'Santa' at Cleveland's holiday event on registered sex offender list

December 4, 2012 4:22:23 PM PST
There's outrage from parents whose children took pictures with Santa at a Christmas event -- only to find out later that the man behind the beard is a registered sex offender. That discovery now is prompting to the city of Cleveland to change its policy regarding background checks.

The Cleveland city manager say they will be changing its policies after parents complained the Santa at last weekend's Christmas event is on the state's sex offender registry.

Emily Collins thought the city of Cleveland's Christmas celebration was a perfect outing for the kids.

"Took them to see Santa, played some games, did the little booths, kids had fun," she said.

But on Tuesday morning, Collins found out something that disturbed her.

"A friend of mine recognized the Santa Claus and informed me this morning of his name and that he is a registered sex offender," Collins said.

The man in question volunteered to play Santa. He was adjudicated for a sex crime when he was 12 years old and served time. He now has no restrictions keeping him from children, but he will be on the state sex offender registry for five more years.

A woman who didn't want us to use her name also took her son to see Santa. She says she's uncomfortable with how little scrutiny the city put on its Santa.

"I couldn't believe that the city of Cleveland would hire someone with a record like that," she told us.

But that is changing.

Collins told us she called the city to complain on Tuesday morning and was told they'd get back to her the next day. So she called Eyewitness News.

The city manager emailed us this statement just hours later:

"The city of Cleveland received information from a citizen regarding a volunteer. The city is reviewing this information and is taking action to prevent this from happening again."

And that's exactly what Collins wants.

"The biggest thing that I'm upset about is not to go after him. I mean he's done his time, whatever the charges were, however old he was, but that the city of Cleveland would not do a background check," Collins said.

The city manager says that Cleveland performs background checks on library volunteers but up until this point, other volunteers weren't subject to the same scrutiny.


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