North Carolina lawmakers are fuming after it was revealed that the U.S. Census Bureau hired a registered child sex offender to manage its Charlotte office. Now they’re calling for an investigation to find out how the man came to be employed.
The man had been on the state’s sex offender registry for years. Kenneth Mabry, 44, was convicted in 2013 of the attempted molestation of an 11-year-old girl in Missouri.
He was sentenced to three years’ probation and was made to register as a sex offender for a minimum of ten years.
But somehow his registration went unnoticed until March 12, when Mabry was arrested for allegedly “engaging in a sex act” with a 9-year-old girl.
“This hiring is incredibly concerning and should have been easily avoided,” Sen. Tom Tillis, R-N.C., said. “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.”
The demand for an investigation into Mabry’s hiring received bipartisan support, with Democrat representatives Alma Adams and David Price joining the chorus of condemnation.
Some of Mabry’s former coworkers are also angry, raising concerns that Mabry had attended an array of child-friendly community events throughout his seven-month employment, including church gatherings and local parades.
Mabry’s taxpayer-funded salary at the Charlotte census office put him in charge of the bureau’s hiring.
According to the Census Bureau, the former Charlotte manager has been fired.
“His former position did not involve any door-to-door interviewing. While we cannot comment any further on ongoing personnel matters, the Census Bureau takes this matter very seriously. The Census Bureau remains committed to hiring practices that are fair and ensure safety to the public. We have rigorous hiring procedures and checks in place to catch these types of charges early on in the hiring process and deal with them in the appropriate manner, and we are training our employees to ensure that these procedures are followed,” said the spokesperson.
In the statement, the spokesperson said things like this don’t happen.
“We remain committed to hiring practices that are fair and ensure safety to the public,” the statement said. “We have rigorous hiring procedures and checks in place to catch these issues early in the hiring process and deal with them in the appropriate manner.”
The Department of Commerce oversees the Census Bureau. On Monday, a said “of course, 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.”
But there were concerns something like this could happen. Last year, the OIG cautioned the Census Bureau its background checks were not up to standard.
“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 report warned.
The report said the Bureau needed to mitigate the risk as soon as possible.
“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.”
Every ten years, the Bureau hires thousands of employees nationally to conduct the Census. That census is critical in calculating the U.S. population, the distribution of federal funding and how many seats each state will be entitled to in the House of Representatives.
Mabry is due in court in July.