant, new or additional information under consideration.”
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Hodges began her first day as director of HR on July 1, 2016. Just over one month earlier, on May 31, 2016, she was served with a Kansas City, Missouri, grand jury indictment that led to her guilty plea to deceptive business practices in December 2016.
The school district was unaware of the indictment, which was issued in February 2016 and kept under seal until Hodges received it, until this summer.
Aspen School District’s policy on staff conduct states, “If, subsequent to beginning employment with the district, the district has good cause to believe that any staff member has been convicted of, pled nolo contendere to, or received a deferred or suspended sentence for any felony or misdemeanor other than a misdemeanor traffic offenses or infraction, the district shall make inquiries to the Department of Education for purposes of screening the employee.”
Had Hodges worked for another tax-supported entity, such as Pitkin County, she would have been required to report her indictment. According to county policy, “employees are required to report any arrest(s), conviction(s) for criminal violation(s)/ and/or all citations for moving violation(s) of six (6) points or more (such as speeding 20 mph over the limit or DUI) whether resulting from on or off duty conduct and whether or not occurring within the County.”
Dannette Logan, the county’s director of HR and risk management, said reporting arrests are simply a normal course of doing business. She did not speak about the Hodges matter.
“I can say in my experience with the county HR is that when an employee has been arrested, their manager will call in a panic and say: ‘What should I do?’” she said.
The School District had 30 applicants for the HR director opening, Maloy said, and Hodges accepted the post in early March 2016. Hodges also completed a background check, which included fingerprinting, in March 2016, according to Maloy.
Hodges accepted the job before she was served with the indictment and began her job after she was served with the indictment.
“Nine applicants were pre-screened and interviewed by a pre-screening interview team consisting of six team members,” Maloy said. “From these nine applicants, five names were forwarded to a final interview team consisting of 12 to 15 school and district employees. The finalists were invited to Aspen for additional interviews and individual meetings with district leadership team members. A final recommendation of the top candidate(s) was forwarded to the superintendent.”
The School District’s first choice for the job was not Hodges but another candidate who turned down an offer for the position, Maloy said.
“Ms. Hodges was the interview team’s second choice,” he said.
Hodges currently is on unsupervised probation out of Missouri; the conviction is related to her selling of a deceased couple’s Kia Soul to a dealership without reporting proceeds of the sale in their probate case. As an attorney, Hodges helped the couple with their estate planning.
The School District — based on statements Maloy and School Board President Sheila Wills have made to the Times — has said that Hodges has performed exceptionally as its HR director and that her background doesn’t have a bearing on her current job. Hodges has said she made honest mistakes while being caught in the cross hairs of a bitter family estate battle.
The Aspen Board of Education held its first formal meeting of the 2018-19 school year Aug. 28. The Hodges’ matter, which was reported by the Times on Aug. 25, was not mentioned during public or board member comments.
Multiple parents and School District staff members have spoken to the Times since the Aug. 25 article; however, none of them said they would speak on the record out of fear of retaliation from the district’s executive circle, or because they wanted to learn more before taking a stated position.
Maloy and Wills have said while Hodges has not worked in any capacity as an attorney for the school district — the state of Missouri also disbarred her in April for her estate-planning work for the same couple that led to her criminal conviction — her experience in labor law was a plus.
The resume Hodges presented to the school district noted her admittance to the Missouri bar in 2010 as well as two firms she was running at the time — the Hodges Law Group and Hodges Real Estate Group — both of which she started in October 2010 and July 2012, respectively. Hodges also ran the human resources department for a Kansas City law firm prior to obtaining her law degree, according to the resume, which The Aspen Times received through a request to the school district.
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The coronavirus threat delayed the opening of developed campgrounds in the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and Crystal valleys. The Forest Service will phase them back in by June 12.