Standard Hiring Procedures?

August 18, 1994

"We've never had this happen at such a high level before," said an embarrassed state official after the announcement that the man hired last year to head the Crownsville Hospital Center had falsified his resume.

We wonder: At how many other levels in state government have people been hired this carelessly?

Haroon R. Ansari resigned this week soon after he was confronted with questions about a doctorate he claimed to have earned at Michigan State University. Mr. Ansari was hired last summer after a national search produced a field of 50 candidates. On paper he looked good -- a doctorate in educational psychology and two master's degrees, one in public administration.

Yet the doctorate didn't exist, and state officials have not been able to confirm that he earned the two master's degrees. And when officials began checking the work history listed on his resume, that too failed to add up.

Again we wonder: Why weren't these basic checks done last summer, before Mr. Ansari was hired?

State hiring practices require that a new employee's credentials be checked. But even if state policy did not require it, surely prudence and common sense would.

A couple of simple phone calls could have saved the state a red face -- and Crownsville an unnecessary upheaval. With 253 beds and a $24 million budget, Crownsville is one of the state's largest facilities for serving patients with mental illnesses. Given the pressures, fiscal and otherwise, now facing the state's mental health programs, this is one dust-up Crownsville didn't need.

Mr. Ansari has paid the price for lying about his qualifications. But that doesn't resolve the problem of a system that allowed him to get away with it. Any well-run office has standard procedures for hiring, especially for top positions like the one Mr. Ansari held. What kind of "national search" would fail to check a candidate's credentials before offering him an important post?

Hiring honest and qualified people is one of the most basic duties of any administrator. When the hiring process for the head of a state hospital is conducted this carelessly, not all the blame can fall on Mr. Ansari. The people of Maryland deserve an explanation -- and swift evidence that these shoddy practices have been corrected.

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