WASHINGTON — Top Census Bureau officials Tuesday defended their Fresno area operations against allegations of mismanagement, saying they haven't uncovered any unusual problems.
Census Bureau Director Robert Groves acknowledged that errors might have occurred in the San Joaquin Valley when workers felt deadline pressure, but he characterized this as typical during the feverish, final stages of any survey.
"Complaints like the Fresno complaints come up every census," Groves said. "It's very understandable."
Groves added that census-takers will revisit San Joaquin Valley households if investigators discover evidence calling survey results into question.
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"If we find an accusation is valid, we will identify the set of affected cases and completely redo the work," Groves said. "We will repair every case that we see was handled improperly."
Politically and financially, an accurate count is crucial. The decennial census is required by the Constitution, and the results determine how many congressional seats each state receives, the locations of House districts and how $400 billion in federal money is distributed annually.
The 2010 effort has come in $1.6 billion below budget, officials noted Tuesday.
The work isn't done; roughly one in 700 U.S. households will be contacted for follow-up questions.
Prompted by complaints filed by former Fresno area census workers, several investigations are under way.
The Commerce Department's Office of Inspector General has undertaken two inquiries, the office of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, has confirmed. One concerns multiple allegations of race, age and sex discrimination in the Fresno office.
The other inspector general case concerns allegations that Fresno area workers may have cut corners or falsified data while under management pressure to finish quickly. The Los Angeles regional office oversaw the Fresno and Salinas offices.
Separately, Census Bureau officials said Tuesday they are conducting their own inquiries into the problems alleged in several whistle-blower complaints.
Census officials, though, sought Tuesday to cast the complaining ex-workers as a small minority of the overall work force.
"We've got people on the ground looking into this," said Steve Jost, the bureau's associate communications director, "and we just don't see anything out of line."
Bee Washington Bureau reporter Mike Doyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-383-0006.