U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, today sent a letter to the Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, to express his significant concerns over the Census Bureau’s hiring of a registered sex offender as a U.S. Census survey taker. This hiring follows Secretary Locke’s testimony before the Subcommittee in which he assured Senator Shelby that the Census Bureau follows general guidelines to disqualify applicants, which specifically includes sexual offenses and crimes against children.
“The Census Bureau spent $2.5 million on a Super Bowl advertisement to encourage participation in the Census and has gone to great lengths to assure Americans that they should open their doors to Census workers. The lack of adequate oversight is unacceptable.”
The full text of the letter is below.
May 24, 2010
The Honorable Gary Locke
US Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Secretary Locke,
I am shocked and very concerned over news reports that the Census Bureau employed a registered sex offender as a US Census survey taker. It is inconceivable that the Census Bureau could be so poorly managed as to hire a convicted sex offender to go door-to-door to collect personal information.
In a 2009 Congressional hearing, I raised numerous concerns about the Census Bureau hiring hundreds of thousands of temporary workers in a short period of time without appropriate background checks, particularly focusing on the upcoming 2010 Census and the hundreds of thousands of temporary workers the Department would be hiring. In the 2000 Census, twenty-five percent of the 930,000 applicants were flagged by the FBI. If insufficient guidelines or a lack of training and oversight by the Census had allowed these people to be hired, that would have equated to a 1 in 4 chance that the person at the door has been identified by the FBI as having a criminal record. When asked the question about this issue and the upcoming 2010 Census, you stated that the Bureau follows general guidelines to disqualify applicants, which includes sexual offenses and crimes against children, to ensure that “each applicant is an acceptable risk to collect census information from residents of a community as a representative of our government.” Clearly, Mr. Secretary, your guidelines are not working.
It is expected that US federal employees, especially those tasked with a job that collects personal information at people’s homes, be thoroughly vetted. The Census Bureau spent $2.5 million on a Super Bowl advertisement to encourage participation in the Census and has gone to great lengths to assure Americans that they should open their doors to Census workers. The lack of adequate oversight is unacceptable. Applicants should not be given credentials prior to results of an FBI background check. What is even more objectionable is that it does not appear from public statements on the incident that the Census Bureau admits fault or even acknowledges that their screening procedures are not working.
I expect the Census Bureau will take immediate action to rectify their procedures and I look forward to receiving written confirmation from you about the steps the Department of Commerce and Bureau of the Census have taken to ensure that this never happens again.