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 the ‘Politics’ Category

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

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

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.

Detroit Regional Director is replaced mysteriously and at the last minute…WHY?

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

UPDATE: I called Census Bureau Asst. Director for Communications Burton Reist to follow up about this because I was tipped off that Dwight Dean was investigated for not following procedures and falling behind in NRFU operations. He said, “Mr. Dean is not currently involved in management. He is absolutely still employed…Wayne Hatcher from Charlotte has taken over the office and field operations in Detroit are running smoothly.”  Upon me asking him a load of other questions, he simply replied no comment. Well, we all know that running smoothly line is a load of horse sh*t…now to find out the truth about the rest of it…

In the past few days I received some tips that Dwight Dean of the Detroit office was given the boot, both suddenly and mysteriously. Today, my suspicions were confirmed when the Census Bureau sent out this press release:

Census Bureau Statement on the Detroit Regional Office

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.

In the interim, Wayne Hatcher, from the Charlotte Regional Office, is
serving as Acting Regional Director in Detroit.  Elaine Wagner, Deputy
Regional Director, and Jonathan Spendlove, Assistant Regional Director,
continue to be involved with management of the office. Both are seasoned
managers, and Field operations in Detroit are functioning smoothly.  As we
do with all twelve Regional Census Centers, we will continue to work with
the Detroit Region to provide any support they need to ensure a successful
2010 Census and fulfill other regional responsibilities.

The Washington Post’s Carol Morello added this commentary:

The longtime regional Census Bureau director in Detroit has been replaced, but census officials are declining to discuss the reasons behind the unusual move, which comes in the middle of census season.

Dwight P. Dean, a census employee since 1969 and regional director for the past 13 years, no longer has managerial responsibilities as of late last week, said Burton Reist, a census spokesman. Dean remains on the payroll, Reist said. When asked what work Dean was doing, Reist said, “I’m not sure.” Asked if Dean was on leave, Reist declined to comment further, saying it was a personnel matter.

According to a census biography, Dean was awarded the Department of Commerce’s bronze and silver medals in 1986 and 1991.

Attempts to reach Dean were unsuccessful.

Ed O’Keefe on James O’Keefe (no relation)

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post has added some more info tot he James O’Keefe narrative from earlier today:

“Workers are instructed to report hours they work, which would include their time traveling to and from training,” said spokesman Stephen Buckner. “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 two 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 time sheets 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. ”

A Census Bureau official also noted that O’Keefe’s decision to videotape the training sessions appears to violate Commerce Department policies against recording conversations.

O’Keefe confirmed that he worked for the agency last summer for about a month compiling addresses as part of 2010 Census preparations. He was hired again this April and quit after two days of training before receiving further instructions in order to avoid any privacy concerns, he said in an interview.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: New York Times editorial has it both right and wrong

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Today, the New York Times published an editorial that praises Congress for initiating bi-partisan reforms of the Census Bureau as it initiated legislation that mandates the Census Bureau Director’s term to be fixed at five-years, a plan that makes it easier to work around the decennial census. However, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and the White House were at first keen on this idea, but have now stalled the plan, despite seven former Census Bureau directors asserting that this is the best way to reform the Census Bureau. Robert M. Groves, the current Census Bureau Director, also supports this plan — but apparently the egos of the others have got in the way of progress:

The Obama administration, which should be supporting the bill, is instead raising objections. It has objected to a provision that would allow the census director to report directly to the commerce secretary. It also has objected to a provision that would require the director to send Congress the bureau’s budget request at the same time it goes to the White House.

However, the editorial strays from its initial goals later on and says this:

The census was in dire straits when President Obama took office, and it took a while for the administration to get organized. The 2010 count is now on track, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Locke and Robert Groves, the bureau director — both Obama appointees.

The New York Times has it wrong. The Census Bureau and the 2010 Census are not “on track” at this point. The myriad technical failures and other problems have already hampered the accuracy of this count and will continue to do so in the immediate future mean that the 2010 Census is NOT on track.

NY Post’s John Crudele continues war on 2010 Census hiring/firing practices

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Last week, we posted that John Crudele of the New York Post has been fighting the Census Bureau over allegations that the Bureau is inflating national hiring rates because workers have been hired and fired for different stages of the 2010 Census. The Census Bureau’s spokesperson Shelly Lowe, has explicitly denied these claims in the comments sections of Crudele’s page and MyTwoCensus.com. But Mr. Crudele feels that his fight is worthy and just, so he has taken it a step further today by posting nondescript stories of people who have contacted him because they have been hired/fired multiple times (full article HERE). MyTwoCensus, at this time, feels that the Census Bureau would not explicitly lie about how they report new hires/terminated workers to the federal government but here are some case studies anyway:

* I was hired four times, counting last year and this. There’s lots of waste and poor management. I’ve wondered about the handheld computer (used by door-to-door workers.) I’ve no idea how many of these were purchased. They were only used last year in one effort and my understanding is there were a lot of problems.

* I’m in south Orange County in Southern California and I’m going door-to-door to people the Census says have not turned in their form. At least 60 percent of the people I speak to swear they’ve turned it in. We are supposed to visit a residence three times. (If we can’t contact anyone) we are supposed to try up to three proxies (neighbors or other people) to get information on a particular resident. So basically your neighbor can report how many people live in your home.

* Everything you reported is absolutely true. I was fired three times and rehired. I earned more going to training classes than (working). Several classmates didn’t get any work after completing training.

* I was hired by the Census on March 16 and my last day was April 19 at the bilingual question answering center in Rome, Ga. We had two days of training, of which one was just to get hired officially as a federal employee. I had a total of two people come by my location and ask a question — costing taxpayers $250 per question.

* I am a Census worker. I, too, can confirm that they are checking and checking. I checked homes that have already been checked by the “enumerators.” The next phase is to go and re-check the checks that we already did twice..

* It’s not much better in Florida. Our first day of training was a total joke. The supposed crew leader knew nothing. She didn’t even open the manual to prep herself. We spent four hours signing six pieces of paper, one of which we signed on the day of the initial test ing. The nightmare didn’t end when we got to the field. No work was available so we would sit in a meeting waiting for work for hours, which went on our timesheet.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: 2010 Census work should be suspended for Memorial Day

Friday, May 28th, 2010

MyTwoCensus has received numerous tips that Census Bureau offices will be open on Memorial Day and that enumerators will be out counting households. MyTwoCensus strongly disagrees with this decision to operate on Memorial Day for many reasons. First, Memorial Day is FEDERAL HOLIDAY, and the 2010 Census is a federal government operation. Second, Memorial Day is a time to show respect to veterans, living and dead. Third, Memorial Day is a time when not many people will be at home anyway. American tradition dictates that families and friends gather at parties that can be held in private, on beaches, in parks, and other public spaces. Enumerating on this day will likely be a major waste of time and money because few people will be at  home to answer their doors. Additionally, if all other federal workers receive Monday off, why should Census Bureau employees be held to a different standard?

Regional Director: Change the label; then throw out information

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

The below e-mail is from the New York regional director Tony Farthing to his staff. Note his quote “Also, you need to watch the appearance of things, like what is being thrown away, even if what is in a box is different than the label….then change the label so that the appearance is not anything that would cause concern.”

From:  
To:  
cc:  
bcc:    

Date:  
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 05:17PM
Subject:  
Fw: Picture of boxes in NY with “Recycle” on them

Hi Folks:  as you can imagine, in this day and age we have all kinds of people in our offices who are looking to take photos of anything, and even record conversations outside of the offices between Census employees.   At all times, you need to be careful about what you say…you need to say the right things and say it in a way that it cannot be misinterpreted.   Also, you need to watch the appearance of things, like what is being thrown away, even if what is in a box is different than the label….then change the label so that the appearance is not anything that would cause concern.

Be advised that whenever anything is to be recycled from a Census office…nothing should be placed in boxes out of the street and left unattended.   At all times Census workers with ID should be guarding this until it is picked up by the approved company.

We need everyone’s cooperation with this…..and unfortunately, and fortunately, this is the most watched census ever…..from those that want to help us, and those who take enjoyment out of finding the smallest flaws and broadcasting them.

Please be diligent in your upholding and enforcement of Census procedures and Title 13 materials….including the appearance of what could be Title 13 materials even if they are not.   If it is a box that says Census on it, the antennas go up automatically.

Feel free to take a look at the link below which pretty much sums up the reason for my email!

Tony Farthing
Regional Director

Ed O’Keefe: 113 attacks against Census Bureau employees

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

From Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post:

More than 113 census takers have been the victims of assaults or attacks since April 1, the U.S. Census Bureau said late Wednesday.

In response to inquiries by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Census Director Robert Groves said the bureau’s temporary workers knocking on doors to collect information have faced 29 threats involving a gun, four robberies and three instances of being held against their will or carjacked. Six workers died in car accidents and one was killed while off duty.

The Census Bureau hired about 635,000 people to follow up with people who did not return questionnaires by the end of April. The process is more than half completed, and is scheduled to continue into July.

Bureau officials did not return requests for comment Wednesday night and did not provide comparable figures from the 2000 Census. Twenty-one census workers died on the job between 1998 and 2009, according to agency figures.

Local news reports have revealed some of the incidents, including a census worker carjacked by a 14-year old and a California incident thatresulted in the death of a woman.

Aides said Maloney requested the information to determine whether news reports were accurately reflecting a trend or merely focusing on a few incidents.

“These acts of violence against census enumerators are tragic, especially when you consider these temporary workers were only trying to do their job making sure their neighbors are accurately and fairly counted in the Decennial Census,” Maloney said.

The attacks come as the agency announced stricter hiring rules on Wednesday after a registered sex offender using an alias got a job as a census taker.

Washington Post: Stricter hiring rules at the Census Bureau

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

In response to recent incidents and pressure from lawmakers, Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves has made hiring rules more tough. MyTwoCensus has for more than a year exposed holes in the Census Bureau’s hiring plan and fingerprinting procedures, so this shouldn’t come as a major surprise. However, this action may further fuel the class action lawsuit against the Census Bureau. Here’s the latest from Ed O’Keefe and Carol Morello of The Washington Post:

The Census Bureau is adopting stricter rules for screening new hires after a registered sex offender using an alias got a job as a census taker, the bureau’s director said Wednesday.

Robert M. Groves said that from now on, applicants whose name, age, gender and Social Security number don’t all match background records will be held up for more investigation instead of being sent on for FBI fingerprint checks. Applicants whose fingerprints are not legible, as sometimes happens with older people whose ridges have worn down, will not be hired until their identities and backgrounds can be checked.

And when there is any “evidence of criminality” by a census worker, Groves said, there will be swifter invention to get them off the streets.

“These three things are good things to do,” said Groves, speaking at a Fairfax event that aimed to encourage Asian Americans to open their doors to census takers and answer their questions. “People should know that the person coming to your door won’t harm you.”

In early May, a woman in Pennsauken, N.J., who was home alone with her toddler son, opened her door to a census worker who asked for the names and birth dates of everyone residing there. Thinking he looked familiar, the woman checked the sex offender registry site after he left and recognized the man under a different name than the one he had given her.

Census officials said the man had passed a name check but failed a fingerprint check and was fired in the first week of May, apparently after he had visited the woman’s home. The man was charged with using a fake Social Security number in his census application.

In a separate incident, a census worker in Indiana was charged with raping and beating a disabled woman in early May when he allegedly returned to the house after first visiting on an official call as a census taker.

The Census Bureau has hired about 635,000 people to make house calls to people who did not send in their census forms by the end of April. This phase is more than half completed, and is scheduled to continue into July.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Clarify Social Networking And Blogging Regulations

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

In a memo sent last week to all of its employees, the Census Bureau took a huge swipe at the first amendment of the US Constitution, the right to freedom of speech. The contents of the letter were as follows:

CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDER

Social Networking and Census Employment

As personal blogging, tweeting, social network sites have become more common and popular, it is not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and their employer in a public forum. Please be aware that you cannot disclose any nonpublic information that is protected by statute. You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs or operations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee. In addition, you must be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of the Bureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government, when you are writing in your personal capacity.

These rules apply to all employees, as well as those who are professional writers and reporters, so please keep these considerations in mind before writing and publishing or posting an article or other writing about the census or your work as a Census Bureau employee.

As a Federal employee and a hard-working member of the Census Bureau, you have important responsibilities and obligations to the public which impose some limits on you that do not apply to persons in the private sector. Please be mindful of these responsibilities, even when engaging in personal activities such as blogging and posting on web sites.

These restrictions on writings and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took to uphold the confidentiality of census information. Any wrongful disclosure of confidential census information subjects you to a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment up to 5 years, or both.

*The last part of the letter was underlined, not put in bold, but I put it in bold to illustrate a point.

Just like other government officials and people who work in the private sector, Census Bureau employees are subject to confidentiality laws. However, this does not mean that the government has the right to threaten employees, particularly whistleblowers, as they have in this situation.  The Census Bureau must make clear what workers’ legal obligations are and what are simply the goals of the Census Bureau’s management and public relations team who benefit greatly from problems being kept quiet and unreported.

New York Post: Census Bureau’s hiring and re-hiring and re-re-hiring inflates US job statistics

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Unemployment figures are likely higher than the government claims, simply because so many Census Bureau employees have been hired, fired, re-hired, re-fired, etc, etc etc for each Census Bureau operation. Here’s the full story from John Crudele at the NYP:

You know the old saying: “Everyone loves a charade.” Well, it seems that the Census Bureau may be playing games.

Last week, one of the millions of workers hired by Census 2010 to parade around the country counting Americans blew the whistle on some statistical tricks.

The worker, Naomi Cohn, told The Post that she was hired and fired a number of times by Census. Each time she was hired back, it seems, Census was able to report the creation of a new job to the Labor Department.

Below, I have a couple more readers who worked for Census 2010 and have tales to tell.

But first, this much we know.

Each month Census gives Labor a figure on the number of workers it has hired. That figure goes into the closely followed monthly employment report Labor provides. For the past two months the hiring by Census has made up a good portion of the new jobs.

Labor doesn’t check the Census hiring figure or whether the jobs are actually new or recycled. It considers a new job to have been created if someone is hired to work at least one hour a month.

One hour! A month! So, if a worker is terminated after only one hour and another is hired in her place, then a second new job can apparently be reported to Labor . (I’ve been unable to get Census to explain this to me.)

Here’s a note from a Census worker — this one from Manhattan:

“John: I am on my fourth rehire with the 2010 Census.

“I have been hired, trained for a week, given a few hours of work, then laid off. So my unemployed self now counts for four new jobs.

“I have been paid more to train all four times than I have been paid to actually produce results. These are my tax dollars and your tax dollars at work.

“A few months ago I was trained for three days and offered five hours of work counting the homeless. Now, I am knocking (on) doors trying to find the people that have not returned their Census forms. I worked the 2000 Census. It was a far more organized venture.

“Have to run and meet my crew leader, even though with this rain I did not work today. So I can put in a pay sheet for the hour or hour and a half this meeting will take. Sincerely, C.M.

And here’s another:

“John: I worked for (Census) and I was paid $18.75 (an hour) just like Ms. Naomi Cohn from your article.

“I worked for about six weeks or so and I picked the hours I wanted to work. I was checking the work of others. While I was classifying addresses, another junior supervisor was checking my work.

“In short, we had a “checkers checking checkers” quality control. I was eventually let go and was told all the work was finished when, in fact, other people were being trained for the same assignment(s).

“I was re-hired about eight months later and was informed that I would have to go through one week of additional training.

Dedicated to Census Bureau Associate Director for Communications Steve Jost: 2010 Census payroll problems acknowledged and additional assistance to be given to employees

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Though the Census Bureau’s Associate Director for Communications (and Spin Doctor in Residence) Steve Jost denied problems with the Census Bureau’s payroll system in comments he posted on this blog, Ryla, a firm contracted by the government to handle telephone complaints and questions about Census Bureau operations, has now acknowledged its own payroll problems for its employees. This is a true victory for MyTwoCensus.com and its loyal readers, as this issue likely would not have received the attention it deserves without your assistance. Let’s now hope that the Census Bureau follows suit in addressing payroll problems that have been widely reported by this site’s readers. Thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the following:

By Leon Stafford

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kennesaw-based Ryla Inc. is working to improve its pay processes after some of the 1,300 census workers the company employs complained they were not getting checks on time or were shorted work hours.

Ryla spokeswoman Karen Clay said the pay problems have occurred in spurts and the company is paying employees as quickly as its officials are notified. She did not know the exact number of people affected, but said it is small.

“There were some hiccups in our own processing in payroll,” Clay said, declining to be more specific. “Any payroll discrepancies are actively being worked on.”

Ryla, operator of one of Georgia’s biggest call centers, announced in February it was hiring the workers to handle calls for the 2010 Census. Pay is roughly $12-$15 an hour.

Another issue for workers has been pay stubs issued for $0. Clay said workers with those checks are employed by temporary agencies. Ryla pays the temp agencies, which then pay the workers.

A letter to Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves from an employee in Florida

Monday, May 24th, 2010
The following opinions are those of a Census Bureau employee, not MyTwoCensus.com, and concern the letter below from Robert M. Groves::

Dear Robert Groves:

I am writing this editorial in response to a letter you wrote to all your local census office staff thanking them for their hard work and late hours dedicated to the census. I know that you will read this personally or someone on your staff will bring this to your attention. In your letter you assure us that you and Census Bureau employees at the highest level are focused on improving the Paper Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) and its performance. As this website has pointed out, PBOCS still has outages and bugs in the system are not fixed.

In the past few weeks we have seen a huge backlog in processing questionnaires. When headquarters and RCC set strict production standards and goals without flexibility and evaluate offices strictly based on that what you will find is managers react and make wasteful decisions. The Census needs to stop a common practice of  “throwing” bodies and resources at the problem in offices across the country. The staffing levels in some offices are now triple what the staffing authorizations originally allotted. Some offices are running three shifts 24 hours a day and those who are working 6pm to 6am are getting night differential pay. The number of staff in these offices has become simply impossible to manage effectively. The bureau may want to hire more staff in lieu of paying overtime. However keep in mind that there is a learning curve. Managers and supervisors can’t give new staff the same organized verbatim training. In some offices the NRFU operation is ahead of schedule, yet enumerators are still being trained as replacements when it is clear there is going to be no work. The most effective management decision is to find a balance using a marginal cost/benefit analysis: hire just enough additional staff to complete the task in a reasonable time, reward controlled overtime to your quality employees and spread out the staff. For example on Saturday May 15th our LCO was required to bring in ten staff for PBOCS over the weekend, even though most of the staff were not trained and the system couldn’t handle the users. So most of these employees sat around unproductively.

Also when production goals are set with no flexibility there is corner cutting and low quality work. When PBOCS doesn’t work and questionnaires need to be shipped we’ll just throw them in the box. When enumerators are held to strict production standards in hard to count areas we’ll simply resort to non-knowledgeable proxies or marking them as vacant or uninhabitable. (and remember vacant and uninhabitable units are difficult to be re interviewed in the quality control process) The Census Bureau’s quality assurance checks try to find low quality or falsified data however there are flaws. We won’t add housing units as we are supposed to and no quality assurance check that the bureau has can pick that up.

The solution is work smarter and more efficiently. If the Census fails to do this they will go over budget and run out of money. Most people will agree the crux of your staff are the enumerators and the clerks in the office who process questionnaires and payroll. We are the ones who are being paid the least amount of money and suffer the most from intimidation, constant demands of unattainable production goals and threats of being fired. Some of these forms of intimidation come from constant reminders that overtime is strictly forbidden. However if we don’t work fast enough headquarters and RCC staff will bring people in to take the food out of our mouths and pay the overtime to other employees either from other offices or even other regions. How demoralizing it must be to bring in people from other local census offices or even flying people across the country and putting them up in hotel rooms to help local census offices.

In these tough economic times, local census office employees like us may swallow their pride and work beyond their hours without claiming them simply because we want to be viewed as productive employees and keep our jobs. However when the Census ends the bureau is setting itself for another lawsuit from disgruntled employees. Your headquarters and regional census office staff must be more constructive in its criticism and not just threaten. The fact is your career census employees had ten years to get this right and didn’t. Now to blame local census offices for not processing work fast enough or to be inflexible in its deadlines is unacceptable.

I am proud to be part of this great endeavor, working for the 23rd census of population and have forged the greatest of friendship and camaraderie part of it as a result of the recession which has attracted a talented employee pool. Nevertheless I am disappointed in how we are treated by the regional census center and headquarters employees. I am simply asking that your career census employees treat the temporary employees with the respect and support we deserve and need in this tough time.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Census Office Employee

Federal investigation of Census worker?

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

A civil-liberties group in VA is asking for a federal investigation in the case of one enumerator who reportedly, after being told that the homeowner was unavailable, stuck his foot into a closing door, entered the home, and insisted to the homeowner’s son that he looked Hispanic (even after being told he is half-Chinese.) The civil liberties group is right that there are constitutional concerns regarding a government worker impinging on a home’s privacy in such a way. However, shades of gray have to be admitted. The enumerator is a government employee, yes, but in all likelihood he wouldn’t have been for much longer even if isn’t fired from this. Enumerator training obviously was not effective — but at what point is it his OWN error rather than that of his trainers? We could have a federal investigation into this guy, but we may have an easier time if we just fire one irresponsible guy.

From Charlottesville, VA’s DailyProgress.com:

Local group wants investigation into complaint of agressive Census worker

By TASHA KATES
Published: May 18, 2010

The president of a Charlottesville-based civil liberties group is pushing for a federal investigation into a report of aggressive behavior by a U.S. Census Bureau worker during a visit to an Albemarle County home.

In a letter John W. Whitehead mailed Tuesday to U.S. Rep Tom Perriello, D-Ivy, he writes that the worker may have violated Fourth Amendment rights by entering a family’s home without permission. The worker also asked questions about ethnicities beyond what is required for the census, Whitehead said in the letter.

“For a government agent to enter a private citizen’s home without invitation and against the wishes of the resident not only indicates a trespass but raises grave constitutional concerns,” wrote Whitehead, who is with The Rutherford Institute.

Tony Jones, a Census spokesman, said the agency hadn’t heard of the incident before Tuesday. He said the employee in question still works for the Census Bureau and likely will receive more training.

“We certainly apologize if anyone has been offended by this particular census taker’s actions,” Jones said. “We strive every day to do a better job, and we promise to do better going forward.”

According to White-head’s letter, a census taker came to Susan Broadwa-ter’s home on May 10 to conduct the survey. Broadwater’s 19-year-old son said his mother was unavailable, asked the man to come back and started to close the door.

“The Census Bureau worker, insistent that the son answer the questions, stuck his foot in the door and illegally entered the premises of Ms. Broadwater’s home,” the letter said.

Whitehead’s letter said the worker “began to vigorously question” the teenager about his ethnicity. The employee reportedly told the boy that he looked Hispanic or Latino after being told that the teenager was half Chinese. The man told the worker that no one in the home was Hispanic or Latino, the letter said, but the employee continued to question him about the presence of Hispanic/Latino people in the home.

Broadwater didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment for this story. Jones said that enumerators receive a week of training, during which time they are told to only conduct the questionnaire in the doorway because of concerns about census worker safety.

When asked what census workers are instructed to do when they think a respondent is lying, Jones said enumerators are instructed to use the 10-question form as the script for the interview.

Jessica Barba, Perriello’s press secretary, said the Charlottesville office is getting a Privacy Act consent form from Broadwater so that the congressman’s office can start making inquiries to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the census.

Jones said census workers are supposed to identify themselves, show their ID badges and share the name and phone number of their supervisor with respondents before asking questions. Whitehead said if a census worker tries to enter a person’s home, the person should ask them to leave and contact police if the worker remains.

Anyone who has a complaint or question about the census may call the Charlotte-based regional census center at (704) 936-5300, Jones said.

A Yuba City, CA woman was shot and killed after a Census visit

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The story is tragic and bizarre — after residents pointed a gun at a Census employee, attracting police to the area, a woman refused officers’ demands to lay down a shotgun she was carrying and was shot. It’s sad that an irrational fear of Census takers seems to have fueled gun threats yet again, and it’s even sadder that it had to result in the loss of a life this time. From Appeal-Democrat.com:

Woman shot, killed by Yuba City police

May 21, 2010 11:18:00 AM

A 67-year-old Yuba City woman was shot and killed by officers when she pointed a shotgun at them and refused to put it down, according to Yuba City police.

Victoria Helen Roger-Vasselin was pronounced dead late Thursday at her home at 764 Mariner Loop in an affluent neighborhood on the city’s far south side.
Roger-Vasselin was the sister of the late Thomas E. Mathews, a Yuba County judge and district attorney.

“They shot her dead,” Roger-Vasselin’s distraught son said outside the house Friday morning.

“I think she was just startled” by late visits to her home, he said.

Before he could give his full name, a relative or family friend took him by the arm and led him inside, shutting the door.
Officers went to the Mariner Loop home after receiving a call at 9:04 p.m. about weapons being brandished.

A U.S. Census worker “had been confronted by residents who pointed a firearm at the worker and said they would not answer any questions and closed the door,” said police spokeswoman Shawna Pavey.

When two male officers arrived, 51-year-old Lionel Patterson answered the door, armed with a handgun, police said.

“As officers were dealing with the male, a female approached the door with a shotgun and ignored officers’ orders to release the weapon. As the female advanced on officers, she continued to point the shotgun at officers in a threatening manner and the two officers fired their service weapons, hitting the female,” police said.

Both officers fired their guns, said Pavey, adding she didn’t believe Roger-Vasselin or Patterson fired.

Both officers were uniformed and clearly identifiable as police, Pavey said.

Pavey said toxicology testing after an autopsy Friday morning will determine if alcohol or drugs were factors in the incident.

The officers have been placed on routine administrative leave while the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office investigates the incident.

A neighbor, Bob Dhaliwal, said he was in bed when heard people, including one woman, shouting and yelling, followed by five or six shots. When he came outside, officers with guns drawn had the male suspect on the ground, then took him away in a patrol car, he said.

“All I saw was him being arrested. I assumed he shot somebody,” Dhaliwal said.

Patterson lives at the same address. Pavey and neighbors said it wasn’t clear what the relationship was between him and Roger-Vasselin.

Dhaliwal and other neighbors said they didn’t know Roger-Vasselin well.

“She kept to herself,” Dhaliwal said.

One neighbor, who declined to give her name, described Roger-Vasselin “pleasant but reserved,” almost reclusive.

“She was much more social when she moved first moved in. The economy was better then,” the neighbor said.

Neighbors said they had also received nighttime visits from a female census worker.

Roger-Vasselin owned the house for about three years but rented it for about six months while she worked in Hawaii, returning to Yuba City six to nine months ago, the neighbor said.

When her mother, Lillian Mathews-Crumrine, died in 1998, Roger-Vasselin lived in Kauai, Hawaii.

When the former judge, Thomas E. Mathews, died In 2005, Roger-Vasselin was living in San Francisco. Then 63 and a regional membership executive at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, she was one four employees involved in an age- discrimination lawsuit against the Marriott Corporation.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: For the sake of employees, tell the truth about how long NRFU operations will last

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

MyTwoCensus has received confidential reports from multiple Census Bureau officials that non-response follow-up operations in many parts of the country are winding down. By law, the Census Bureau can only contact non-responders three times in person and three times by phone — even though MyTwoCensus is currently investigating whether additional illegal contacts are taking place.

Because of the Census Bureau’s computer failures, the 2010 Census may be coming in over-budget (apparently $15 billion wasn’t enough cash…). Since the Census Bureau doesn’t want to take yet another scolding from the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, they may try to abruptly end the 2010 headcount ASAP.

With half a million workers on the streets during this large-scale operation, there is significant amounts of confusion about how long jobs will last. Lying to Census Bureau employees, who very well may lose their jobs within the next one or two weeks (by the end of May) is not the answer. Yes, these jobs are temporary, but working through the end of July meant an additional two months of security and stability for many individuals employed by the Census Bureau who may have quit lower paying jobs to take on these positions. Additionally, it seems to be that thousands of individuals went off unemployment to take their Census Bureau jobs. These people should not have been told that they would have 6-8 weeks of work if they really only have 4 weeks of work.

Social networking is bad! (says the Census Bureau)

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
An anonymous Census employee sent SRM a tip about a few flyers the Bureau sent along with their paychecks (finally). One flyer covered driving safety (and please, everyone, do take care while driving). The other covered the ethics of social networking, and unfortunately it came to the conclusion that it’s bad. Sorry Morse, time to close up shop! (Note: That was a joke.)
Email excerpt:
It’s funny how it is implied that criticizing and talking to outsiders about the incompetence of the census machinery and brass is punishable with jail and fines, when in reality, it only applies to title 13 of USC in regard to respondent information and personally identifiable information.  The census own manuals have a section devoted to the rights and protections afforded to whistleblowers.  They also imply that because we are paid government employees, that it is unethical for us to publicly humiliate and or expose the ineptness of our employers.  Nice try.  There is no law preventing anyone from writing in their personal capacity, but it is implied that it is wrong, unethical, and just not cool.
And from the reminder itself (no emphasis added):
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS REMINDER
Social Networking and Census Employment
As personal blogging, tweeting, social networking sites have become more common and popular, it
is not unusual for Federal employees to have an opportunity to write about their work and their
employer in a public forum.  Please be aware you cannot disclose any nonpublic information that
is protected by statute.  You also cannot receive payments for writing about Census programs or
operations or about assignments you have been given as a Census employee.  In addition, you
must be careful to ensure that there is no appearance created that you are writing on behalf of the
Bureau of the Census, the Department of Commerce, or the United States Government when you
are writing in your personal capacity.
[...]
These restrictions on writing and publications are in addition to the life-time oath you took to
uphold the confidentiality of census information.  Any wrongful disclosure of confidential census
information subjects you to a fine up to $250,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both.

Former Census Bureau statistician denounces Census Bureau Director’s words as misleading to the public

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves keeps a blog on the Census Bureau’s web site. Adeline J. Wilcox, a former Census Bureau employee has informed MyTwoCensus of misleading statements on Dr. Groves’ May 14, 2010 post about data collection. Ms. Wilcox states the following about this post headed “Computer-Assisted Data Collection”:

The survey methodology term “Computer-Assisted Data Collection”describes the use of laptops or mobile devices to collect data from survey respondents. It also describes self-administered online surveys and telephone surveys in which the telephone interviewer reads the script from a computer monitor and enters the responses into the computer. “Computer-Assisted Data Collection” means NO PAPER.

The 2010 Census is not using “Computer-Assisted Data Collection” for NonResponse FollowUp (NRFU).  The 2010 Census NRFU operation is paper-based.

Groves wrote:

“Several times in my career, I have experienced first-uses of complicated survey data collection systems. The first use is rarely a pretty affair, mainly because of the difficulty of designing testing regimens reflecting all the combinations of steps that occur in real production with thousands of diverse users.”

This is at best misleading.  His statement is relevant to “Computer-Assisted Data Collection” but has no relevance to the troubled 2010 Census paper-based NRFU operation and the Paper Based Operations Control System known as PBOCS.

Ongoing issues about how the Census Bureau counts prisoners: Reform in Illinois?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Perhaps lawmakers in Illinois are now fearing the redistricting process for 2012. Here’s the latest news from Prisoners of the Census, a Census Bureau reform group that MyTwoCensus supports.

MyTwoCensus Investigaton: Are Census Bureau enumerators attempting to go to each residence more than three times (the maximum number of visits as stated by law)?

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

UPDATE: MyTwoCensus has learned from a Census Bureau official who has requested anonymity that in urban areas, because the travel time between units is negligible, Census Bureau officials have been visiting units up to six times. Large municipalities, particularly those with low participation rates thus far, are fearful of undercounts, so they welcome these measures.

MyTwoCensus has learned from the blogosphere and from anonymous tips (a new feature on our updated contact page) that Census Bureau employees, who are permitted a maximum of three personal visits and three phone calls to each residence that has not returned their 2010 Census forms, have actually visited residences upwards of six times. (We blame Census Bureau officials, not the enumerators!) Yes, these are your tax dollars at work. Here’s the law, as taken from the Census Bureau’s web page:

We have perused the blogosphere to discover that a Census Bureau employee in Chicago has reported the following problems on her blog:

Shifting Census Rules: Six Visits Becomes 36 Points of Contact. Or: WTF?

We learned in training–over and over and over again–that we’re allowed three personal visits and three phone calls. I’ve blogged about this before, because about a week ago, when we started turning in forms with three personal visits and no actual contact, they changed the rules. That’s when we were told six personal visits, despite what had been burned into our brains in training.

Well guess what’s happening now?

Enough time has lapsed that those six visit EQs are coming back and a few of them still haven’t been able to find a proxy or a respondent. In most cases, in my district, they’re in locked buildings with no access to any kind of entry, and no neighbors. My enumerators have tried calling Realtors listed on the signs but they won’t call back. We’re all assuming that the buildings are vacant, but the LCO doesn’t like that.

So now they’ve said that for every single visit our enumerators should be knocking on the doors of six neighbors. By the time they’re done they should have 36 point of contact. THIRTY SIX POINTS OF CONTACT. A close-out, they stressed to us, is very, very, very rare.

Now, let’s set aside the fact that this is stalking, it’s creepy and it’s absolutely and completely ridiculous.The thing that gets me is that, of all rules they can change, I don’t think they should be screwing with the manuals.

How many times were we told to stick to the script? That these had been tested, researched, shot into outer space, all that crap, and that they KNOW that this works the best way. With three personal visits and three calls I can see their point. Much more than that is going to be the law of diminishing returns.

Not that you can reason with these people.

Are these type of shenanigans happening in other areas as well? Please leave your comments below to alert the public and the government officials who read this site where and when similar activities are taking place.