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 ‘Group Quarters’

Problems at California Census offices result in major complaints from female Census Bureau managers

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

In recent days, I have received many complaints from Census Bureau employees about the poor quality of their managers. I encourage people with problems to write up their stories and I will publish them here. The following document does not represent the opinions of Stephen Robert Morse or MyTwoCensus.com, but rather the female manager from California who sent me this piece. Inside you will see her opinions about fraud and abuse by Census Bureau management as well as discriminatory treatment of staff and information about the process of filing complaints:

Three female managers in the Santa Maria, CA, Local Census Office, Los Angeles Region filed EEO complaints against our Area Manager, Araceli Barcelo and Assistant Regional Census Center Manager, Jeff Enos. Enos had been our Area Manager and was promoted to ARCM. Barcelo had been a Regional Tech for Enos and was promoted to Area Manager. Those in our office who filed complaints include the Assistant Manager Administration, the Assistant Manager Technology and me, the Local Census Office Manager.  We filed complaints because Araceli Barcelo and Jeff Enos rehired a man (I won’t name him as he is also part of our complaint and not a manager) who had abused and sexually harassed women in our office.  Both Area Manager Barcelo and ARCM Enos knew about this man’s behavior and never did anything to stop it. The behavior was well documented and ARCM Enos had the documentation.  There was a very volatile incident in our office where this man yelled, made an inappropriate comment and a menacing gesture directed at our AMT.  This happened while we were on a teleconference with Jeff Enos.  This man also “cussed out” Jeff Enos and Enos did nothing.  Later Enos called me and told me to handle the situation with this man because “he did not like to do those types of things”.  The next day, the man resigned while I was writing him up.  Jeff Enos should have disciplined this man.  The Local Census Office Manager does not hire, fire or discipline managers.  That is the responsibility of the Area Manager.

After the three of us, female managers, learned this man had been rehired during a teleconference with Araceli Barcelo, we filed EEO complaints. We filed complaints because management had not dealt with this man’s illegal and abusive behavior, had rehired him and, then, given him a promotion as a Regional Tech in the area Araceli Barcelo supervises.   The women in our office were told this man was to not come to our office.  However, as a Regional Tech, he now had access to our work and all our electronic files.  He could also show up at our door and gain entrance.  We filed because we feared he would harm us.  The statement from management that this man would not come to our office shows they knew he had done something wrong in our office.

This man was originally hired as a Group Quarters Supervisor in one of the Central Valley Offices about three hours from Santa Maria.  To do this, Barcelo needed to have used a fake address, a new geo coding, as office staff can only be hired from the local area.  This man lives in Santa Maria. Staff from our office sees him at the local gym quite regularly.  Barcelo had fired the LCOM and the Assistant Manager of Administration from one of the Central Valley offices for allowing the Administrative Assistant to use a fake address, her sister’s address so she could move with the LCOM to one of the new offices.  Why hasn’t Barcelo been fired for doing the same thing?

Araceli Barcelo with the direction of Jeff Enos has fired numerous managers in her area.  She uses her Regional Techs as spies.   Barcelo uses these spies to get information so Barcelo can build documentation on the managers.  While some of these managers may have been fired for performance issue, the majority have not.  Some of the managers have quit because they couldn’t deal with Barcelo’s harassing behavior, her firing of their staff and taking over the office to put pressure on the LCOM to quit or to find something to use against them.  After one LCOM quit, he contacted his Congressional Rep to complain about all the firings and a delegation from the Congressional Office went to L.A. to meet with James Christy, Regional Director.  However, the firings continue. Some of these managers had been with the 2010 Census since the offices opened in 2008.  The cost of hiring, training, firing, hiring a replacement and retraining is staggering and a huge waste of taxpayer money. But, then again, as many reports have stated, the Census Bureau has wasted enormous amounts of money. Nothing is done about Barcelo and her behavior as they don’t want to disrupt the operations.

If you complain about Barcelo or Enos or anything Barcelo does, you are subjected to retaliation.  All of us who have filed against her have received the brunt of her retaliatory behavior.  Some of us have been fired. I have been harassed by her every day since I complained about her. She calls us and makes snide, abusive and insulting remarks. She treats us like we, in the field offices are the enemies instead of helping us with the operations. She has made her Regional Techs scour everything in our office to build documentation on us. They looked at all our time sheets to find errors and, I was written up for it.  She had one of her Regional Techs, the hatchet man, go through every selection certificate we have handled since the office opened to find mistakes. He is the hatchet man because Barcelo uses him to find things so she can fire. Our Administration Department, by this time, had hired over 2,000 employees and was handling about 300 payroll documents a day.  Given the volume and speed of these transactions, since they are all on strict timelines, there will be mistakes.  Management claimed all offices were being audited.  This was a lie.  Barcelo conducted sham superficial audits of her other offices.  She used another RT to audit the work he had done when he was the Assistant Manager of Administration.  None of the offices in her area or offices reporting to other Area Managers received the depth of review or covered the timeframe audited in our office.  Some of the other offices were not audited. This was pure retaliation on the part of Barcelo and Enos.  Regional Director, James Christy and Deputy Director know about all of this as we have sent our complaints to them.  They turn a “deaf ear” as they don’t want to “disrupt the operations”.  Barcelo continues her abusive retaliatory behavior.

We filed our informal EEO complaints and the EEO Counselor contacted us within a week.  She tried to resolve the complaints but, of course, management refused to settle claiming they had done nothing wrong.  What we sought was to have management deal with this man who they rehired as they should have done originally, to have Barcelo and Enos disciplined for not dealing with this man’s behavior and for rehiring him with full knowledge of his behavior and to have our office moved from the chain of command of Barcelo and Enos as we knew they would retaliate.  Retaliate, they did.

We filed our formal complaints with the Decennial Office of Civil Rights, Kathryn H. Anderson, Deputy Director for Decennial Operations Office of Civil Rights, Washington, DC.  This was several weeks ago. We received notice from DD Anderson that our complaints had been received but, no decision as to whether our complaints had been accepted for processing or whether an investigator would contact us.

Last week, an LCOM from one of the Central Valley Offices called me. This LCOM and another manager from her office had also filed complaints but, were told by an EEO Counselor that the Decennial Office of Civil Rights is delaying processing the formal complaints so the Census Bureau can finish the operations.  None of our complaints have been processed.  This LCOM told me complainants are now filing with the Office of the Inspector General so that someone will do something to stop Barcelo’s behavior.

There is a statutory timeline for agencies to process complaints, 180 days.  When a federal agency/department/bureau stalls processing formal complaints, they can say they won’t be able to investigate the complaint within the 180 day and pass the complaint on to the EEOC.  The Office of Civil Rights, then, never investigates the complaints.  This discourages complainants, they give up or they don’t want to deal with another process, EEOC. This creates what is called a “chilling effect” on complainants.  The “chilling effect” has been used in the past by employers as a way to avoid having to deal with complaints and avoid correcting their illegal practices.  By stalling, the census operations will finish, the responsible management officials will be gone and documents will be destroyed.  And we know the Census Bureau is known for shredding and destroying documents and materials.  Also, by stalling processing and investigation of complaints, the Office of Civil Rights is giving benefit to management.  The OCR is to be an impartial finder of fact.  Giving management a benefit and not giving complainants their statutory rights makes the office biased toward management.  The only “right” the temporary decennial census employees have is civil rights.  Completing the Census does not trump civil rights laws.

By not conducting timely investigations of EEO complaints, the Census Bureau is giving license to managers to continue to engage in discriminatory/harassing and abusive behavior.  The managers see no consequences for their behavior and see EEO as a joke.  Araceli Barcelo has been quoted as saying: “I have so many EEO complaints filed against me but, I still sleep at night.”

With school year winding down, college students lack census forms on campus

Friday, April 16th, 2010

MyTwoCensus.com wonders what other college towns that are dependent on students are also lacking forms…See this report from Indiana:

Indiana State students among those awaiting census forms

Spring semester ends in three weeks

Sue Loughlin The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University students will complete spring semester in three weeks, yet residence hall students still have not been counted in the 2010 census.

The U.S. Census Bureau has taken longer than expected to provide the census forms to the university, said Tara Singer, ISU’s assistant vice president for communications and marketing. “I believe there was just an underestimation of forms needed” for the community’s college students, she said.

A similar problem has occurred at Indiana University.

ISU has 2,999 students living in 10 residence halls and 382 students living in University Apartments, she said.

Those students will be counted as Terre Haute residents.

While there’s been a delay, Singer expects the university will receive those forms very soon. “Yes, we think we’ll get them [students] all counted on time” before they leave at the end of the semester, she said.

She does expect to have the forms by next week, when ISU will conduct floor meetings in residence halls to distribute the forms and ask students to complete them at that time.

ISU does have a representative on the Terre Haute Complete Count Committee. “We want to have our students counted because they spend approximately 10 months a year here in Terre Haute,” she said.

ISU has taken an active role in trying to make students aware of the importance of the census through posters, electronic communication and student organizations, she said.

ISU has not caused the delay, Singer said. “We’ve been ready.”

Terre Haute public affairs director Darrel Zeck, who leads the Complete Count Committee, said he recently learned about the insufficient number of census forms to count the college students.

Zeck said he was relieved to learn Thursday that ISU will get the forms soon.

Meanwhile, Rose-Hulman does have its census forms for students and distribution to fraternity presidents was to begin Thursday night, said Tom Miller, Rose-Hulman dean of student affairs. Rose-Hulman has 1,100 students living on campus.

The forms also will be distributed to students in residence halls, Miller said. “Everything is in order.”

Having ISU and Rose-Hulman students counted is critical for Terre Haute in its ability to qualify for various types of federal funding, Zeck said. While he’s relieved, he believes it’s “unacceptable” there was a shortage of forms to begin with.

Cindy Reynolds, an assistant regional census manager in Chicago, said that it was her understanding a staff member had contacted ISU and “any problem has been resolved.”

While initially there were not enough forms, there should be enough now, Reynolds said.

Fact-Checking Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves: Are assisted living facilities group quarters?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Yesterday, a reader pointed out to me an inconsistency from the transcript of Dr. Robert M. Groves’ most recent press conference. Dr. Groves said, “And then finally group quarters, another category of folks who don’t receive forms in the mail. These are areas that are like nursing homes, assisted living facilities, prisons, dormitories, barracks, and so on.” The reader suggested that assisted living facilities are not considered group quarters, and each resident receives and completes his/her own census forms.

This is actually a complex issue that is not black and white. A Census Bureau official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “If a nursing home has independent or assisted living units then those are considered housing units and they will receive a census form in the mail. The units associated with the skilled nursing unit or nursing unit are group quarters and will be enumerated during the operation Groves speaks about.” So, in short, those people in independent housing units will receive their own forms, and thus, Groves inaccurately characterized the status of assisted living facilities at his press conference.

Why are the mentally ill who live in group quarters participating in the standard 2010 Census enumeration rather than being enumerated during the Group Quarters Enumeration operation?

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

The master address file at the Census Bureau should have identified the following locale as “Group Quarters.” Is this identification error happening at other facilities for the mentally ill around the country as well? Will this lead to many individuals being double-counted?  Check out this brief from Channel3000.com:

MADISON, Wis. — In many mailboxes around the country, the 2010 U.S. Census forms have arrived. The forms are being mailed to every household in the nation.Although the census is vitally important for many reasons, some folks are afraid to be counted. Burgess Brown helps run Safe Haven, a facility that gives people in Madison with mental illnesses a temporary place to stay.He said the relationships that his staff have developed with the guests is key to getting patients feeling comfortable about being counted.”A lot of people have diagnoses that make them skeptical of answering certain questions,” said Brown. “A lot of them will need to be coached through and reassured that what they are filling out is not someone prying into their personal past or history.”

The Salvation Army vs. The Census Bureau

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

On Friday, MyTwoCensus obtained a Salvation Army directive (click HERE for it) that details the circumstances in which the religious/charitable organization will and will not be cooperating with the Census Bureau. Highlights from the directive are as follows:

- Census takers will not be permitted to visit “group quarters” like Adult Rehabilitation Centers, Harbor Light Centers, transient lodges, residential facilities for children, and other temporary housing facilities “such as shelters for men, women, or families, in which the confidentiality of the beneficiaries is important to, and maintained by, the Salvation Army.”

- Though the Census Bureau wants to count individuals at “soup kitchens” and mobile food vans, the Salvation Army will NOT allow the Census Bureau to enter such facilities due to confidentiality concerns. Census-takers will be directed to contact the Salvation Army’s national headquarters and/or their legal counsel.

Tales From The Field: Group Quarters Validation Enables Costs To Soar

Monday, October 26th, 2009
As the “Group Quarters Validation” phase of the 2010 Census is well underway, we bring you another detailed account from a Census Bureau employee in New York City (Those interested in writing for us should not hesitate to send contributions…details on our contact page) whose anonymity we are committed to protecting. If you are wondering why there have been so many cost overruns at the Census Bureau, check out the following:

Group Quarters Validation started across the country four weeks ago (September 21st) when the office telephoned about two hundred listers and told them it was going to five weeks of work. Several times I overheard the managers say that we had the largest workload in the nation. The Census headquarters originally estimated our workload to be approximately 37,000 OLQ cases in about 800 blocks. But the number of cases was misleading because sometimes entire multi unit buildings and their units were classified as OLQs. Headquarters later estimated the OLQ workload by counting unique basic street addresses (a house number and street name).  They estimated about 8,800 unique street addresses in about 800 blocks, implying each block averaged about ten unique OLQs. I’ve only been in New York a few years but in this city I know that there is not a single block with ten churches, homeless shelters, hostels or hotels.

During the week when we were preparing questionnaires and field staff were being trained it was becoming clearer that there were only about 1,500 unique OLQs. With over two hundred field employees if each lister conducted a couple of ten minute interviews they would be completed in a matter of days. By the time the office knew what hit them the field operation winded down. It was only the first week.

But for those in the office the nightmare was just beginning. In the first few days the twelve office clerks were so inundated with checking in work from the field that we could not keep up and were backlogged for days. Census headquarters overestimated the productivity of quality control clerks who had no field training and had to review every questionnaire using a four page checklist and write every corresponding non-survivor 14 digit bar code manually on a sheet of paper. The initial office review of each questionnaire, manual transcribing of non-survivor labels and final office review of the work was so slow that none of the work could be shipped to the National Processing Center (NPC) in Jeffersonville, Indiana fast enough.

When the field work dwindled we did bring in a few listers who were familar with the procedures and they simplified everything for us. But the office managers (LCOM, AMQA, AMFO and some guy with a German accent) who knew nothing about procedures, sat around, twiddled their thumbs, raised their voices and continuously talked down to us for not processing work fast enough. At first we began processing non survivor labels by placing them on a single non-survivor label page. However since headquarters overestimated the number of OLQs they produced too many 44 page questionnaires and not enough non-survivor label pages. Since each questionnaire and non survivor label page had a unique bar code used for scanning at the NPC we could not photocopy these pages. So when we ran out of single label pages to put labels on, the new nationwide procedure was to slap these labels on the full 44 page questionnaires. So we started mailing full 44 page questionnaires with only two pages filled out back to NPC.


The Bureau was not willing to be flexible with their deadline of four weeks. So, of course the New York Region panicked. They started sending people from the Rocky Hill and Hoboken New Jersey offices; even flew in managers from Greensboro, North Carolina to help us and authorized overtime for everyone: clerks, office supervisors and even managers. What didn’t make sense to me was why they sent New Jersey field employees who are paid for their travel time. They have to travel two hours to our office and two hours home so their time working in the office was only four hours, when they could of simply hired some of the hundreds of listers from our county that only received a week’s worth of work.

The Census Bureau managers seem to rely on panicking to make brash decisions that will skyrocket their costs. We are told that we are not to work overtime without supervisor approval but they’ll then offer everyone overtime, pay for New Jersey people to commute half a day and fly people from across the country to help us finish the operation. I’m disappointed that no one at the local office, regional or even at headquarters caught this error that could of possibly saved us thousands of dollars. We could of simply hired just fifty listers to work the full four weeks and saved at least $100,000. Instead we trained 228 listers for a week to work just a week.

Today was the first day of the fourth week of the operation and we finished the operation last night after two weeks of twelve hour days. While I’m glad to have gotten overtime pay I am a little saddened we are four days ahead of schedule and will all be let go for lack of work. I can’t imagine what the dent in the wallet of the federal government must of been not only in our office but across the country to print all those questionnaires and then have to ship them to NPC with only two pages filled out, not to mention the overtime.

During the operation, hearing listers speak about problems in the field were the best stories to pass the time doing repetitive work. We were getting hammered by mistakes made during address canvassing, including the entire high rise apartment building classified as OLQ and missed buildings in areas where they told listers to work quicker during address canvassing or risk losing their jobs. These missing buildings could only be missed if the lister didn’t go out into the field. Listers may have a problem with the outhouse or storage shed listed as an OLQ. But how do you deal with the high rise apartment building where the lister marked every unit an OLQ?  Then how do you slap thousands of labels on 44 page questionnaires, fill out the first and last page only and box them to ship to NPC?

At the very least Census didn’t train extra people during the operation and now they actually have a quality control system to prevent field employees from falsifying information. I suppose things are going better at this point but I am not even going to voice my concern to them because it will fall upon death ears. They are going to wipe their hands clean and say that we were told it would be about five weeks and we could be released earlier. Certainly the listers in the field didn’t expect to only be working just a few days in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Feature: Real Stories From The Census Bureau

Monday, October 5th, 2009

It’s been a while since we’ve received contributions from real Census Bureau field workers (who obviously need to have their anonymity kept in tact), but as the “Group Quarters Validation” phase of the 2010 Census started last week, our inbox has been overflowing. Those interested in writing for us should not hesitate to send us contributions (details on our contact page). So, here we bring you an account from a Census Bureau employee in New York City:

I worked in the New York City area as a lister during address canvassing and was disappointed with how the operation was conducted. One of my colleagues pointed me to this website some time ago and I felt compelled to share my story. We had alot of the technology glitches in the hand held computers that are widely know by now which included:

* software issues such the program freezes

* transmission problems such as the Sprint cellular network being down and missing assignments and map spots

* hardware issues such as the fingerprint swipe not working

But New York City has its own problems and is a completely different beast in itself. New York City is the most densely populated city in the United States and each neighborhood has its own unique character. The Census Bureau tries to monitor productivity but the very nature of the city makes it very hard to monitor. Since all the units of multi unit apartment buildings are listed separately a lister has to key in every entry. Comparing someone who has an assignment with high rise apartment buildings versus someone who has single family homes is like comparing apples with oranges.

During address canvassing we were instructed to find someone who was knowledgeable about where people live or could live. But locating a knowledgeable respondent was easier said than done. There are small tenement buildings in Chinatown and Harlem brownstones; where there are illegal subdivisions. It is very difficult to gain entry or make contact even if you speak the language. There are also a lot of abandoned construction sites where developers tried to take advantage of the real estate boom after September 11th but found themselves out of money in the current recession.

Luckily for the Census Bureau, the current recession produced a talented pool of very intelligent and highly educated workers. My crew leader was knowledgable and a great leader. From the very beginning he was committed to doing things right. He said that he was continuously told a proper address canvassing operation would be the cornerstone of a successful enumeration. He was thorough and all the work was quality checked by one of the other listers or his assistant. When we couldn’t gain access to a building, he encouraged us to try again and gave us additional work to keep us productive. In the end we had all these partially complete assignments where we had one or buildings we either couldn’t get into or make contact with anyone. However the office was less than empathetic to our thoroughness. Our crew leader told us that Assistant Manager of Field Operations,field operations supervisors (FOS) and crew leaders in other districts would belittle those who were behind. They would constantly say things like ”John’s district is 40% complete why aren’t you 40% complete?” We were told that if we couldn’t gain access to a building after two visits we had to accept what was in the HHC as correct. Many of us were tempted to falsify work and accept what was in the HHC as correct but my crew leader and FOS were adamant about not doing that. One of the other listers found an entire building with over 200 single illegally divided rooms. The HHC had less than 10 units listed in it. If they accepted was in the HHC as true they would of missed over 200 housing units.

At the beginning of the fouth week, my crew leader and several others were written up for being unproductive because they weren’t working fast enough to complete their assignments. They asked the Field Operations Supervisor to approve the writeups. One of the Field Operations Supervisors refused to sign the writeups and they wrote him up also for being insubordinate.

During address canvassing we were to document any additions, or deletes to the address list on an INFO-COMM which is a carbon copy paper. They said that they were hiring clerks to reconcile INFO-COMMs between the production and quality control. The sheer volume of having to go through 2000 pieces of paper is mind boggling. Originally, the plan was to use the INFO-COMMs to help the quality control listers, but they wanted to keep the operation independent so quality control wrote an additional INFO-COMM. All told we wrote out over 2000 INFO-COMMs.

The handheld computer also had glitches. They switched crew leaders in districts that weren’t working fast enough and sometimes just reassigned work. When listers saw their timesheets weren’t approved they submitted additional timesheets electronically. The new crew leader approved it and then they accused these listers of intentionally trying to milk the government clock. They accused half of an entire crew of listers of clocking overtime.

Nonetheless with all the problems most of the listers worked quickly and breezed through their assignments. By the end of the first week we were about 25% done but they decided to train another 100 listers, by the end of the second week we were halfway done and some crews were almost done but they trained another group of listers. Some of these listers were trained and received no field work because there was none. All told we trained over 100 listers who received less days of work than the four and half days worth of training they received.

The thing to realize is that this was a poorly planned operation from the very beginning. The Census Bureau will waste money for government contracts on hand held computers that are shoddy and unreliable and training staff for which there is no work. But they will try to cut corners when it comes to their mission of counting each person accurately. In order to try to save money and finish ahead of other regions they used intimidation and the threatening of employees. I’m glad that Field Operations Supervisor stood up to the higher ups because like my crew leader said to me…they’re just of bullies.

When the address canvassing operation finished up it was alleged that some of the crew leaders and field operations supervisors told their listers since there was no regard to quality that they could skip making contact even going as far as not conducting field work and enter the units at home. There is no way that listers who were reassigned work magically gained access to buildings people couldn’t access for weeks unless they accepted what was in the HHC as true. The crew leaders and field supervisors who finished first were rewarded with additional work. Those who finished last were sometimes “written up” as unproductive and the office terminated their employment.

Luckily this story has a happy ending. My crew leader didn’t fire any of us for clocking overtime. What they found was that the payroll system was mistakenly rewarding people overtime if they worked over eight hours during a work day even though they were below forty hours in a week. Someone was able to view the timesheet submissions in the office and prove all these listers weren’t clocking overtime. It was rumored that someone who discovered this was the same FOS who refused to sign the writeups.

As for thousands of INFO-COMMs they are sitting in the office file cabinets gathering dust maybe someday someone will go through them. I highly doubt it given the sheer magnitude. I think my crew leader was incredible. And from what I heard from some of the listers that met him their Field Operations Supervisor was even better. I never got the chance to see him but I am honored to have worked with someone who is willing to jeopardize his job for what was morally right. I am surprised I received a phone call the other day to work in the next operation Group Quarters Validation. But I’m pretty sure that my crew leader or FOS won’t be returning anytime soon.