US

US Census Bureau Hire of Registered Child Sex Offender Prompts Calls for Investigation

By Zachary Stieber

The U.S. Census Bureau of Charlotte hired a registered child sex offender and calls have been prompted for an investigation into how it was allowed to happen.

Kenneth Mabry, 44, was hired as a manager by the bureau despite being a registered sex offender. Mabry’s status became known by the bureau when he was arrested on March 12 for allegedly engaging in a sex act with a 9-year-old girl, reported Fox 46.

“They potentially put so many people at risk,” a Census Bureau whistleblower who works at the office told the broadcaster. “This should have popped up in his background investigation. It’s a big mistake. A really big mistake. I’m angry.”

The top Google result for “Kenneth Mabry” brings up a sex offender registry page for North Carolina, listing information about Mabry, including the offense he committed.

Mabry was convicted in 2013 in Missouri for attempting to molest an 11-year-old and had to register as a sex offender for at least a decade, according to Fox.

Mabry was hired by the bureau in August 2018. His job with the bureau had him at a variety of events trying to recruit workers for the 2020 census.

“He was at churches. He was at parades. He was at community fairs,” the employee said. “It’s upsetting. It’s scary.”

After his March arrest, Mabry was fired.

“Mr. Mabry is no longer employed by the U.S. Census Bureau. His former position did not involve any door-to-door interviewing. While we cannot comment any further on ongoing personnel matters, we take this matter very seriously. We remain committed to hiring practices that are fair and ensure safety to the public,” a bureau spokesperson said.

Multiple federal officials called for an investigation into how Mabry was hired.

“This hiring is incredibly concerning and should have been easily avoided,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told Fox 46. “This was clearly a failure on the part of the Census Bureau and we need to find out how this happened and how we can prevent such gross oversights moving forward.”

Reps. David Price (D-N.C.) and Alma Adams (D-N.C.) also called for a probe.

In a statement to Fox News, a spokesperson for the Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, said: “Sen. Tillis and Rep. Price are justified in their outrage, and we share their deep concerns.”

“We have spoken to the Census Bureau about this matter to ensure its hiring and vetting procedures are adhered to fully going forward,” the statement continued. “The Office of Inspector General is evaluating the Bureau’s response to this issue, and we will review those findings with the Bureau to ensure we do everything possible to prevent this from happening again. This remains an ongoing personnel matter.”

The Office of the Inspector General said in a report (pdf) last year that the bureau’s hiring process needed to improve.

The office found that the bureau uses contractors to conduct background checks and that the contractors could essentially spend as much time as they wanted on the checks with “no incentive … to control the cost or ensure labor efficiency.” The work was also not always accurate.

“We found that the Bureau has developed policies and procedures for conducting background checks on temporary employees, but quality assurance weaknesses jeopardize the effectiveness of those procedures,” the office stated. “Public-opinion polling, conducted earlier this decade by the Bureau, indicated that U.S. residents are concerned about the risk associated with potentially hiring people with criminal backgrounds to work on the 2020 Census. The Bureau must mitigate this risk.”

Additionally, the bureau wasn’t adequately monitoring contractor activities, including background checks, the office said. A third problem was bureau officials allocating background check costs to the wrong project codes, costing taxpayers $1.1 million.