Editor’s Note: We are revisiting this story because of new comments on accused rapist Thomas Bray. Read below
By Alyssa Wilder and Kirsteen Wolf
Bend Police arrested Central Oregon Community College Part-Time Instructor Thomas Bray on Feb. 26, 2011 after receiving an accusation that he raped a 23-year-old woman.
Since the incident, COCC has instituted new hiring procedures, according to Ron Paradis, director of College Relations.
Part-time faculty did not previously undergo criminal background checks aside from those hired in the Nursing and Early Childhood Education departments, according to Paradis.
Employees who would potentially handle money or possess master keys were also subject to background checks.
Bray was charged with two counts each of first-degree rape and sodomy in connection with this case, according to a Bend Bulletin article. In August, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In October 2011, an unnamed COCC student and former girlfriend of Bray’s filed charges against him for the February incidents.
Bray is charged with two felony counts of first-degree rape, a felony count of assault and a misdemeanor count of strangulation.
Stephen Houze, Bray’s lawyer, filed a Oct. 22 motion to separate these cases.
The new charges pushed Bray’s hearing back. According to the Bend Bulletin, Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Tiktin set July 17 as Bray’s new trial date.
The incidents started a “thoughtful discussion” on the hiring practices at COCC, said Paradis.
“We had discussions prior [to the situation], but it was not something we were working toward,” he said, in regard to background check policy.
Bray had been employed by the college for fewer than two months. The staff had to weigh the pros and cons.
The college needs to balance the cost and time associated with the different levels of background checks with a sense of security with the candidate, said Paradis.
The other decision was based on how deep to go with the checks. If the checks are too cursory, he added, nothing shows up, but if they are too deep, the costs are high with little added benefit.
The costs are estimated at $16,000 to 20,000 dollars per year, according to Paradis, amounting to $40 dollars for each background check done on a candidate.
Although the policy was approved in September 2011, according to the COCC website, it wasn’t implemented until November. The hiring done over the past summer was not subject to the new background check procedure.
The checks, however, don’t pull up everything, according to Robert McDilda, COCC’s Campus Public Safety supervisor.
“Background checks just show convictions,” said McDilda.
Pulling court documents cost about four times as much as standard employment background checks, according to McDilda.
Court documents include everything from overdrawn checks to pre-charge protective orders, but without the matter ever having a verdict with due process, an individual’s privacy becomes an issue.
“Legally, there’s not much more we can do,” said McDilda. “We have an innocent-until-proven-guilty mandate in this country.”
It is also unclear whether Bray’s previous restraining order, filed only a few months before in California, would have appeared under COCC’s new background check policy.
“It differs from state to state and also jurisdiction to jurisdiction … There’s no guarantee,” said McDilda.
Despite the legalities and costs involved with the new hiring procedures, McDilda is hopeful that the new policies will help keep students safe.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” said McDilda.