Local YMCAs evaluating policies following sexual assault arrest

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After learning Joseph Hardin, a Marshall University student and YMCA employee, was charged with sexual assault, local YMCA's began evaluating their policies.

Hardin is an employee of the YMCA in Huntington and he has worked there since before the first incident three years ago. He was placed on administrative leave last week.

The fact that he remained an employee after those incidents worried, and even angered, several YMCA members. It also prompted employees to have a conversation about member safety.

Anthony Lewis, communications director for YMCA Kanawha Valley, said they had a conversation about their policies on Wednesday. While there are national rules each branch must follow, most YMCAs have their own administrative policies specific to that location.

In Charleston, Lewis said the YMCA reserves the right to deny access or membership to a person that has been accused or convicted of a sexual abuse crime. He said if an employee is charged with a crime while they are employed, it is up to them to immediately tell the CEO. However, YMCA on the national level is always running member names through a database. Since employees are also members, this means a name with a new criminal charge would be flagged.

"If you are charged with a sexual abuse crime, you could be terminated, and probably would be terminated. That would be up to our CEO and our board," Lewis said.

While he said they discuss policies and safety often, they wanted to be sure this incident could not have happened at any of the Charleston locations.

"We are confident that our policies here are working and are keeping our members and our employees safe," Lewis said.

Member Danielle Johnson said she has never felt unsafe at the Kanawha Valley YMCA, but she is glad they are always keeping her safety in mind.

"Policies get stale over time, you need to change things. So they are really on top of it, and I have no worries around here," she said.

The YMCA in Huntington released a statement on Wednesday regarding Hardin's arrest. It says they are troubled by the recent arrest charges, and due to those charges his employment was suspended without pay. They clarified that the incidents took place away from the facility and did not put any members in danger.

The statement mentioned a background check was run on Hardin, but nothing came up before he was hired. They said in light of the incident, they are reviewing their "hiring, monitoring and training policies to ensure that YMCA of Huntington is utilizing industry-best practices."

WSAZ also reached out to the YMCA in Putnam County to see how they could handle an employee being charged with a sexual abuse crime. We have not heard back.