Background Checks Pay for Themselves

Think you're not at risk for workplace violence, employee theft or a major criminal act? Think again.


Sol and Lin Toder visited the Pennsylvania State Capital in Mid-October as part of an eight-year quest to honor their daughter Nan. The Toders, supported by Representative Tom Stevenson (42nd district) are pressing legislators for a bill known simply as Nan's Law, which if passed will become state law. Nan's Law, if enacted, would require Pennsylvania's hotel owners to conduct background checks on employees having access to hotel guest rooms. But that's not all the Toder's want. In the capitol's rotunda is a large poster board of Nan Toder placed next to a poster of a giant padlock and keys. It is the Toder's objective that Nan's Law becomes a national model, "unlocking Nan's Law nationwide," for state legislators across the country to ensure guest security through mandated background checks.

Who was Nan Toder?
You can find her picture on the web; the site is simply NansLaw.org. She was 33 years old and training for a new job the night she booked a room at a Hampton Inn hotel in Creekwood, Ill. She was a part-time aerobic instructor and workout enthusiast; we know that she requested a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call to get an early morning workout on the night of Dec. 12, 1996.

Why security might have concerned her we will never know, but in addition to locking her door, she placed her heavy suitcase against it. That's where the maids found it when they tried to push open the door the next morning. It was also the clue that told investigators she had not let her killer in. Someone could only have entered and exited through the door to the adjoining room. It would have been someone with a key, someone with the time and ability to tamper with the locks between them.

The inn's maintenance chief, Christopher Richee, was a curious man. His friends knew he owned a machete, the type of weapon used to kill Nan, though the murder weapon was never found. To the local police he was known for harassing former girlfriends. He had a record for weapons violations, auto theft and burglary. He once told the hotel's manager that he liked to pull wings off birds to watch them die and throw cats into wood-chippers. His former employer stated that he suspected him of a major burglary. Richee was convicted after a friend testified the maintenance chief had given him a bloody towel to dispose of. In 2002 he was sentenced to life without parole.

The Toders now have $4.6 million to back up their crusade. It came in settlement from sources related to ownership and management of the hotel. The hotel's security was at issue, but the overriding concern was the fact that Christopher Richee, Nan Toder's killer, was given access to rooms and computer information on guests without ever having been background checked. Jason B. Morris, president of Background Information Services Inc., of Cleveland, Ohio, testified at a hearing that a background check on Richee would have revealed charges that included stalking a woman and harassing a witness. "Checking criminal records in the county where a subject lived, worked and went to school is likely to turn up evidence of a criminal history if one exists, and credit bureau records can weed out false Social Security numbers," Morris said. Kendra Ruhl, who chairs the Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association's human resources committee, testified against the bill, stating that it would unfairly burden the State's small businesses, suggesting a better strategy might be encouraging Congress to pass a federal law.

Security executives have been getting more involved in boardroom decisions for the past 20 years and exponentially since 9/11. If you're not already onboard with the benefits of whole organization background-checking, you may want to consider the impact it would have on internal security at large, and start lobbying the organization's executives for funding.

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