A decade after a federal probe exposed the U.S. Census Bureau for hiring serious criminals to enter the homes of unsuspecting Americans to gather statistics for the decennial count, the shocking practice continues. As the agency prepares to employ half a million workers in the coming months, it is still enlisting criminals such as sex offenders to help conduct the 2020 count. One regional office recently discovered that it hired a man convicted of a felony involving sex with a child. Despite his criminal record, the man passed the Census Bureau’s background check and a Charlotte, North Carolina Area Census Office (ACO) employed him.
This month the agency’s inspector general offers troubling details of the case in a report that, incredibly, concludes the Bureau still can’t ensure felons—including sex offenders—do not get hired. “Mr. Kenneth Mabry began working in August 2018 as a regional recruiting manager for the Charlotte ACO after successfully completing a pre-employment suitability determination, despite having a prior criminal record,” the watchdog writes in a document addressed to federal lawmakers. “He was arrested on March 12, 2019, charged with two felonies (sexual offense with a child, indecent liberties with a child), and subsequently terminated on March 14, 2019.” The IG reveals that, although under certain conditions, the government allows a convict to be hired into federal service, Mabry’s hiring did not follow the guidelines, “bringing to question the Bureau’s judgement in this case.”
It appears to be a broader agency-wide issue at the Census Bureau that has persisted for many years. It’s not like there isn’t a vetting system in place to screen workers. When one of the 248 regional offices recruit a candidate, the Census Investigative Services (CIS) at the agency’s headquarters in Suitland, Maryland is charged with conducting a pre-employment suitability review. The process includes sending fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a credit history as well as self-disclosed criminal record to CIS for review. Mabry’s fingerprint review noted a felony conviction in 2013 for misconduct with a child in addition to a 2011 arrest. He is also a registered sex offender, yet the CIS specialist issued a favorable recommendation. A CIS supervisor must approve the perspective employee’s file.
“The CIS supervisor, who is required to review all the information in the case file, concurred with the specialist’s recommendation and approved Mr. Mabry’s pre-employment background check on July 30, 2018,” the report states. “Based on our review of the case file, we learned that the CIS supervisor did not document the reasons for approval-despite the evidence of a prior conviction for sexual misconduct involving a child-nor was there any evidence that the supervisor conducted follow-up regarding the concerns that we noted above.” Once the supervisor rubber stamped the felon’s case, he was hired as a regional recruiting manager and later promoted to an area census office manager. Mabry was arrested and terminated in March 2019.
It may seem unbelievable that this crucial agency continues to endanger the public with its negligent hiring practices. Ten years ago, Congressional investigators blasted the Census Bureau for failing to adequately conduct mandatory background checks for tens of thousands of workers, resulting in the hiring of hundreds of violent criminals. At the time, the probe found that more than 35,000 temporary census workers were employed without the proper criminal background check, which includes fingerprinting. That means that more than one-fifth of the canvassing workforce did not get properly processed or fully screened for employment eligibility, creating an obvious security risk. More than 200 of those were subsequently determined to have criminal records yet were in constant contact with the public while canvassing for the ongoing 2010 census. Investigators say the criminal record checks were bungled because the bureau’s incompetent staff was poorly trained to conduct them.
Back in 2010 Judicial Watch reported that the Census Bureau knowingly hired a registered sex offender with a long criminal history to make home visits even though such convicts are precluded from working for the agency. The embarrassing gaffe came to light when a young mother in a New Jersey suburb recognized the census worker who came to her home from the state’s registered sex offender database. She initially thought it was safe to provide the man with information because he was a legit U.S. Census Bureau worker with a badge and bag sporting the agency’s official logo.