6/3/2010 Census Bureau makes changes after sex offender hired

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6/3/2010- USA Today

The Census Bureau has made some changes to its hiring and security procedures after reports that a convicted sex offender was hired to go door-to-door in New Jersey and an undercover video surfaced showing Census supervisors paying workers for hours they did not work.

“No hire will be allowed into the field without passing a fingerprint process,” Census Director Robert Groves said at a briefing Wednesday. “Any name check that discovers a mismatch between name, date of birth, sex, or Social Security number … will stop processing of applicant.”

The New Jersey sex offender was hired and began working as an enumerator before his fingerprint check was complete. In Indiana, however, a Census taker was allegedly involved in a burglary and rape even though he had passed the background check. He had no criminal history.

“Also, starting immediately, whenever new information is obtained about criminal activities of our staff, immediate action will be taken,” Groves said.

Conservative activist James O’Keefe, best known for an undercover video showing ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) counselors appearing to encourage him to hide a prostitution venture to get housing money, released another video this week. This one shows O’Keefe at two New Jersey Census offices where he was hired and took a two-day training course. O’Keefe quit after working 16 hours but was paid for 19.5 hours. The video also shows supervisors giving 70-minute paid lunch breaks — 40 minutes longer than allotted.

“At the time of training, we expect each day to be an 8-hour day,” Groves said.

Trainees are paid for class time, reviewing training materials and travel time.

“Once they begin work in the field, each day they record the number of hours they worked, the number of miles that they drove and report to the crew leader,” he said.

About 635,000 workers now are in the fifth week of knocking on 48 million doors of homes that never mailed back their questionnaires and “more often than not, it is the Census taker who is the victim.”

There have been more than 100 incidents of assaults or attacks against Census workers, including shootings, robberies and carjackings. Seven have been killed in car accidents and one was murdered while off duty.

“We have completed 74.6% of the enumeration and more than 35 million interview forms have been completed,” Groves said. “We’re on schedule and under budget.”

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