November 24, 2008 · Updated 7:03 PM
One of our beloved Island institutions, Youth Theatre Northwest, is coping with the arrest of its most public face — its now-former director. The charges against him are extremely serious.
When the news and circumstances of Ben Keylin’s arrest were made known, the Board of Directors of Youth Theatre Northwest was understandably horrified and shocked. They placed their director on leave while they dealt with the media and the concerns of parents. Later, finding Keylin was convicted on a similar charge in 1991, the board moved swiftly to remove him from his post.
They immediately appointed the theater’s long-time artistic director, Mimi Katano, as acting executive director. A wise move.
Yet as theater leaders try to keep the focus on students and upcoming productions, they wonder how the background check they ordered for Mr. Keylin failed to reveal the earlier conviction. Like hundreds of organizations who serve children in this state, they ran a background check through the Washington State Patrol.
As it turns out, not everything is shown on a background check. Only felony convictions are reported. Mr. Keylin’s 1991 conviction for assault is not a felony. However, if the board would have known about the 1991 incident, it is unlikely they would have hired him.
Yet it must be noted that court documents regarding the current charges against Mr. Keylin, his prior conviction and other court documents are and have been public record.
The Reporter was able to find out information regarding Mr. Keylin by a simple check of court records on a newsroom computer.
The lesson? Those who work with children and other vulnerable members of society must redouble their efforts to ensure that those they hire are without question. Agencies that perform background checks must emphasize the limitations of the information they provide.