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.

Archive for August, 2010

The next phase of MyTwoCensus.com

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Update: To any former Census Bureau employees who may be interested in working on MyTwoCensus.com, I am aware that a misleading gag order was sent to many of you with your final paycheck that addressed the issues of social media and blogging. However, so long as you are not revealing Title 13 information, you are free to blog as you wish. Steve Jost of the Census Bureau commented on another Census worker’s blog, “…Upon reading it I went right to the Chief Information Officer to find if the Census Bureau has “shut down” a blog or website and he reported “none”. At it’s worst, our information technology protections might block Census staff from visiting websites identified has having malware or threats, but never shut down a site like yours. So, please keep on blogging.” So, follow his advice, and keep on blogging!

(Here’s what a 2010 Census gag order looks like)

To the readers of MyTwoCensus.com:

As the operations of the 2010 US Census wind down, the activities of MyTwoCensus.com will follow suit. As of this week, there will no longer be daily updates on this site, but when there is news, information, or investigations regarding the 2010 Census or the Census Bureau, you should continue to look here for information. If readers want to suggest future topics for me to write about or investigate, please contact me without hesitation.

(That said, if anyone out there wishes to take over this blog and update it daily or multiple times per week, I would be glad to hand over/share the reins! Please get in touch as I am happy to bring some fresh talent and watchful eyes aboard.)

This blog started from humble beginnings in San Francisco in early February 2009. In its first weeks, MyTwoCensus.com received great recognition from Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post and David Weir from BNet, which surely kept it chugging along.

The Census Bureau’s Public Information Office (Stephen Buckner in particular during those early days) fielded many questions from me and provided this fledgling news organization with invaluable information and clarifications.

From June 2009-June 2010, MyTwoCensus was funded by a generous grant from The Phillips Foundation. Despite critics of this blog decrying The Phillips Foundation as a “conservative” organization, it is 100% true that nobody other than I, Stephen Robert Morse, had any control over the editorial content of this blog (with the exception of some great interns who provided excellent commentary and news when I was on vacation). In fact, the Phillips Foundation’s hands-off approach is what led MyTwoCensus to experiment with different styles of reportage.

And, perhaps most of all, the site would not have been possible without the dedication and expertise of Evan Goldin, MyTwoCensus.com’s Chief Technology Officer, who has been constantly tweaking and improving this site. Any blogger would be lucky to have a guy like Evan as a dear friend and colleague.

As readers, you have been an extremely insightful bunch. You have directed me down the path to investigate many aspects of 2010 Census operations that would otherwise never have been covered or discussed by the media. I am proud to say that more than one million unique visitors have come to MyTwoCensus.com as a source of information since we started tracking analaytics.

The 2010 Census is not yet over. Some time before December 31, 2010, the results of the 2010 Census will be made public, which will initiate a major scramble for power. With redistricting, Congressional reapportionment, and gerrymandering arriving after the new year, there will surely be a wealth of information to gather and report. (If any readers are interested in collaborating on watchdog or reporting efforts surrounding these activities, please let me know.)

The MyTwoCensus Community forum (located on the upper right portion of the page) will remain open indefinitely for readers to share their comments and opinions.

Best regards,

Stephen Robert Morse

PS – To any media/non-profit/corporate organizations or individuals seeking comments or appearances related to MyTwoCensus.com or the 2010 Census, feel free to contact me.

Has the Census Bureau paid all of its bills?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

An alert reader noticed on the MyTwoCensus Twitter feed that Twitter user @Gretchin (Twitter.com/gretchin) was bit by a dog during some 2010 Census operation and hasn’t been compensated for her Emergency Room visit. Is this an isolated case or has the Census Bureau failed to reimburse employees in other situations as well?

Let’s hear your stories from 2010 Census debriefing sessions…

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Please post information in the comments section.

Check out some info on Brazil’s high-tech 2010 Census

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Here’s an article.

$100 Reward for photos of current 2010 Census trip to Vegas

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

MyTwoCensus was tipped off that employees from the Fargo, North Dakota Census Office are currently in Las Vegas, staying at the Treasure Island hotel, because they were #1 out of the 41 offices in their region (presumably in terms of response rates).  I was told this is for a “debriefing.” They are departing from the hotel today. Can anyone get some photos of this?

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Detroit Regional Census Center a bastion of political patronage and corruption

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Author’s note: This investigation is ongoing and MyTwoCensus.com will be pressing the Census Bureau for details about these cases, which thus far the Census Bureau’s public information office has refused to provide. This investigation is most definitely a personal crusade for me as a main goal of this site is to watch over spending and abolish government corruption. As such, I will be keeping this post at the top of MyTwoCensus.com until 1. The mainstream media reports on this most obvious scandal and 2. The Census Bureau acknowledges their mistakes and fires the individuals involved with these problems.

As 2010 Census operations wind down, the Census Bureau has been forced to get rid of many of its temporary employees. However, the few employees who are still employed at the Detroit Regional Census Center’s “partnership” office have one thing in common: They are closely connected to the Detroit political machine and/or the Democratic Party. And the one current employee who doesn’t fit the above description is Toine Murphy, who was indicted by the State of Michigan for his involvement in a Ponzi scheme.

To give you some background on the word “Partnership” in 2010 Census terms, the Census Bureau created an outreach program for the 2010 Census intended to boost involvement by linguistic, racial, and sexual minorities. The stimulus package gave this program a mega boost when it awarded upwards of $500 million in additional cash to the Census Bureau for outreach efforts, many of which are coordinated by “Partnership Specialists” and “Partnership Coordinators.”

(Some of these partnership employees have been paid more than $85,000 per year at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels of pay for federal employees.)

Let’s look at the cast of characters in the Detroit Regional Census Center who were NOT let go from the Census Bureau — even though “partnership” activities are long finished and the vast majority of employees in this office were let go in early June. The survivors are as follows:

1. Marsha Cheeks is a Democratic former member of the Michigan state House of Representatives. However, she was term-limited in 2008. Apparently, the Census Bureau is where retired politicians are put to work in Michigan. It was likely very easy for Cheeks to get the job though, since her sister is a Detroit Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and her nephew is Detroit’s disgraced former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. (I’m not sure if Ms. Cheeks’ campaign finances have ever been investigated, but it looks like she’s taking quite a lot of money that was intended for her sister’s political campaign rather than hers.)

2. Brian H. White, who likely violated the Hatch Act by running for Detroit City Council in 2009 while a 2010 Census employee. Mr. White also ran for State Representative from Michigan’s 6th District in 2008.

Update: After doing more research, it appears that because Mr. White’s run for State Representative in 2008 ended before his official start date with the Census Bureau (February, 2009) and that he ran for the non-partisan City Council of Detroit (while still a Census Bureau employee) he was not in violation of the Hatch Act. (I was unable to acquire Mr. White’s start date with the Census Bureau until after he announced it himself in the comments section of this post.) However, that is not to say that Mr. White’s ethics aren’t poor as he ran for office while still employed by the 2010 Census in 2009 and likely applied for his Census Bureau position while still a candidate for a partisan position. Furthermore, did Mr. White use his Census Bureau resources (phone, office, etc.) to conduct a campaign on that taxpayer’s dime? In Cincinnati, Bernadette Watson left her position at the Census Bureau under pressure to run for that city’s non-partisan City Council in 2009. That said, because of Mr. White’s strong political connections, it is unclear what their role was in his being hired by the 2010 Census.

A recent profile of Mr. White states, “White has worked as state director for the Michigan Election Protection initiative; a Base Vote Director for the Michigan Democratic Party; political director of America Votes Michigan; and public policy coordinator for the Detroit branch NAACP. His political career is extensive, but hasn’t included a run for public office, until now. ‘I always knew I’d be involved, politically, but I never imagined being a politician, per se.”‘

However, this is a lie, as Mr. White ran for Detroit City Council in 2009 and his Facebook profile picture reveals a photo of his candidacy for City Council. (And here’s the Facebook  group dedicated to his State Rep. candidacy.)

Let’s not forget Mr. White’s family political connection: He is the older brother of Donnell White, the Deputy Executive Director of the Detroit NAACP.

Here’s the Facebook photo currently on his profile:


And another from the Facebook group for the 2009 City Council campaign:

3. Belda Garza is also a former Michigan State Representative (who was term-limited) turned Partnership Specialist employed by the Detroit Regional Census Center and kept on the job after other employees were fired.

4. Linda Clark is the girlfriend of Charles “Charlie” Beckham, who is an associate of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and works as a top aide to current Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. Mr. Beckham has been under fire for his previous criminal conviction.

Now, after speaking with many 2010 Census employees, not a soul can confirm that any of the aforementioned individuals, including Toine Murphy (who has not returned numerous calls or e-mails from MyTwoCensus.com) have done a stitch of work in the past couple of months, let alone even entered the Detroit office. All of these employees can “work from home” and are issued government cell phones to conduct their activities. (If any news organization has the resources to tail these people, I urge you to find out what they’re really up to!)

If all of this isn’t bad enough, the Detroit Regional Census Office is still being quietly led by a man who is under investigation by the Commerce Department Inspector General.

On June 10, the Census Bureau released the following statement: “Detroit Regional Director Dwight Dean is not currently involved in the management of Regional operations.  This is a personnel matter, and Mr. Dean remains in the employment of the Census Bureau.  In compliance with the Privacy Act, the Census Bureau has no further comment.”

According to his official 2010 Census biography,  “Dwight Dean has served as director of the Detroit Regional Office – one of 12 offices that make up the U.S. Census Bureau’s permanent field organization – since 1987.” Over the course of 23 years, Mr. Dean has apparently been making lots of friends in Detroit, and this is where the investigation really heats up.  MyTwoCensus has confirmed many tips that Dean engaged in acts of cronyism and corruption – including gaining financial stake in a Detroit warehouse in return for providing 2010 Census jobs for the individuals mentioned above and others.

To provide an example of Mr. Dean’s cronyism, he fired a hard-working 2010 Census supervisor with no cause and replaced the man with his secretary’s husband. So, as of today, both Barbara and Brad Cotner are on the 2010 Census payroll. (E-mail them at barbara.cotner@census.gov and bradley.j.cotner@census.gov according to a search today on the Commerce Department’s “Person Finder.”)

Two independent sources confirmed to MyTwoCensus.com that the Commerce Department Inspector General is now investigating Dwight Dean, who remains on the Census Bureau’s payroll (doing what job, nobody will say, and of course he never returns calls or e-mails asking for comment). MyTwoCensus.com has been unable to confirm  tips from readers who claim that other federal agencies are also investigating Mr. Dean for a variety of charges including corruption and abuse of power.

MyTwoCensus urges federal, state, and local officials to prosecute the individuals involved with the Detroit Regional Census Center’s shenanigans to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

So Robert M. Groves (a Michiganian himself) and Steve Jost, how are you going to try to spin this story so the Census Bureau doesn’t come off as a bastion of corruption?

Steve Jost of the Census Bureau responds to my ranch resort post…

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Steve Jost of the Census Bureau  wrote the following response to my recent ranch resort post, but please note that he does not address the airfares or hotels or other transportation costs of Census Bureau officials from the Denver office that I inquired about:

I suppose one could fly speck every single event or Census related project for cost efficiencies, however this example was a poor one to choose to make some argument about waste.  Indeed, it is a great example of how vital the 2010 Census partnership effort is, and how much it helped save the taxpayers.

First, the partnership effort deserves a great deal of credit for helping the country achieve a mail back response rate and cooperation during our door to door phase that contributed to reducing the total cost of the Decennial Census by $1.6 billion.

Second, this luncheon was at no cost to the taxpayers as the food was provided by partners.  They were gathered together for a Census sponsored briefing on data products that will be coming out from the 2010 Census and the Bureau spent just $500 for room rental for that briefing.  We took the opportunity at this briefing to also thank these partners for their generous contributions toward making the 2010 Census a success.

One example of how our 255,000 partners helped reduce the cost of the Census through their own civic engagement is how much money the government saved because local organizations donated space for testing and training centers.   Nationally, they helped saved the taxpayers over $179 million in rents that did not have to be paid so we could train our temporary workforce of some 565,000 enumerators.   This luncheon was a small gesture of thanks for their significant contribution.

$500 for Best 2010 Census Waste Photo

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Last week, I announced a photo competition to discover the best photo of 2010 Census waste. Well folks, an anonymous donor has guaranteed that he/she will pay $500 to the best photo, provided that there are 50 or more entries into the competition. So please send in your photos by the Monday of Labor Day Weekend and a winner will be voted on/announced soon after!

PS – We have confirmed that 2010 Census offices around the country have now have upper managers squirming as a result of this competition…Rock on!

Luncheons at ranch resorts on your dime…

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I cannot make this up. Here’s how your tax dollars are being spent: On luncheons…at ranch resorts…for 2010 Census Partnership specialists and coordinators and 2010 Census partners. An article from Arizona reads as follows:

The 2010 Census Partner Appreciation & Thank You Luncheon was held on Thursday, August 12th, at the Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort in Tucson, Arizona.

The event was held to recognize partners that participated beyond the requirements to aid in the success of the 2010 census.

The luncheon agenda included:
Welcome – DarLene Burkett and Laura Cummings, Partnership Specialists
Words of Appreciation – Cathy Lacy, Regional Director, Denver Regional Census Center
Data Overview & Next Steps – Pamela Lucero, Partnership Coordinator, Denver Regional
Census Center
Presentation of Awards – Cathy Lacy, Regional Director, Denver Regional Census Center

Does this mean that people were flown from DENVER to ARIZONA for a luncheon? My initial guess is “yes” and I will get to the bottom of this immediately.

MyTwoCensus has already contacted Steve Jost of the Census Bureau to determine how much this luncheon cost and how many other luncheons or similar celebrations are taking place or have taken place throughout the country.

And they keep knocking in Jersey…

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Is this problem unique to The Garden State?

Hiring opportunities for 2010 Census staff…

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

MyTwoCensus just learned that 2010 Census employees are being encouraged to apply for more long-term positions.

Transcript from Dr. Groves’ most recent press conference..and a funny story

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Update: For some reason, comments were turned off for this post. Now that I noticed the problem, they are turned on.

Note: For a few months now, the Census Bureau has prevented me from asking questions when I dial in by phone to their monthly press conferences. The Bureau prefers to take questions from journalists with little or no knowledge about 2010 Census operations, because such questions will be less pointed/inflammatory.

Such was the case last week at Dr Groves’ press conference when question after question was asked and I was not selected to ask mine.  II was forced to resort to plan B: I dialed in to the press conference on a second phone line,  using a false name, “John Smith”, representing a fictional publication, “The Ocean Side Gazette” in order to have my question asked. Within minutes of this call ending, Steve Jost (the Census Bureau’s #2 political appointee)  acknowledged that people realized it was me on the line.

I find it both shocking and despicable that a fictional journalist from a fictional publication gets better treatment from the Census Bureau’s management at press conferences than Stephen Robert Morse of MyTwoCensus.com trying to ask tough questions.

Here’s the transcript:

http://2010.census.gov/news/pdf/transcript_8-10-10.pdf

Another 2010 Census employee attacked…

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Though there haven’t been media reports of attacks on 2010 Census employees for a couple of months now, so let’s hope that this recent incident in Kentucky is an isolated one:

http://www.wkyt.com/home/headlines/101074709.html

MyTwoCensus Photo Challenge: Best photo of 2010 Census waste gets a cash prize

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

MyTwoCensus is running our first photo challenge. After receiving many reports from readers that Local Census Offices around the country are now  recycling and throwing out hundreds to thousands of boxes worth of 2010 Census materials (including,  as one source says, “A truck completely filled with rubber bands, erasers, and pens…”), MyTwoCensus wants to document this waste.

The Census Bureau is trying to do all of these activities on the down-low (ever  since MyTwoCensus posted a photo of boxes on the sidewalks of New York).  So to further expose the Census Bureau’s practices, use your camera phones to take photos of Census Bureau waste at your local census office.

Please send your photo with a caption to mytwocensus [AT] mytwocensus.com. I will post the top entries before Labor Day Weekend and let readers vote on the outcome (with a cash prize for the winner if the person chooses to be identified). All photos will be posted anonymously unless the photographer says otherwise.

Update on Vangent

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The other day,  I wrote about Vangent, the company that received an $86 million contract from the Census Bureau to staff call/processing centers for the 2010 Census. As it turns out, the company has a very shady history. Some readers of this site might not even realize that they have been working for Vangent, which sub-contracted 2010 Census hiring to other companies such as Quest Staffing Services, Synergy Staffing Partners and Remedy Intelligent Staffing. To get a more clear picture about how Vangent runs their operations (which seems more like how things are run in China than the US), check out jobvent.com’s page for Vangent. Here’s a sample quote from the site:

“Let’s start out with the basics: Vangent is a call center & information processing company. They work on U.S. federal government contracts. This means the management and leaders at Vangent will stoop to any level to satisfy the government agency who gave them the contract. You as an employee are a robot; performing the work that was outsourced by the government. You are not a person and you have no rights outside of the most basic rights that are afforded to government contract employees. Vangent is the most impersonal company you will ever encounter.”

Texas residents aren’t counted

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Here’s an article that discusses some major counting problems in El Paso County, Texas. Hopefully this is an isolated incident of neglect.

China counts 4 times as many people at 1/12 the cost…

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Here’s an article about China’s 2010 Census, which will cost $1.18 billion.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Detroit Ponzi Schemer STILL employed by Census Bureau

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Toine Murphy making a 2010 Census presentation. Photo courtesy of the Ann Arbor Chronicle

Despite being indicted in Michigan in June, 2010, Toine Murphy, a one-time basketball player turned US Census Bureau partnership specialist (and apparently a major Dwight Dean crony) is STILL employed by the Census Bureau. As MLive.com reported back in June:

Michigan’s Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation today announced it has shut down a $1.9 million Ponzi scheme after records showed sales of securities products were used to fund shopping sprees and trips to strip clubs.

Investor Martin Royster, a partner in Royster, Carberry, Goldman & Associates, was accused of “promising outrageous returns” of up to 240 percent annually in a fraudulent oil investment company, according to OFIR

OFIR’s investigation showed that Royster’s wife, April Royster, Toine Murphy, Lloyd Banks III, Shannon Steel and Royster’s firm all were associated with the sale of unregistered securities products, a violation of the state’s Uniform Securities Act.

Mr. Murphy has not returned calls or e-mails, but it has been confirmed by a secretary at the Detroit Regional office that Murphy “works from home” but stops by the office “almost every day.” Mind you, Census Bureau “partnership” activities finished in early June, and in mid-August with Census forms all returned, who knows what this guy isdoing while remaining on the government’s payroll…

Burton Reist, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director for Communications,  denied any knowledge of this situation.

Stay tuned for more!

Anyone know about Vangent?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

A significant amount of work, $86 million worth, for the 2010 Census went to an IT management firm called Vangent. In the company’s most recent earnings report, they wrote:

Vangent reported revenue from continuing operations of $214.8 million for the quarter ended July 3, 2010, an increase of $79.7 million or 59% compared to $135.1 million in the quarter ended June 27, 2009.  The increase in total revenue from continuing operations reflects an $83.0 million or 72% increase in revenue from the Government Group.  The increase is primarily attributable to $85.9 million in revenue from Vangent’s 2010 U.S. Census contract.

What have been your experiences working for Vangent? How have they managed this large contract? As this firm derived a major portion of their revenue from the 2010 Census, it’s important for us to look into their background. A search reveals that Chairman of the Board Robert B. McKeon has a shady past which is revealed in this Business Week article:

McKeon is the founder of Veritas Capital, a New York private-equity firm that invests in intelligence and defense contractors. Among the fund’s holdings: DynCorp International Inc. (DCP ) in Irving, Tex., whose name was tarnished in the late 1990s when some of its employees in Bosnia became embroiled in a sex trafficking scandal.

In the summer of 2005, another scandal-plagued military contractor caught McKeon’s eye. MZM Inc. was the focus of a federal investigation into whether its owner bribed California Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars of government contracts providing technical and other support to intelligence agencies and the military. Sensing an opportunity, McKeon hired a former CIA general counsel to quiz Pentagon and intelligence officials about the viability of MZM’s business, which before the invasion of Iraq included helping with controversial analysis of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear capabilities. “We take on messy situations, and MZM was a mess,” says McKeon, whose top secret security clearance still doesn’t allow him to know all the details of what his companies do.

Not everyone is cheering. Critics argue that Athena’s apparent success rests on lucrative contracts landed under questionable circumstances. “Veritas is profiting from the spoils of congressional bribes,” says Keith Ashdown, vice-president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, in Washington.


What other skeletons are in the Vangent closet?

Why is Dwight Dean still on the 2010 Census payroll?

Monday, August 16th, 2010

A quick search of the Commerce Department web site reveals that Dwight Dean is still employed by the Census Bureau even though he has long been removed from duty as the director of the Detroit region. Numerous tips have come in to the MyTwoCensus inbox with allegations that Mr. Dean engaged in substantial amounts of illegal activities while he was on the job.

From the directory:

Dean, Dwight P CENSUS Dwight.P.Dean@census.gov +1 313 259 1158

Note: I have tried to get through to Mr. Dean numerous times by telephone but I suspect that part of the reason that I was unable to get through is that Mr. Dean permitted his secretary’s husband to be hired as a supervisor for the 2010 Census (can you say NEPOTISM and CRONYISM) after other hardworking individuals were wrongfully fired by Mr. Dean.  Getting past a crony gatekeeper isn’t easy…

MyTwoCensus has successfully removed other corrupt officials from office like Joseph Aramanda in Chicago and Rafael Dominguez in New York, and we will get to the bottom of this issue as well.