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 ‘Thom Gruenig’

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Fingerprinting changes are long overdue because the media failed to report on the potential problems

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

For nearly a year, MyTwoCensus.com was the only media outlet reporting about the problems that the Census Bureau faced in terms of fingerprinting the 1.4 million people who were set to work for the 2010 Census. And we continue that fight today.

In December 2009, I reported that a convicted felon in Alaska was working in a supervisory position for the Census Bureau. This was discovered only after the man killed his mother and then himself. Clearly, this incident should have made calls for improved fingerprinting procedures at the Census Bureau obvious. However, the Census Bureau maintained the status quo and did nothing — fending off my questions and ignoring my concerns.

This incident occurred two months AFTER I originally posted the flaws of the 2010 Census fingerprinting process that were written by child advocate and fingerprinting expert David Allburn, who offered solutions to the Census Bureau that were ultimately refused. Allburn wrote:

(1) The Bureau should announce that trainees are responsible for the “readability” of their own fingerprints, and that fingerprint “failure” due to un-readability (or to discovery of disqualifying criminal history), terminates the canvasser’s employment. This stops attracting ex-felons who would intentionally blur their prints, but it is manifestly unfair to honest workers whose fingerprints are blurred by the inexperienced print-takers. This is fixed by step two.

(2) The Bureau should augment its fingerprint capture by adopting part of our patented “self-capture” technique. Invented by a war veteran, the method has applicants use an extra minute or two to make their own set of “backup prints”, observed and authenticated by the print-taker. Barcoded and enclosed with the cards forwarded to the scanning center, those self-captured prints are readily available for fixing any individual print impressions found “bad.” Well tested, this gets the cards through the FBI with the same dependability as live-scanning offers, typically twenty times better than the old rubber-stamp method now in use.

Only after a handicapped woman was raped by a 2010 Census employee and a sex offender was caught going door-to-door did the Census Bureau decide to change their policies. Is that what it takes to create “change” in America?

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 MyTwoCensus.com:

“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.”

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

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
employment?

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,
arson)
·  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.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Why was a convicted felon employed in a Census Bureau managerial position?

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

If Thom Gruenig (who was just killed by Alaska police after apparently killing his own mother) was a convicted felon, why was he working as a Field  Supervisor for the Census Bureau? Is this yet another failure in the Census Bureau’s background check system?

Here’s his online resume (Click anywhere on it for a more legible version):

GruenigOnlineResume

From the Anchorage Daily News:

Court records indicate Thom Gruenig was charged in Fairbanks in 1995 with burglary and second-degree theft. He was convicted on the felony theft charge and has not been charged in a criminal case since. Kathryn Gruenig appeared to have no criminal history.

From the Fairbanks Daily News:

He was born Earryn Depace Wylie, but had his name legally changed to Thom DePace Wylie Gruenig in 1997. Gruenig had been going by that name for about 12 years, but was ordered by a judge to put all his legal documents under one name in 1996 following a conviction for felony theft for burglary.

Gruenig pleaded no contest to stealing $30,000 worth of computer equipment from a UAF building with two other men in 1992. He was sentenced to 18 months probation, which he completed successfully, according to court records. He had no other criminal record.

MyTwoCensus will soon get to the bottom of this…

The Naked And The Dead: Another Census Employee Tragedy

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Trooper kills armed Fairbanks man; mother found dead

911 CALL: Officers believe woman tried to get help before dying.

By JAMES HALPIN
jhalpin@adn.com

Published: November 24th, 2009 10:06 PM
Last Modified: November 25th, 2009 01:51 PM

An Alaska State Trooper shot and killed a naked, knife-wielding man at a Fairbanks home Tuesday morning after he confronted officers and refused to put down the weapon, according to troopers. Investigators later found the body of his mother inside the home lying next to a phone.

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

Kathryn Gruenig

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Thom Gruenig

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Troopers say the man, Thom Depace Wylie Gruenig, 38, was declared dead at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital shortly after the shooting. Found in the home was his mother, Kathryn L. Gruenig, 66, whose death was being investigated as a homicide, troopers said.

Troopers were summoned to the home off University Avenue and College Road about 7:40 a.m. after getting a 911 call during which dispatchers heard labored breathing but got no answer, according to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. A lone trooper, who was not immediately named, knocked on the door with medics standing by.

“The guy comes to the door, confronts the trooper and, you know, he’s naked and got a knife in his hand and the trooper backs away and tries to get him to drop the weapon,” said Col. Audie Holloway, head of the troopers. “He doesn’t. He continues to advance on the trooper and the medics, which are right there close to where the trooper’s at, and so the trooper’s forced to shoot him.”

Christine Lundberg, 58, lives across the street from the home on Hess Avenue. She said she had just taken her granddaughter to school and returned home when she saw a police car.

“Next thing we know, there’s a whole bunch of cop cars outside and then there was like a popping noise: Pop, pop, twice,” she said. “We stayed inside because there was cop cars everywhere. They had assault rifles and just running around. It was crazy.”

Lundberg said the woman and her son live in the brown home but that she didn’t know them well. Sometimes she would say hi when she saw Thom walking to the University of Alaska Fairbanks or his mother going to her car, she said.

Neighbor Dover Williams, 59, said the home has always been quiet, and the people living there kept to themselves.

“They have real tall fences around their lot and they’ve got a lot of the Siberian pea that’s grown quite tall, so you never really saw them that much at all,” Williams said.

City property records indicate the home belongs to Kathryn Gruenig, assistant to the director at UAF’s Institute of Northern Engineering. Thom Gruenig was currently working as a field operations supervisor for the 2010 Census, according to a resume posted on his personal Web site. He has previously worked for the University of Alaska, his resume says.

As medics began trying to save Thom Gruenig, the trooper went inside to find out why 911 was called and found his mother, Holloway said.

Troopers’ “working theory” is that she called 911 as she was dying, he said., though he wouldn’t say how the woman died. Asked if she was stabbed to death, he said, “Not exactly.” Also unclear was why Thom was naked.

“We have no idea,” Holloway said. “We don’t know if he just happened to be that way or if he was on drugs or crazy, you know, we don’t have any clue at this point.”

Investigators found a marijuana growing operation in the lower level of the home involving about 30-40 plants. Holloway said investigators didn’t yet know if the drugs played a role in the situation.