It’s called Random Samplings. Check it out HERE.
Update: To clarify, Michael Cook of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office has noted in the comments section that the below event differs from the $100,000 trip to the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas that CBS recently investigated.
Thanks to the reader who alerted us to this YouTube video that was uploaded in August. Dozens (perhaps hundreds) of people watch a woman sing a mediocre a cappella rendition “I Love Rock & Roll” and this supports the 2010 Census in what way?
MyTwoCensus.com broke the story that managers from the Denver region (140 of them) went to Vegas for a “debriefing.” Unfortunately, Steve Jost and the Census Bureau Public Information Office never returned my calls/e-mails requesting the PRICE TAG of this event. Now, a month later, a CBS affiliate in Denver has taken up this case, as has a Congressman from Colorado:
A CBS 4 investigation has learned the U.S. Census Bureau sent 140 administrators from Colorado and nine other Rocky Mountain and southwestern states to Las Vegas for several days to discuss “lessons learned” from the 2010 census that could be applied in the next census in 2020. The trip cost an estimated $100,000 in airfare, meals and hotel costs and is coming under withering criticism from a Colorado congressman.
“It’s impossible to argue this without saying these folks took a vacation and they took it at taxpayer expense,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican congressman from Colorado. “I mean I think it’s the equivalent of theft,” said Coffman, who insisted the Census Bureau could have saved taxpayers money by gathering the same information from administrators by conducting online and written surveys, phone conferencing and a host of other data-gathering methods that would not involve congregating in Las Vegas.
“You need to be respectful of taxpayers. Don’t waste their money on a three-day party in Las Vegas or anywhere else to have discussions you can have via a written survey.”
The CBS4 investigation learned that the Census administrators were flown to Las Vegas Aug. 24 and put up at the luxurious Treasure Island hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip. Some of the managers stayed for two days, others stayed for three. The Census Bureau obtained a government rate of $61 per night per room with every 40th room free, according to census officials.
While census officials say they haven’t tabulated exact costs for the trip, the federal government per diem rate for meals is $71 per day and $53.25 on travel days.
CBS4 has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the federal government to obtain precise costs for the trip. Census officials were not able to provide cost estimates for flying in managers from Colorado, Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and Nevada.
“It helps to have an exchange of information and ideas,” said Steve Jost, Associate Director for Communications for the Census Bureau.
Jost told CBS4 that the post-census meeting took place in Las Vegas because it had the lowest airfares, hotel costs and meeting room charges in the region. Jost said a meeting like the one that took place in Vegas “improves quality and processes and allows us to be efficient.” Jost said the debriefing involved three senior managers from each Census field office in the region and that they discussed “what worked, what didn’t work, how we can improve, training, monitoring big tough questions.”
Asked why the Census Bureau couldn’t have saved taxpayers money by gathering the information by surveys or electronically, Jost said his agency has had video meetings, webinars and has done mail and web-based surveys. But he said, “Sometimes you just need to sit down and hash things out face to face with these people.”
Another Census spokesperson, Raul Cisneros, told CBS4 the gathering only involved 1/4 of one percent of Census employees in the Denver region.
“We wanted to have face-to-face meetings so we could drill down and cover key topics,” Cisneros said. “This is standard management practice … we want to get that local knowledge.”
Coffman said he agrees that “after action,” data gathering is important. But he said it could have been done other ways and “this is an absolute waste of taxpayer dollars.”
In the past, President Obama has been critical of holding meetings in Las Vegas. Obama criticized corporate CEOs for junkets to Las Vegas. He told an audience in Elkhart, Ind., “You can’t get corporate jets, can’t take a trip to Vegas or the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime. There’s got to be accountability and responsibility, something I intend to impose as president of the United States.”
And after taking office, Obama again criticized spending money in Las Vegas.
“When times are tough you tighten your belt. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize, you make tough choices. Its time your government did the same.”
CBS4 has learned the Las Vegas meeting was actually one of a dozen that involved flying census managers into central locations and putting them up at hotels. The Census Bureau has 12 regional offices in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Seattle. The Census Bureau held similar “lessons learned” debriefing sessions in each region.
Follow up: Census Bureau gives “awards” to organizations that did “nothing more than cover” the 2010 CensusSeptember 15th, 2010 [ 17 Comments ]
The Census Bureau tells us in an email the plaque cost $6.95 and that it sent 135 of these plaques to organizations in Portland as a token of gratitude for helping out with this past census. That works out to about $938 in Portland, not including shipping,
Wondering how that played out around the country? We did too. About 59,000 of the plaques were sent nationwide. Multiply that by their $6.95 cost and that’s about $410,000 worth of gratitude, again not including shipping.
These plaques and thank-you letters were sent to organizations “that collectively provided countless donated goods and services to the 2010 Census effort,” according to an email from Census Bureau spokeswoman Michelle Lowe. Lowe’s email also states that some of the plaques went to organizations that helped save the census bureau $23 million by providing resources to help “test and train” census workers and to other news organizations who did nothing more than cover the census like we did.
Note: Somebody at the Census Bureau has decided to make the word “newspaper” into the words “news paper.” The grammar police who have commented on MyTwoCensus so many times should be all over the Census Bureau for this egregious error.
Thanks to the reader who alerted us to an investigation into how much money the Census Bureau spent giving out “awards” that came to roughly $7 per award. Here’s an excerpt:
The latest award-winning idea from the Census Bureau is literally an award. As we learned at George Levy Awards, there are all sorts of awards and the Census Bureau was frugal in avoiding the most expensive award. However, it sent 59,000 awards to people, including the media, who helped get out the word about the census.
And while the sign at the Census Bureau says, “Warning! U.S. Government”, some are saying it should say, “Warning! Your tax dollars are being wasted.”
While we certainly appreciate the Census Bureau giving 10 News an award for doing our job, some taxpayers say that it is not a good use of public money.
Melanie Capello says she thinks it is ridiculous that taxpayer money should be spent to give news outlets awards. Ben Jones told us he would like to see taxpayer money spent more wisely.
While the Census Bureau says the awards are a small way to thank those who helped, and it is keeping a watchful eye on tax dollars, taxpayers aren’t convinced.
What’s this latest census venture costing you? The cost for the awards is $ 413,000.
After a reader tipped us off earlier this week, it has been confirmed by Steve Jost that Dwight Dean, formerly the long-time head of the troubled Detroit Regional Census Center, is no longer with the Census Bureau as of September 1. Word on the street is that he “retired.” MyTwoCensus urges federal, state, and local agencies to continue their investigations into the improprieties of the Detroit office. (We will be providing a series of follow-ups on the Detroit corruption story coming this week!)
An anonymous Census Bureau official submitted the following to MyTwoCensus.com:
Last week Commerce Secretary Locke touted the Census Bureau’s $1.6 billion cost savings which they will return to the Treasury. But I agree with congressman Issa that the touting of 1.6 billion returned to the Treasury is simply a “smoke and mirrors budget gimmickry that the American people have come to expect from the federal government.”
The bureau’s incompetency was saved by luck. There were no natural disasters and the recession produced a workforce that was otherwise unparalleled. About $800 million were in unspent funds set aside for hurricanes, floods and earthquakes which there were none. It is analogous to as if I lent you $10 and you returned it when it was not needed.But the workforce productivity that beat expectations came from alleged poor management practices and labor and wage violations.The most common complaint is the overtime it denied field, office staff and LCO managers. There were many office and field staff who worked many hours and never submitted time sheets for fear of termination in the worst employment market since the Great Depression.The report also fails to mention that the first few operations (address canvassing, groups quarters validation) were overstaffed and thousands of employees were trained and got either no work or less than a week’s work.The Census Bureau also entered into poor contracts such as the Harris handheld computers and PBOCS. And last but not least the supplies and paper contracts it entered into which produced enormous amounts of waste. There are entire rooms of unused office supplies (rubber bands, erasers, pencils, file folders) and preprinted manuals and administrative forms in huge quantities that are quietly being made to disappear. We’re not talking boxes, we are talking hundreds to thousands of boxes per LCO. The counter argument was any operation would of generated office waste but any census employee who works in the office who packed the shipping trucks knows exactly what I am talking about.Robert Groves should have a press conference about what they are doing with the truckloads of unused supplies and whether they are returning those to the contractor for a refund. Perhaps the Inspector General should do an audit over the truckloads and pallets that are being quietly thrown out. In order to hide this waste some managers are threatening employees who document this with immediate termination.I am optimistic that in the months after the census ends the truth will come out. In retrospect had the Census entered into better IT contracts, had there there not been problems with PBOCS, had they better estimated simply the amount of rubber bands every office would need they could have saved them themselves possibly at least another billion.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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 corruptionAugust 25th, 2010 [ 52 Comments ]
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com 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.
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.
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!
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
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.