Officials in the Iowa Legislature will start conducting criminal background checks on statehouse employees who have “regular and frequent contact with children.” The move comes after a four-year-old child was found Saturday, February 4th in a closed balcony with a 54-year-old capitol tour guide. Yesterday, that guide was charged with child stealing.
Senate Co-Leader Michael Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says he and other legislative leaders were told about the incident Wednesday afternoon. “We are very concerned about this case,” Gronstal says. Gronstal says he’s not concerned with the way the case was handled because to have released details about the incident early on may have jeopardized the investigation. “To avoid the situation where a criminal might flee before the investigation is complete,” Gronstal says.
Gronstal, though, says lawmakers will review all of the “steps in the communication process” during the course of the investigation. Legislative leaders plan to meet Monday with the director of the Legislative Services Agency — the boss of the tour guides. “I think it’s hard to come up with an overreaction to preventing these kinds of things from happening,” Gronstal says.
Legislators may forbid one-on-one tours of the capitol. “Both from the employee’s perspective and the citizen’s perspective, one-on-one tours potentially the citizen could come to some harm and potentially, so could the employee,” Gronstal says. One of the child’s parents notified state troopers at about 10:30 on Saturday, February 4th that the four-year-old was missing.
The child and tour guide Stephen Craig Lueder were found in the Iowa Senate’s third-floor balcony, which is closed to the public on Saturdays. A spokesman for the Department of Criminal Investigation says “it does not appear as if the child was physically injured” after spending about 20 minutes alone with Lueder.