Lawmakers in North Carolina are calling for an in-depth investigation into the hiring practices of the United States Census Bureau. In March, Kenneth Mabry, the man the Census Bureau hired to manage its local office in Charlotte, was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl. Per a report from Charlotte’s FOX 46, Mabry has a criminal record that includes a previous sexual offense against a child. He is a registered sex offender and was listed on the North Carolina sex offender registry when the Census Bureau hired him to lead the recently-opened Charlotte office.
State Representative Alma Adams is leading the call for an investigation. She has stated that it is vitally important for this investigation to happen now before the Census Bureau ramps up hiring for the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau is expected to hire a massive number of temporary workers in the coming months, both to staff its 248 local Census offices and to act as Census takers. Adams wants to make sure that the loophole allowing Mabry to get a job with the Census Bureau is closed before the department starts hiring en masse. Other North Carolina lawmakers agree.
The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce (OIG) has promised to investigate the Census Bureau’s hiring practices immediately. Just last year, the OIG released a report titled “The Bureau’s Background Check Office Is Not Fully Prepared for the 2020 Census.” The report outlined the failures of Census Investigative Services, the department that oversees employee background checks for the Census Bureau. Census Investigative Services, the report said, was contracting out to third-party companies to run background checks but was not taking proper steps to oversee or monitor those companies and their background checks. Per lawmakers, this oversight could help explain why a registered sex offender such as Mabry was able to land a prominent job within the Census Bureau.
In a document posted on the Census.gov website, the Census Bureau states that it has spent the decade since the last Census “work[ing] with legal experts, law enforcement officials, and advocacy leaders” to craft a background check strategy. The Census Bureau’s goals were to establish a policy that would protect the general public while “giv[ing] every applicant who is fit to serve a fair opportunity to do so.” The criminal history portion of background check includes an FBI fingerprint search that looks at both criminal convictions and arrest records. The Office of Personnel Management verifies resume details like employment history and education.
The Census Bureau noted that if a candidate’s fingerprint background check raises a red flag, he or she may be asked to provide additional information. It isn’t clear if the Census Bureau ever asked Mabry to explain his past convictions or if the Bureau overlooked his sex offender status.
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