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.

Posts Tagged ‘background check’

Class Action Lawsuit Update

Friday, August 6th, 2010 has been tracking the following lawsuit for quite some time. At first, we supported this suit, because it shows that the Census Bureau discriminated against people in the hiring process. However, when caucasian Census Bureau applicants who were rejected because of supposed criminal records tried to join the lawsuit, they were told that because they were not minorities, they were ineligible to join. If the Census Bureau’s hiring procedures discriminated against people with criminal records/arrests, then it did so against ALL people, not only minorities. Here’s today’s update from the AP:

NEW YORK — A lawsuit in New York City claims the U.S. Census Bureau discriminated in its hiring of more than a million temporary workers to conduct the 2010 census.

The lawsuit was filed by civil rights groups in federal court in Manhattan several months ago and was updated Thursday.

It says the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warned the Census Bureau last year its hiring practices might be discriminatory. The lawsuit says the EEOC told the bureau its criminal background check policy might “run afoul” of the Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit accuses the bureau of illegally screening out applicants with often decades-old arrest records for minor offenses or those who were arrested but never convicted.

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.

New York Times Editorial Criticizes Census Bureau Hiring

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The following New York Times editorial concerns the class action lawsuit that we reported on last week. For many months now, has criticized 2010 Census hiring practices. Here’s the editorial:

The Census Bureau is hiring a million or more people to assist with the 2010 count. It is temporary work, but it pays well. With national unemployment at nearly 10 percent, it looks like an excellent opportunity. That is unless you are one of the nearly 50 million Americans with any arrest or conviction on record.

A new class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of applicants who say they were unfairly turned down for census jobs based on an opaque screening policy that relies on F.B.I. checks for any criminal histories. Those checks are notoriously unreliable. A 2006 federal report found that half of them were inaccurate or out of date.

The Census Bureau is vague about what makes someone ineligible. In Congressional testimony, it suggested that it is excluding people who have been convicted of crimes involving violence and dishonesty. The bureau’s Web site seems to say that applicants whose background checks turn up any arrest — no matter how trivial, distant in time, irrelevant to the job — receive a letter advising them that they can remain eligible only if they produce “official court documentation” bearing on the case within 30 days. Incredibly, the letter does not identify the alleged criminal activity. Applicants must prove eligibility, even if they don’t know why they were flagged.

Official court records are often unobtainable for the millions of people whose convictions have been sealed or expunged or for people who have been arrested and released because of lack of evidence or mistaken arrest. This problem falls heaviest on black and Hispanic communities where stop-and-frisk policies and indiscriminate arrests are common.

The hiring problem is not limited to the Census Bureau. After 9/11, Congress required port workers to undergo F.B.I. background checks to keep their jobs. Last year, a study by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for workers, found that the government had mistakenly denied credentials to tens of thousands of those workers.

States and cities are wisely revising employment policies. The federal government needs to develop a fair and transparent screening system for job applicants and a more effective appeals process. Congress must also require the F.B.I. to verify the criminal records — and find missing data before issuing background checks.

Letter To The Editor: Census Bureau Ignores Fingerprinting Problems And Focuses on Name Checks

Monday, December 7th, 2009

The following letter, from David Allburn of National Fingerprinting, comes in response to our recent post that features questions about why felon/presumed murderer Thom Gruenig was working in a supervisory role for the 2010 Census answered by the Census Bureau:

To The Editor:

Did you notice that your questions about FINGERPRINT comparisons were answered with statements about NAME-CHECK comparisons?

The Census Bureau made the two statements that “No criminal record was found,” and “He was not in their criminal database.” Those statements ask us to assume that he was not ANYWHERE in their criminal database, most especially not in the FBI “fingerprints” database. It is not evident at all from the investigation report you published, whether the FBI had actually compared Mr. Gruenig’s fingerprints to the fingerprints of felons, no matter what the names were.  The questions to ask should have included these, for which I proposed what the carefully considered Census answers might be:

1.  ”What would normally have happened at the FBI side if Mr. Gruenig’s fingerprints were determined by the FBI automated equipment to lack sufficient image quality to enable print-to-print comparison?” [Answer: A name-check is done instead, and Census relies upon that.]

2. “Is there any record entry maintained at Census or at the FBI, by them or by their contractors, that shows whether the aforementioned image quality test was passed or failed, either by a direct data description or by a reliable indirect indicator?” (…such as an indication that the fingerprint query defaulted into the name-check process by returning a TCR number.) [Answer: If a TCR is returned, that indicator is probably retained by either FBI or Census or their contractors somewhere.]

3. “If due to ‘normal procedure’ Mr. Gruenig’s fingerprints may not have actually been compared with others in the FBI file, is there any process by which new prints can be taken of assured-adequate quality and re-submitted to assure AFIS acceptance and comparison?” [Answer: If Mr. Gruenig were to be booked after our background check, presumably pursuant to a new criminal allegation, his prints would likely be routinely sent by the booking law enforcement agency to the FBI for comparison, and re-sent however many times necessary to assure the fingerprint check was actually accomplished to reveal whether any previous forensic-purpose prints on file matched his.]

4. “If a disqualifying record were thereby exposed and reported, would Census have the same confidence in the fingerprint portion of its background check process as previously asserted?” [Answer: Yes, but our confidence would be higher for those prints that passed the quality check at the FBI side.]

5. “if there were a way to assure that fingerprints submitted with insufficient quality to support an actual FINGERPRINT COMPARISON did not result in a default-hire as may have occurred in the Gruenig case, and such a way could be instantly and simply incorporated into the current logistical process, is there any reason why Census would not adopt it?” [Answer: Census routinely considers all helpful proposals according to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.]

6. “Would Census reveal whether an internal investigation was done to determine if Mr. Gruenig’s prints were rejected for quality reasons, and whether or not there actually were matching prints in the FBI file after all? [Answer: The Census Bureau considers personnel records confidential and does not reveal their contents.]

7. “Would a Freedom-of-Information Act request limited to whether Mr. Gruenig’s prints got a TCR result from the FBI allow a FOIA response?” [Answer: Consult the answer to #5 above.]

8. “If it were to be revealed by other legal means that there was a TCR returned by the FBI in Mr. Gruenig’s case, and that he indeed did have matching prints on file with the FBI under a fake name different from the one he gave on his Census employment application, …. (question left to be finished by MyTwoCensus.)

Of course, the above is an interrogation, not an interview. And it may turn out that Mr. Gruenig’s prints indeed got compared with the FBI print collection and turned up with no matches. Such a result would impugn Alaska’s reporting system, not Census Bureau procedure. But such close questions is necessary when jousting with a skilled PR department that carefully chooses its words such as providing NAME-CHECK answers to FINGERPRINT-CHECK questions.

I am glad that MyTwoCensus will “soon get to the bottom of this.” Can’t wait.

David Allburn

MyTwoCensus Investigation Into Why Alaska Felon/Murderer Worked For Census Bureau In Supervisory Role

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Last week, we discovered that Thom Gruenig was a convicted felon in Alaska turned Census Bureau Supervisor turned murderer, so logically we wanted to know why in the world the Census Bureau hired him…After five days of waiting for an official response from DC headquarters, we finally got one…

Here is the official statement from the Census Bureau followed by the official answers to questions posed by

“We are saddened to learn of this tragic event. Following established
procedures, Mr. Gruenig’s name and fingerprints were submitted to the FBI
for a background check and he was not in their criminal database.”


Q:    What can you tell us about Thom Gruenig and his employment by the
Census Bureau

A:    Like all 2010 Census employees, after passing an FBI background check
based on his name, social security number and birth date, Mr. Gruenig
submitted two sets of fingerprints that were matched against the
FBI’s criminal database. No criminal record was found. Mr. Gruenig
was then hired in March 2009 as a field operations supervisor for the
Census Bureau in Fairbanks, Alaska. He worked with remote Alaska
Native villages in preparation for the 2010 Census.

Q:    Did the Census Bureau know about Mr. Gruenig’s prior criminal record?

A:    No. As with all census applicants being considered for employment,
Mr. Gruenig’s name, social security number, birth date and
fingerprints were submitted for an FBI criminal background check. He
was not in their criminal database.

Q:    Do you still have confidence in the background check system?

A:    Yes. The FBI’s National Name Check Program is considered the
preeminent investigative determination for pre-employment vetting and
background investigation.  More than 70 federal and state agencies
have confidence in the FBI’s service. The program utilizes criminal
data submitted by state and local law enforcement agencies.  Based
upon Census Bureau results gathered over the last ten years, FBI name
checks failed to identify less than half of 1% of criminal records.

Q:    What criminal activities would disqualify an applicant for Census

A:    A conviction for the offenses below will likely disqualify an
applicant for employment. However, this list is not all-inclusive;
there may be additional types of offenses for which a conviction
depending on the date, severity, and nature of the offense, may
render an individual unsuitable for hire.

·  manufacturing/sale of any controlled substance
·  breaking & entering
·  burglary
·  armed robbery
·  embezzlement
·  grand theft
·  violent crimes against person or property (includes assault,
battery, kidnapping, manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, murder,
·  crimes against children
·  sexual offense (includes sexual harassment, sexual misconduct,
sexual assault, rape, statutory rape)
·  weapons charge (includes carrying concealed weapon, possession of
illegal weapon, sale of firearms)
·  terrorism
·  voter fraud/voter registration crimes
·  identity theft

Q:    Approximately how many people will likely undergo background checks?

A:    For total 2010 operations, name checks will be requested for
approximately 3.8 million applicants. Ultimately, about 1.36 million
applicants who successfully pass the FBI name check will be hired and
will undergo an FBI fingerprint check.