Congress

A Census worker’s arrest for child sex assault raises hiring concerns in Congress

Commerce Department report: ‘The Bureau’s background check office is not fully prepared for the 2020 Census’

In this photo provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, tabulators in Washington record the information from the more than 120,000 enumerators who gathered data for the 1940 U.S. Census. (AP Photo/National Archives and Records Administration)

Some members of the North Carolina delegation have called for an investigation into the U.S. Census Bureau’s hiring practices following the arrest of a bureau manager in Charlotte on charges of sexually assaulting a child.

The employee already appeared on the sex offender registry when he was hired by the bureau because of a prior conviction involving a child, Fox 46 reported.

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The bureau opened an area census office in Charlotte, North Carolina, in preparation for the 2020 Census. The bureau is tasked with hiring hundreds of thousands of temporary census takers and other employees in 248 area offices for the decennial population count. 

“I don’t think we’ll know if we don’t investigate what really happened. And I think we do need to know because this kind of thing should never happen again,” Rep. Alma Adams said in an interview with the station.

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“We need to make sure we clear all of this up so that we can move ahead [with the 2020 Census] without any additional problems,” Adams continued.

The Charlotte Democrat’s call for an investigation follows concerns expressed by other North Carolina lawmakers, including Democratic Rep. David Price and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.

Price said in an interview with Fox 46 this week that he would work with the House Appropriations Committee to “ensure the Census receives the funding it needs to complete extensive background checks in a timely manner.”

Tillis called on the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce, which overseas the Census Bureau, to review the Charlotte case. That office has already pledged to investigate, Fox 46 reported.

“The Office of Inspector General is evaluating the Bureau’s response to this issue, and we will review those findings with with the Bureau to ensure we do everything possible to prevent this from happening again,” said a Commerce Department spokesperson. “This remains an ongoing personnel matter.”

The inspector general’s office released a report in 2018 titled “The Bureau’s Background Check Office Is Not Fully Prepared for the 2020 Census.”

The report concluded that Census Investigative Services, which vets prospective employees, was not adequately monitoring the work of companies contracted to conduct background checks. A combination of federal employees and contractors conduct background checks, according to the report.

A spokesman for the Census Bureau confirmed that it receives sex offender registry information when vetting new hires.

“We have rigorous hiring procedures and checks in place to catch these type of charges early on in the hiring process and deal with them in the appropriate manner, and we are training our employees to ensure that these procedures are followed,” Michael Cook, chief public information officer for the bureau, said in a statement. “We take very seriously our obligation to ensure that the people we hire, especially those who visit or personally engage with the public, do not represent a danger to any individual or community. This is an ongoing personnel matter.”

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