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 ‘Public Information Office’

How many Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints have been filed by 2010 Census employees? 376

Friday, June 11th, 2010

As of June 2, when I asked the above question to Michael Cook of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office, I was told the following:

There have been 376 formal EEO complaints filed for the 2010 Decennial.

I expect this number to rise significantly as people are terminated by the Census Bureau and no longer fear retaliation at their local census offices.

The Census Bureau wastes your tax dollars by shifting workers around the country…

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Yesterday, MyTwoCensus.com reported that 2010 Census workers from Colorado have arrived in New York to assist with operations. Each of these employees is put up at a hotel and paid a per diem rate. (I’ve heard that Hilton Hotels are being used for this purpose — which isn’t surprising since Census Bureau officials are known to stay at Ritz Carleton Hotels while on government business).

Michael C. Cook of the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office wrote to me yesterday, “When we assess that a particular office is either not following procedures or has weak management we often make staffing changes, or even send in experienced managers to help improve operations and re-train the temporary staff.” So the Census Bureau is saying that nobody in New York, a city of 8 million people,  is capable of handling these procedures? (Two sources have confirmed to me that one manager clerk from Washington DC is even being put up in New York’s Battery Park in a $4,500 per month apartment on your dime.)

The federal government outlines hotel and per diem rates for New York quite clearly. This means that in addition to their salaries as Census Bureau employees, each individual is spending up to $411 per day, not including flights or other expenditures, merely to eat and sleep in New York. This isn’t the first time this has occurred. During the address canvassing stage of 2010 Census operations, the Census Bureau sent in workers from North Carolina to assist with efforts in New York. Such wasteful incidents have also occurred with workers from Georgia being sent to Florida and workers from Texas being sent to Louisiana. With unemployment hovering around 10% and the Census Bureau’s admission that it had four times as many applicants as it did positions open, can this type of spending on transportation, hotels, and per diems be justified? Absolutely not.

Breaking News & MyTwoCensus Payrollgate Investigation: The Census Bureau has failed to pay thousands of employees!

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

SHOW ME THE MONEY! It’s simple. When you’ve got hundreds of thousands of employees working for you, pay them on time. MyTwoCensus.com has received more than a dozen complaints within the past 12 hours from Census Bureau employees, at offices throughout the nation, who have not been paid on time. It is unknown whether this inexcusable error by the Census Bureau is a result of computer system failures (a problem that has plagued the Census Bureau for months if not years — even though Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said two days ago that the problems were fixed). Even though most of the 500,000+ Census Bureau employees who are out in the field this week are temporary employees, they still depend on this income from the federal government. A great number of these temporary employees were unemployed before their Census Bureau work came about, and thus are now living paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, when those paychecks don’t come, everyone is hurt. This is particularly damning because many employees lost their unemployment benefits to take Census Bureau jobs, and will have an extremely hard time getting these payments again once the work is finished.

(Interestingly, a marketing firm called GA1 that had a contract with the Census Bureau publicly accused the government of not paying them on time back in March, but it’s unknown to me at this time whether the situation was resolved.)

One disgruntled employee wrote me the following about her experience, which sounds more like a Kafka novel than an account of living and working in the world’s greatest democracy:

I started working for the census on April 12, 2010. My first paycheck was supposed to be deposited on April 28 but it wasn’t. I called my LCO that day and was informed they entered the wrong account number into their system. They asked me for the correct account number and told me that they updated the system. Next they told me that I had to call the hotline to start the re-issuance process for the missing check. I did as instructed and was told it would take 5-7 business days to be deposited into my acct. The next payday was May 5 and check #2 isn’t there and #1 is still “missing”. I again call the hotline (got the answering machine the first 20+ times) when I finally found a human they wanted to take a message, I refused because I had left countless messages with no return call. So I waited on hold for over 25 minutes. I was told again that the check would be reissued in 5-7 days. Week 3 pay date May 12, finally a paycheck! However it was only for the last pay period. #1 and #2 still missing. I called the hotline today and I’m getting the run-around. They won’t tell me anything! I called DOL and was told they can’t help because technically I’m a federal employee and they gave me another number to call. I called this number and was told they couldn’t help because I was a temporary employee. What can I do? I need my money, I am a single mom with kids to feed. Right now I’m wishing I would have just stayed on unemployment. To top it all off, the uncaring attitude of my LCO doesn’t help… they just say don’t worry. You’ll be paid eventually, we don’t know when but eventually.

To the hundreds of thousands people who are victims of this lax payment plan by the government, know that I am here to fight for you. Please submit your stories in the comments section below. This behavior by the Census Bureau is unacceptable. Today, I am calling Dr. Groves (the Census Bureau Director), Steve Jost (the Census Bureau’s Communications Director), the Public Information Office, and officials who are responsible for the payroll to get to the bottom of this mess.

For now, MyTwoCensus.com urges ALL EMPLOYEES who have not been paid to contact your Member of Congress and your Senators. Go to their offices if you can, but if not, lodge complaints by phone and e-mail. If you wish, please send me your complaints privately as well. MyTwoCensus is in contact with both Democrat and Republican Members of Congress who will hopefully be able to have some clout to get this problem resolved immediately.

UPDATE: Here’s another update from an anonymous Census Bureau employee Asheville, North Carolina, which to my knowledge is the only place where the media has actually reported these problems:

No one out of the Asheville office was paid properly today. I received 0. Three of my crew also received 0. two got 1 days pay/ 5 got 2 Days pay.
When manager raised cain was threatened with firing.
One enumerator had to borrow 8 dollars for gas to get home. One is threatened with eviction from her trailer.
Asheville LCO told another enumerator to expect to be paid on the 26th.
Asheville LCO said not to worry it was a nationwide computer glitch.
Asheville did not care that these folks had been out of work and need the money…especially the gas they have been buying to do the job.
Please do not use my name or email or I will get fired too.
We heard from other census workers in different cld that they also had widespread pay issues.
No one we heard from in Asheville district got the correct pay.
What can we do? If we raise a stink they will fire us.
The Census is now hiring at $9.00 per hour. we were hired at $11.50/ Are they trying to force us out to hire cheaper workers?

Dr. Groves calls a software change from two years ago a “late change” in operations strategy. MyTwoCensus says this is nonsense.

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Earlier today, the Associated Press released a short article (below) that discusses the Census Bureau’s repeated paper-based operations control system failures. In response to Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves’ comment that, “the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system” I can simply point to a response I just received from Michael Cook, Chief of the Decennial Media Relations Branch at the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office. Cook wrote me, “The change to a paper-based NRFU operation ordered two years ago by then-Commerce Secretary Gutierrez, required us to develop PBOCS in a compressed time-frame.” Now, this makes no sense. TWO YEARS IS NOT A COMPRESSED TIME FRAME. It is a ridiculously long amount of time to use engineers to tweak and test a system to make it perfect. Once again, the Census Bureau’s IT failures are pathetic and unaccepptable in the year 2010.

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Government Accountability Office says a computer system needed to finish the 2010 census may not be up to the job.

GAO Strategic Issues Director Robert Goldenkoff said Friday before a congressional hearing in Los Angeles that the Paper Based Operations Control System hasn’t demonstrated the ability to meet peak requirements of the census as it seeks to count residents who did not return forms by mail.

Census Director Robert Groves says in a statement that the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system.

He says the system has worked well so far but that the agency is not out of the woods yet.

The GAO says the Census Bureau is otherwise well-positioned to finish the door-to-door count, which begins Saturday.

pio@census.gov STILL DOWN!

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

The Public Information office is still bouncing e-mails back to us….and this has gone on since Monday! Is there an IT department at the Census Bureau? Is anyone being held accountable for this? Some answers please!

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Take more questions at press conferences and fix your e-mail account!

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Yesterday, Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert M.Groves held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC to answer questions from the media about 2010 Census operations. By reading media reports from across America, it is evident that most media workers don’t truly grasp what the 2010 Census is. After Dr. Groves’ gave his talk, the media had the opportunity to ask questions. The talk started at around 9:00AM and the Q&A portion of the press conference commenced at around 9:20. By 9:35 Census Bureau press spokesman Stephen Buckner ended the Q&A section when, as Buckner acknowledged, there were certainly people on the telephone who were participating in the press conference who still had questions to ask. This was wrong, as there were many questions that Dr. Groves didn’t have a chance to answer. (We will post the transcript of the press conference as soon as we get it.)

Though Mr. Buckner and the Census Bureau have stated that the media can e-mail the press office at pio@census.gov to ask further questions, that e-mail address is not currently functioning. This is the year 2010 (duh) and such a simple tech failure is inexcusable. The Public Information Office must 1. Take more questions from the media and not keep press conferences to approximately thirty minutes (rather than holding a standard one hour press conference) and 2. Fix the Census Bureau’s e-mail system immediately.

Here’s a screenshot of the failed e-mail:

FedEx-gate Investigation Continued: Census Bureau wastes $3 million…or more?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

NOTE: We urge whistleblowers to contact us about this issue and any other issues that you may have experienced. MyTwoCensus staff will always protects your anonymity and provide resources and advice to assist you.

Soon after MyTwoCensus broke the story about the Census Bureau’s gross overuse of FedEx, readers (all of whom requested anonymity to protect themselves because they are afraid that they will be fired for speaking out, even though whistleblowers are protected by the law) contacted us with their personal stories.

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Below, please find one reader’s personal story (All details of this story have been fact-checked. MyTwoCensus will hereafter refer to this employee as Jane Doe):

“Please do not reveal my name.  A fellow census worker gave me your website tonight.  They do not have the courage to complain, and I probably should not, but I have always had more courage than sense.

Regarding Census Bureau use of FedEx – you will not believe the extent of it.  From November 2008, through late April 2009, every field employee was REQUIRED to FedEx a payroll form every day that they worked.  That is one page and a carbon copy of it.
I began working on December X, 2008, as a Recruiter, and worked 5 to 6 days per week through February X, 2009 when all recruiters in XXXXXXXXXX were abruptly laid off.  Not only did it cost them the FedEx rate everyday for my payroll report, but they required that I drive it to the nearest drop box every day and paid me $12.75 for the one hour round trip, plus $14.63 for the 25 mile round trip – every day!  For every recruiter!
If we had been allowed to use the post office, the envelopes/packages would have been picked up at my home.  I would not have had to drive to a drop box, and when I had a larger package the nearest post office is 25 miles (50 miles round trip) closer than the nearest FedEx store.”

After speaking with the Public Information Office at the Census Bureau’s national headquarters in Suitland Maryland, MyTwoCensus was told that FedEx was used to “protect confidential information.”

MyTwoCensus followed up with the 2010 Census employee (Jane Doe) who provided the above statement. She replied, “The information that I received was primarily not confidential information, but rather, it was instructions on how to perform my duties. The information that I sent was primarily my daily payroll report. It contained my name, my employee ID number, and my hours worked.”

This employee provided MyTwoCensus with FedEx package information/photos to corroborate what she told us.

Is this sensitive information or confidential information? Hardly! The names and ID numbers of Census Bureau employees are already highly visible on Census Bureau employees’ ID badges.

Just to clarify that MyTwoCensus isn’t looking to start trouble, Jane Doe told us, “On days that I sent more than one envelope, those packages did contain confidential materials with applicants identification information.”

Now that we have laid out the facts, we are awaiting a more thorough response from the Census Bureau…