A criminal history that included harassment and stalking did not stop the Wilkes-Barre man accused of fatally shooting his wife last month from working as a cleaning contractor at a Catholic elementary school in Kingston.
Vito J. Aiello’s company, Andover Cleaning, was a contractor at Good Shepherd Academy since June 2011, “responsible to provide maintenance and janitorial services in this particular school,” Diocese of Scranton spokesman Bill Genello confirmed Tuesday.
Asked about whether Aiello was subject to a background check, Genello initially responded that Aiello was not an employee of the school and that “all diocesan employees (clergy, religious and lay) in parishes and schools, including coaches and volunteers who spend 20 or more hours per year with children, must have up-to-date criminal background and child abuse clearances.”
Genello said those background checks, which are renewed every three years, are conducted to meet requirements in The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Focused largely on issues of sexual abuse, that document instructs diocesan officials to “evaluate the background” of clergy, paid personnel and volunteers “whose duties include ongoing, unsupervised contact with minors.”
It is silent on the issue of contractors.
State law, meanwhile, draws no distinction between public and private, employee and contractor when it comes to criminal history.
“Employees and contractors in public, nonpublic and private schools who may be in contact with children are required to have a background check,” State Department of Education Press Secretary Tim Eller said Tuesday.
Section 111 of the state’s Public School Code states that the requirement applies to “teachers, substitutes, janitors, cafeteria workers, independent contractors and their employees, except those employees and independent contractors and their employees who have no direct contact with children.”
Families who contacted The Times Leader, but who declined to be identified, said Aiello was seen in the North Maple Avenue school building on a regular basis.
Aiello, 48, allegedly shot his 47-year-old wife, Jane Aiello, at their Wilkes-Barre home on the night of Sept. 26. He has been charged with criminal homicide in the case.
Court records reveal Aiello made threats against a girlfriend during an extramarital affair in 2004. He pleaded guilty to harassment, including terroristic threats and stalking, and was sentenced to a year probation in that case after his wife contacted authorities out of fear he was on his way to Exeter to kill the woman.
Under Section 111 of the state’s Public School Code, stalking is listed among numerous other offenses that bar employment or continued employment.
Eller said local school officials essentially are on the “honor system” when it comes to performing background checks as required, but that the Education Department is empowered to investigate complaints and impose sanctions — up to and including loss of individual and school certifications — where violations are discovered.
Eller said he could not, however, comment on whether any individual or school is the subject of complaints or an investigation.
Asked whether Aiello’s case raises any concern about background checks for contractors, Genello responded: “The diocese regularly reviews its policies, and appropriate adjustments are made to ensure the safety of those entrusted to our care.”
“A consistent background check protocol for our schools when contracting with outside vendors is in process,” he added.
Aiello was arraigned last week in his hospital bed, where he was recovering from a gunshot wound to the face suffered when police say he turned the weapon on himself after shooting his wife.
A preliminary hearing in the case was continued until Oct. 24.