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.

The latest update on the Brooklyn 2010 Census falsification scandal (Price Tag: $250K)

MyTwoCensus has been informed that Census Bureau employees have been lifting information off the Internet and falsifying forms at locations throughout the country. Whistleblowers should not hesitate to contact MyTwoCensus.com immediately. Your confidentiality will be 100% maintained.

On Monday, July 19, 2010, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled, “Is Brooklyn Being Counted? – Problems With the 2010 Census” to examine a recent incident involving two senior managers at the Brooklyn North East Local Census Office who were fired for fraudulently completing census surveys.  The hearing examined the steps the Census Bureau is taking to ensure the accuracy of the 2010 count. The New York State Congressional Delegation has been invited to participate in the hearing.

The hearing was held on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. in the courtroom of Brooklyn Borough Hall, located at 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY.

The witnesses who testified were:

Dr. Robert M. Groves
Director
U.S. Census Bureau

Mr. Todd J. Zinser
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Lester A. Farthing
Regional Director
U.S. Census Bureau NY Regional Census Center

Opening Statement of Chairman Edolphus Towns

Opening Statement of Subcommittee Chairman Wm. Lacy Clay

Opening Statement of Rep. Yvette Clarke

Prepared testimony of Dr. Robert Groves

Prepared testimony of Mr. Todd Zinser

According to the New York Daily News:

The bungling was first uncovered last month when two census managers were discovered faking surveys by lifting information off the Internet.

Brooklyn Northeast census manager Alvin Aviles and assistant Sonya Merritt were axed – and 4,200 questionnaires had to be redone.

Redoing the phony forms – which is almost complete – will cost taxpayers $250,000, Groves revealed.

To make matters worse, a whistleblower recently alerted officials that some of the new surveys also were fudged by workers who took their best guess when no one answered the door.

The workers estimated the number of people living in a home based on information such as names on mailboxes, Groves said at the hearing.

“This … is a clear violation of procedures,” he said.

Groves said the second snafu affected a few hundred households. He blamed the mistake on confused workers who misunderstood instructions.

The bureau is investigating whether information was faked in any other offices in Brooklyn or around the country.

He promised the bureau will come up with an accurate count and said that the recount of all 4,200 surveys will be done in a few days.

“I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred,” Groves said. “This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

According to Gothamist:

Census Recounters Messed Up Recount, Re-recount Planned

Those Brooklyn Census workers really don’t want to lose their jobs. After being instructed to redo more than 4,000 falsified Census forms, workers at the Brooklyn Northeast Census office botched the corrections and must complete the forms a third time.

One office worker recently alerted officials that some workers were fudging answers when people wouldn’t answer their doors—exactly what managers Alvin Aviles and Sonya Merritt did to get themselves fired and start this whole mess in the first place. The best part is the whole $250,000 SNAFU could probably have been avoided, since Census workers are allowed to leave questions blank if they cannot obtain the information by either first person or “proxy” interviews.

At a hearing yesterday regarding the first set of faked forms, Congressman Ed Towns said, “I represent a district that is comprised of a number of so-called ‘hard to count’ communities…These communities present challenges to the Census Bureau, but these challenges must be met.” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves says the second round of mistakes were caused by confused workers who misunderstood instructions, and that it should be worked out shortly. Still, he said, “I want to say how troubled I am that this occurred. This activity violates all the principles for which the Census Bureau stands. It is an abhorrent act.”

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31 Responses to “The latest update on the Brooklyn 2010 Census falsification scandal (Price Tag: $250K)”

  1. Internet Info Says:

    Blatantly guessing when there was no answer is messed up.

    However, sometimes – if you know how/where to look – you can occasionally get better information on the net than from a proxy, especially for a UHE or a proxy. Online tax assessor websites and phonebooks help, but not looking through spokeo or facebook. That’s just dumb and definitely not helping make accurate submissions.

  2. anon Says:

    “MyTwoCensus has been informed that Census Bureau employees have been lifting information off the Internet and falsifying forms at locations throughout the country.

    citation needed

  3. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    @anon – citation: individuals who have contacted mytwocensus.com via e-mail and/or comments

  4. anon Says:

    that sounds legit. great. totally verifiable. case closed. no need to do any more work. thanks.

  5. Another Census Worker Says:

    Internet material can be useful for finding leads for hard properties to crack, but should not be used to fill in the data. Many phone numbers gathered via Internet in my area were wrong, the numbers had been disconnected. Names of people are sometimes right, but if the people have moved, forget it!

  6. Samantha Jackson Says:

    Use the internet, the county assessor’s office, etc. for leads, to gain phone numbers which you then call to VERIFY with a knowledgeable proxy who answers the phone. For instance, a house is vacant. No knowledgeable proxy can be found nearby. Go to the assessor’s office or access their records on-line and find the name of the owner of the property and the address of record for that owner. Then attempt to get a phone number for that owner or, if nearby,go to the owner’s address and get the information about the census day status of the property from the owner/landlord. Oftentimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but enough success has been had that it’s worth a try.

    Yes, it’s never appropriate to just grab info from the net and fill the forms in but the net can be a great investigative tool.

  7. Samantha Jackson Says:

    “Groves said the second snafu affected a few hundred households. He blamed the mistake on confused workers who misunderstood instructions.”

    He blamed confused workers who misunderstood instructions? Please. You mean workers who head out in to the field to be met with verbal, 3rd hand instructions than are in a constant state of change and disarray? Constant, contradicting instructions. Do this, no, do that. You can’t even get a day’s work turned in without a procedure followed in the AM, changed by the PM. I have a novel idea. How about some instructions in writing so the message is clear. I feel that the lack of written instructions for constantly changing procedures is intentional. No one wants any written evidence of the things we’re being told to do.

  8. PATRIOT before PARTIES(Dem,Indep,Rep.) Says:

    Your rhetoric is disturbing! You are seeking to exploit the experiences of Current/Former Employees to further your reach over the net. If you really cared, you would have a section titled JOB LINKS that would help out of work former employees find new employment. You’re part of the PROBLEM, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE PEOPLE YOU SAY YOU WANT TO PROTECT!

    If you approach this joblink section with the same level of aggresiveness, your efforts would be far more NOBLE! THATS IF YOU CARE!

  9. IntInfo Says:

    @SJackson – on the procedure point, amen. if we could all document what changes occurred and for how long (or how long until they were reversed), then we can stick it back to groves!

    on your internet research point, of course you can verify with someone. but what if there is no one nearby to verify? if it’s a small neighborhood, fine. but what if the property is 30 acres surrounded by farms and is obviously a summer/weekend home? or what if it is an empty plot of land and the tax records indicate it’s owned by a developer in another city?

    obviously, common sense applies – if a house is empty, there’s a for sale sign in front, the assessor’s office has the owner’s address in another time zone and the property’s been on the market/realtor’s website since February.. it’s a safe bet that it was vacant on April 1. so why waste time verifying information that is going to be true anyway?

    just like finding a proxy to verify that a house still under construction was vacant on April 1. it’s pretty obvious that a neighbor would agree that no one was there – or would just agree to whatever you asked so they could get you off their property.

    verifying the obvious is also what makes this census operation (and us) look stupid.

  10. Luca Brazzi Says:

    They kill me with the $250,000 figure that they quote. $250K for what? This is bull.

  11. pranita veeria Says:

    Don’t worry Luca Brazzi….Aviles will be sleepin’ with the fishes before too long…that a–hole will have plenty of time on his hand in some cell writing out all the forms he wants…in a word Pathetic

  12. James Says:

    Weelllll…. Just do a Google on Stephan Robert Morse. Where does he show up prominently but on Breitbart’s web site, crediting him with the video of the 2 (and only) members of the New Black Panthers video ‘intimidating’ the exclusively black voters outside a polling place in an African American neighborhood.
    I think SRM’s presence on that web site says it all.

    Hasta la vista baby. I’m going to go find some real news, not ‘Fake’ stuff.

  13. Another Census Worker Says:

    @IntInfo, common sense does apply. We do need to find proxies who can verify the information we see (during enumeration), so that other people can check via phone or mail. Otherwise, somebody else from the census would need to go to the site in person to verify the information.

  14. fastfoodcensus.com Says:

    Like many have said, using the internet is often a very useful tool to get leads—something my CL understood.

    That being said, making a best guess is usually not ok and clearly against procedure. Sometimes for things like age, where the DOB is unknown, we try to get an approximate age. Especially in my area, where there are many immigrants, people don’t always know their exact age or DOB.

  15. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    @pranita – im trying to determine if charges will actually be filed by the justice department…

  16. IntInfo Says:

    @AnotherCensusWorker – so we can double-check, triple-check, quad-check that the empty vacant lot (with no house or building) is not occupied?!

    or that the address doesn’t exist after passing the same map spot or row of mailbox 18 times back and forth?

    that’s all that VDC is doing so far..

    after all the hourly procedural changes during NRFU, it took two hours to properly complete one UHE case. using proper internet tools and a valid proxy, it took 10 minutes. padding the payroll is not a procedure that I am comfortable with..

  17. anonymous Says:

    Yes, there are falsifications of NRFU VDC. I have re-interviewed and Quality Checked those EQs. All over the U.S. – in every LCO.

  18. anonymous Says:

    “Confused workers”?! No. I have re-interviewed in gang-invested neighborhoods. Falsified info that the original enumerators refused to get.

  19. Another Census Worker Says:

    @Intinfo — No, if the enumerator can find a valid proxy and get a valid phone number, the double-check can be simply calling the phone number to confirm.

    I worked in VDC, and found a few occupied places which were declared “vacant” by NRFU. Also, VDC handled cases where the people mailed in incomplete questionnaires… and those got hard in a hurry. This area has lots of snowbirds, so I encountered many HUE cases.

  20. Another Census Worker Says:

    @fastfoodcensus.com: Sometimes best guesses are all an enumerator can get. I have encountered that situation and filled out an Infocomm with the best guesses. (Usually caused by the reason that I can’t find a willing proxy.)

  21. OOSXX Says:

    Our office just fired an enumerator who has done field work since Address Canvassing, it seems he interviewed 2 proxies who had been dead for a few years, when QA called for a re-interview, they spoke to the widows instead of the proxy…yes both men were still listed in the phone book & the enumerator is no longer working for the census.

  22. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    OOSXX – do you think this person has been fabricating all along?

  23. Bored Says:

    @OOSXX and SRM – sounds like this guy is near where I am. I’ve teamed up and worked with other enumerators who go the extra mile to get the EQ finished, only to have them reprinted for VDC (quality control). And revisiting some houses really angered them to the point that they refused to proxy for vacancies.. so it seems like the repetition is the problem. Either observe and trust the employee’s work or repeat this process over and over and irritate them enough to start fabricating proxies.

  24. Used to be a Crew Leader, glad I'm not now Says:

    am still a census taker and will use my husband’s name for fear of retribution by my FOS (Field Office Supervisor). My whole training it was drilled into our heads that falsifying data on the questionaires was illegal and cause for termination, but our main office here in Central Indiana the (LCO) Local Census Office found out that one of the crew leaders told his enumerators to go ahead and falsify the questionaires to get the production in and yet, he is still a crew leader and she is still a FOS and the LCO has done nothing about it except cover it up. Yet we are threatened every day to get production or get fired even though most of us are retirees and the heat index here in central Indiana has been over a hundred degrees every day for almost two weeks now. Our health is being affcted and no-one seems to care, We need the money so we do it, albeit a little slow. Already some of us have been fired, very coldly I might add. One of my friends even got sick due to the heat and his crew leader (the same one that okayed the falsifying of the data) said he did not give a darn and that he was fired as of that 100 degree day. Now, as for the gathering of data, what the person before me said could not be truer. Our forms are being returned and we are being “forced” to go back and get phone numbers and more from the people who refused to give identifying info for just providing info on vacant properties. If they refuse we are supposed to “dig” to get that info (In so many words it is like our bosses want us to dig through their garbage). This whole operation is a little sick. And last, but not least, I am using another name because I was told “Point Blank” by the main (LCO) Local Census Office when I called to complain to “Keep My Mouth Shut” and not to “Rock The Boat” or I would be fired the next day. When did the Census become the KGB??????

  25. Used to be a Crew Leader, glad I'm not now Says:

    And we are still being told every day to use the internet to get identifying info to finish up the EQ’s. So what is up with that???? Who are the cheaters here???????

  26. R U Shittenmi Says:

    The census paid us good money. For a lot of us it was the only source of income that we had. It kept my bills paid and my belly full. I was unemployed for a while but almost a year working for the census has at lest stabilized my situation and afforded me the breathing room to search for another job. I appreciate the opportunity, regardless of the shortcomings. Every job I’ve ever had had some form of BS going on. Every last one!

  27. Bored Says:

    It’s really sad when these type of political games run rampant in temporary federal jobs and now even into the corporate world, as if it’s supposed to be status quo. How do I raise my kids and tell them that hard work is rewarded, but only if you sell your soul and morals to get ahead?

    @Used to Be – It’s shameful and should almost be against OSHA standards to be fired for working under those conditions. The Census took long enough so what’s another weeklong break or working in teams? It’s nuts.

    @RU – Yes, it’s paying the bills.. but think of all the bullcrap mental games involved. I’ve worked hard (and not in today’s flimsy, wussy sense of ‘working hard’) in every one of my previous jobs and managers/administrators trust me and appreciate it, but this is just a thankless/mindnumbing gig. When the task is complete, it should be complete, not a big run-around to dig, dig, dig for more information that won’t be available without a warrant or subpoena.

  28. Census Guy Says:

    An Announcement: Looking for interviewees

    In less then a month, I will finish up my time with Census2010, the majority of which was spent as a NRFU-RI worker in New England. I have decided to write a book about the experience, interviewing other census workers about their experiences to produce a short oral history of enumeration during Census 2010.

    While I support the concept of the census, I believe there is much room for improvement. I am also astonished that our national office does not even ask its successful rank and file employees for suggestions as to how to improve its processes. My book would also be used to publically preserve such information in writing before it is lost forever.

    I will not be revealing any PII information in this book. I also only want to interview people for the book once they have left the census. I am not interested in costing anyone their job. I will provide my real name and other details to interview subjects before any interview takes place. If you are interested please write me at censusguy1@aol.com

    Feel free to use a screen name in your correspondence with me before you leave the census. If it makes you feel more comfortable, please establish a hotmail or gmail account before writing me. In the book itself I will be using my real name, and would ask you to do the same.

    take care:

    Census Guy

  29. Used to be a Crew Leader, glad I'm not now Says:

    Hey censusguy1 I tried to e-mail you about your book but the message was returned as undeliverable. What up??

  30. Book People Says:

    SRM, running this site, is doing the same.

    I would consider writing/compiling a book, too – but not like some academic publications where they want people to give their stories away for free while the publisher makes the money.

  31. StillEnumerating Says:

    censusguy1, post your query for “ex-census workers with ideas to make it better next time” on HARO (www.helpareporter.com). It’s free. It gets results.