My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Census Bureau’s official response to James O’Keefe scandal

The following statement comes to me from Stephen Buckner of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office:

Statement on O’Keefe Taping of Census Bureau Staff


“Census Bureau policies and training are clear and require all employees to honestly submit accurate time records. Workers are instructed to report hours they work, which would include their time traveling to and from training. This is no different than the training session that Mr. O’Keefe attended in New Jersey, and during his previous employment with the Census Bureau last year. In his video, Mr. O’Keefe, an admitted criminal, does not disclose that he previously worked for the Census Bureau for nearly 2 months in 2009 without incident, allegation or complaint. That employment with us was well before his indictment and prior to his conviction of a federal crime last week.  The Census Bureau obviously does not condone any falsifying of or tampering with timesheets by its employees. We are investigating the allegations in Mr. O’Keefe’s selectively edited video
and will take appropriate administrative action with staff as warranted. ”

Background:

· Policies, procedures and training sessions clearly instruct employees to record the hours they work, which includes payment for the actual time traveling to and from training sessions. Mr. O’Keefe clearly did not include that, or the fact that part of his raw footage also shows trainers instructing new employees that they must record their mileage accurately.

· Mr. O’Keefe implies that the tapings occurred while he was still employed by the Census Bureau.  In fact, most of his video taping took place after his Census Bureau employment ended.  The Census Bureau’s stringent background check disqualifies individuals with pending federal charges or criminal offenses.  After O’Keefe’s background check came back, he quit before any action could be taken.

· None of the other new hires or Census Bureau staff attending the training sessions that were taped were notified or granted permission to be filmed in Mr. O’Keefe’s video. Many states have laws against such surreptitious tapings.

· Mr. O’Keefe, like all census workers, took a confidentiality oath for life to protect census data — the Census Bureau cannot by law disclose any personal information about a household or respondent that could identify them. We take this very seriously at the Census Bureau.

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15 Responses to “Census Bureau’s official response to James O’Keefe scandal”

  1. nerfoo Says:

    Anyone else find it humorous that some of the people complaining loudest about census waste – especially those on O’Keefe’s original blog posting of the video – are pretty damn proud of the amount of government money they, themselves, are wasting. First, the didn’t reply to their original census mailing. Then, when enumerators come knocking, they proudly avoid talking to the worker. Then, when the worker finally ‘catches’ them, they refuse to answer most questions, putting their EQ in place for possible follow-up by other census employees.

    Have they forgotten that part of the constitution that tells them how they can civilly, responsibly and legally go about making changes to laws and government institutions that they don’t agree with? Get out there & vote. Better yet, run for office. Be the change you want to see, don’t just whine & complain then refuse to participate.

  2. nylonsandcigarettes Says:

    I really must speak up for Census in this, and acknowledge the tact with which the response was composed.

    It is one thing to identify by comment those persons/practices with which we take issue, but this almost consumer-advocate sensationalism, founded upon what may be illegal (it is in our State) recording of others on private property not one’s own pushes the limit.

    The contributors, from the Census employee end, to this forum have legitimate concerns as to how to improve the Census Bureau’s operation, whether by their identification of pressures or their lambasting of incompetent managers/systemic structure- but they do not go around attempting to catch people out by pretending to care that they may transgress a law while they themselves are doing it de facto.

    while I have my own serious gripes with the way things are done, I don’t see the need for us to be portrayed as junior spooks who may whip up a pen-cam at any minute to entrap someone under the guise of our caring about what’s right. If we didn’t care about rectitude, we wouldn’t be on here, but casting an image before the citizens we actually represent that we are out to undermine either own own organization or potentially their privacy with this sneaking around is likely going to make working here even more stressful than it already is.

    Additionally, with the assaults our own LCO’s crew has borne in the field (including being nearly run down with a vehicle), casting Census in the light of some sort of organized den of iniquity- including the enumerators who go along with this heinous practice of accepting another hour’s pay by the example/direction they’re given- is going to draw more targeting of us all- the last thing we need- in the eyes of the public who already may hate us.

    It’s one thing to highlight a fault; another to cast an onerous light on the whole bunch, and this is worrisome in potentially doing just that by its portrayal of all managers asked as in concurrence with the practice in question, and using unwitting employees’ own statements, intended to make life here more bearable by an attempt to dispel Mr. O’Keefe’s contrived ‘worries’, to the end of one’s own attention grab (and one who may have a problem with Rule of Law in the first place), into the bargain, disregarding the impact upon Census’ employees in general.

  3. nylonsandcigarettes Says:

    Oh- there’s more:
    http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/makers-acorn-documentary-sued-federal

  4. One of the Anonymous Says:

    There were many people who wanted the chance to work and were never called in for more than a couple of hours! Here’s to them!

  5. One of the Anonymous Says:

    Thank you, My Two Census – great job! :)

  6. end the census Says:

    Two comments in Mr. Buckner’s letter stand out:

    1. “The Census Bureau’s stringent background check disqualifies individuals with pending federal charges or criminal offenses.”

    No, it doesn’t. Mr. O’Keefe, like many other people with pending federal charges or outright criminal convictions, was at the time he taped that video, employed by the census bureau. That fact is undeniable. The census bureau up until very recently went ahead and hired, trained, and sent out into the field, people whose background checks had not yet cleared. This includes felons include registered sex offenders. Mr. Buckner is not being entirely honest.

    2. “Mr. O’Keefe, like all census workers, took a confidentiality oath for life to protect census data — the Census Bureau cannot by law disclose any personal information about a household or respondent that could identify them. We take this very seriously at the Census Bureau.”

    While I object to Mr. O’Keefe’s ridiculous sensationalism and misleading video, I have to ask, what “census data” is Mr. Buckner implying that Mr. O’Keefe disclosed? This last paragraph in Mr. Buckner’s letter is just more of the same intimidation we here in the field have heard time and time again from our LCO managers and supervisors — they’re trying to make us think it’s against the law for any of us to blow the whistle on the “fraud, waste and abuse”. They’re either confused, or trying to confuse us, about the oath we took.

  7. end the census Says:

    Responding to a comment above by Nerfoo, who said, “First, the didn’t reply to their original census mailing.”
    Many, many of these people DID reply to the original mailing. Then they replied again when some census staff told them their original mailing got lost or misplaced. In many cases they weren’t given any explanation as to what had happened to their response to the original mailing — they were simply told that they had to fill it out again.
    And then when their responses were lost, or misplaced, or vanished mysteriously, they were told they were required to fill it out again, for a third time, or again face fines or imprisonment. When some of these people complied — for a third time, mind you — they began to receive telephone calls from the LCO, informing them they they had failed to fill out the questionnaire. When they protested, they were again threatened with fines and imprisonment and told that they would have to provide the information over the phone to the unknown staff. Some of them did comply. And then they were visited by more enumerators. And then they got more phone calls.

    You’ve got some nerve scolding these people for “avoiding” the enumerators, and accusing them of “whining and complaining, ” and “wasting government money”.

  8. on the other hand Says:

    I’m an enumerator who hasn’t been paid yet for more than a months worth of work. I wonder if he can switch sides and do an expose on payroll from my perspective?
    …maybe without the cheesy “on a boat” shots

  9. end the census Says:

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/joe_conason/2010/06/01/okeefe/index.html

  10. Waste, fraud and abuse at 2010 Census (Part II, with O’Keefe & Crudele stories) | RedState Says:

    [...] interesting website is MyTwoCensus.com. This was posted yesterday at 4:40 PM: Census Bureau’s official response to James O’Keefe scandal The following statement comes to me [...]

  11. My Two Census » Blog Archive » Another look at James O’Keefe Says:

    [...] I was accused of a Conservative bias simply for publishing the James O’Keefe video. Well, here’s the response from Media Matters for a left-wing perspective on the [...]

  12. nerfoo Says:

    Of course there are the odd cases where mistakes were made, paperwork lost, communications missed – this is a huge operation, there’s bound to be some errors in there.

    But, for every mixed up case that I’ve had, personally, maybe one per AA, I’ve had 30-40 normal, run of the mill, “I forgot to send it in” cases. Of course, many of those involved people who didn’t ‘forget’, but who chose not to send it in. And, many of those cases involved multiple returns to an address, leaving my phone number each time, asking for a return call to set up an appointment to make the whole thing more efficient, more convenient and less expensive.

    And, of course, the commentors on the biggovernment.com blog who were so proud of wasting government money by making the workers return multiple times never mentioned at all that they had already returned their form and answered the questions. In fact, they were quite proud of the fact that they didn’t – that they were being obstinate on purpose.

  13. 'nuff already Says:

    When I first stumbled on My Two Census the only people posting for the most part were disgruntled census employees — primarily enumerators with legitimate gripes. It was a place where we could share our collective pain about such things as purported 8-week assignments lasting only 2 weeks or not getting paid on time or dealing with inept CLAs and CLs who made you wonder how they got the job since there was no way they could have passed the test! We also told tales of government waste, etc., but no where did I ever see anyone on this board divulge any confidential information…you know, the kind of PPI that we took an oath to keep private. Why? Because our gripe was not with the people whose doors we were knocking on but rather the government fools running the operation.

    But the tone of the site has definitely changed since then. Aside from SRM, the people who tend to post here now are the government drones and obamabots who are trying to imply(and rather nastily, I might add) that those criticizing the census are the ones with the problem. Typical!

    What’s more, it seems that ever since the Census issued its memorandum concerning its social media rules and regulations many enumerators would appear to have been intimidated into silence. Hopefully they will remember the sham treatment they received come election day. In the meantime, there are still a few of us out here who refuse to be silenced. We indeed did take an oath to uphold the constitution and last time I checked, free speech was still an important part of that document.

    Besides, as I previously stated, nothing is being said that can be deemed as in conflict with the oath taken.

  14. end the census Says:

    To avoid being identified, sometimes some of us send info to Mr. Morse via this blog’s Contact Us page. We haven’t been silenced, but we don’t feel safe risking being identified.

  15. J. Price Says:

    @’nuff already Any census employee who was “intimidated into silence” by that social media memo should maybe read it again. It warns employees against a) revealing work-related PII, b) writing/blogging about the census for money and c) making it appear that you’re writing as an official representative of the Census Bureau. None of those restrictions seem that onerous or intimidating to me. YMMV, I guess.