Charlotte Census Bureau's sex offender hire under review, lawmakers call for investigation

At least three members of Congress are calling for an investigation into the Census Bureau, after a FOX 46 investigation found the agency hired a registered child sex offender to manage the Charlotte region.

"This hiring is incredibly concerning and should have been easily avoided," said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). 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."

Tillis said he "encourages" the Commerce Department, which overseas the Census Bureau, to "investigate how and why this happened."

Rep. Alma Adams (D-Charlotte) called FOX 46's findings "extremely concerning."

"This individual never should have been hired," said Adams. "We need to find out how this was allowed to happen...This situation must be thoroughly investigated to ensure the Census can be conducted safely."

Rep. David Price (D-Raleigh) also reacted to our findings and echoed calls for an investigation.  

"It's deeply concerning," said Price. "It is imperative that as the agency ramps up its hiring and operations for the 2020 Census, it is doing its due diligence and fully checking the backgrounds of all incoming staff."

Price, who is on the House Appropriations Committee, pledged to work "to ensure the Census receives the funding it needs to complete extensive background checks in a timely manner."

Kenneth Mabry, 44, was hired last August as a recruiter and promoted to manager of the Charlotte region. His hiring raises questions about the quality of the Census Bureau's background checks. Last year, the Office of Inspector General found the Census Bureau's backround check office was "not fully prepared" for the 2020 Census, citing "inadequate quality assurance practices" that "pose risks" to the American public.

Six months before Mabry was hired, the OIG warned the Census Bureau that "applicants who may be unqualified or unfit may nontheless pass a background check and be sent to the homes of U.S. residents to collect personal information."

Mabry, who was hired despite being on the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry, was fired only after he was arrested again in March, accused of molesting a nine-year-old girl. 

He was convicted in 2013 of attempting to molest an 11-year-old. 

"Of course, Sen. Tillis and Rep. Price are justified in their outrage, and we share their deep concerns," a Commerce spokesperson told FOX 46. "We have spoken to the Census Bureau about this matter to ensure its hiring and vetting procedures are adhered to fully going forward."

The Office of Inspector General is "evaluating the Bureau's response to this issue," the spokesperson said.

Officials say the agency will "review those findings" with the Census Bureau to "ensure we do everything possible to prevent this from happening again."

The Commerce Department and the Census Bureau both tell FOX 46 that this remains "an ongoing personnel matter."

"The U.S. Census Brueau has and will continue to appreciate the oversight of the U.S. Department of Commerce and its Office of Inspector General on all of our operations," said Census Bureau spokesman Michael Cook. "The Census Bureau takes very seriously its obligation to ensure that the people it hires, especially those who visit or personally engage with the public, do not represent a danger to any individual or community. We value the Office of Inspector General's recommendations and have taken actions to strengthen and improve our background investigations process to ensure the safety of the public."

Mabry has not yet entered a plea. He is due back in court in July.