CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - A third member of Congress is now calling for a full investigation into what FOX 46 first uncovered: that the Census Bureau hired a registered child sex offender to manage the Charlotte region.
"Well, I was shocked," said Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC). "I mean, I just was. I'm very concerned about it."
Speaking to FOX 46 from Capitol Hill, Adams is demanding answers and accountability.
"Are you calling for a full investigation into what happened and how to prevent it from happening again?," asked FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant.
"Oh absolutely," said Adams. "Absolutely. And several of my colleagues have indicated that they are concerned as well. I don't think we'll know if we don't investigate what really happened. And I think we do need to know because this kind of thing should never happen again."
In March, Charlotte Census manager Kenneth Mabry, who was hired despite being on the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry, was arrested again, accused of engaging in a sex act with a 9-year-old girl.
"He was at many community events. He was at churches, parades," said a current Census employee, who FOX 46 is not identifying because she is not authorized to talk to the media. "They put, potentially, so many people at risk."
Six months before Census hired Mabry last year, the Bureau was warned by the Office of Inspector General that its background check system was "inadequate," "not fully prepared" and told applicants who are "unqualified or unfit may nontheless pass a background check."
"If you get a warning like this," said Adams, "you better heed it."
In 2016, the Bureau's background check system again came into question when the agency paid $15 million to settle a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit accused the agency of discriminating against minority job candidates with criminal histories, alleging applicants were not given enough time to explain their record.
For its part, Census insists its background check system is "rigourous" and says employees are being trained to ensure procedures are followed.
"We need to make sure we clear all of this up so that we can move ahead [with the 2020 Census] without any additional problems," said Adams.
Rep. Adams joins Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Rep. David Price (D-Raleigh) in calling for an investigation into Mabry's hiring.
The Office of Inspector General has already pledged to look into the matter.
"The Office of Inspector General is evaluating the [Census] Bureau's response to this issue, and we will review those findings with with the Bureu to ensure we do everything possible to prevent this from happening again," said a spokesperson for the Commerce Department, which overseas the Census Bureau. "This remains an ongoing personnel matter."
Census Bureau Statement
Census Bureau officials deny that the 2016 lawsuit had anything to do with a loosening of criminal background check standards. Agency officials say they use arrest records and FBI fingerprinting when screening job candidates.
"We have rigorous hiring procedures and checks in place to catch these issues 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. We take very seriously our obligation to ensure that the people we hire, especially those who visit or personally engage with the public, do not represent a danger to any individual or community." -Michael Cook, Census Bureau Spokesman