MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Commerce’s inspector general has asked the Census Bureau for information related to the hiring process of two men whose appointments to top positions have drawn sharp criticism. The bureau said Wednesday it plans to respond to the request.
Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson sent a letter to Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham on Tuesday asking for the resumes of Nathaniel Cogley and Adam Korzeniewski and requesting other information about their hiring, including documents related to the creation of the new positions at the bureau, and expectations and goals associated with their jobs.
Cogley, a political science professor at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, who wrote a series of opinion pieces against the impeachment of President Donald Trump, has been named a deputy director for policy. Korzeniewski, a former campaign consultant to the pro-Trump YouTube personality known as “Joey Salads,” has been hired as a senior adviser to the deputy director for policy.
The Commerce Department letter also asks for descriptions of the new positions; correspondence or other documentation regarding the recruitment, interviewing, evaluation and hiring of the men; and any financial disclosures they have made, including to the Office of Government Ethics.
“You are obligated to cooperate with this request per Department policy,” said the letter, which asks for a response by July 20.
The hirings have drawn criticism from several sides, including from the world’s largest statisticians group. The American Statistical Association said in late June that the appointments of the two men with little experience at the agency “are in direct conflict with the bureau’s mission to ensure proper, accurate, and timely delivery of statistical information to the public.”
The 2020 census will determine $1.5 trillion in federal funding and how many congressional seats each state gets. In a statement announcing the appointments, Dillingham said the appointees would help ensure a complete and accurate head count of every U.S. resident.
During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, census spokesman Michael Cook said the bureau will respond to the letter. Cook said the bureau plans to address criticism of their hiring.
“You have to stay tuned for that response,” Cook said.
Thomas Wolf, a counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice, has said the appointments raise concerns that the Trump administration may try to violate longstanding protections ensuring that data is kept confidential and secure.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has said the appointments were another attempt by the Trump administration to politicize the bureau after failing in court to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Also Wednesday, the bureau said it will begin sending census takers to six cities to interview households that have not yet responded to the questionnaire.
Starting July 20, homes whose residents haven’t yet answered the census in areas around Hartford, Connecticut; Evansville, Indiana; Wichita, Kansas; State College, Pennsylvania; Crystal City, Virginia; and Tacoma, Washington, will get visits from census takers hoping to ask them about who lives in their household and the residents’ race, sex, Hispanic origins and relations to each other.
The Census Bureau had previously announced six other areas where workers will be interviewing households that have not answered the questionnaire: Beckley, West Virginia; Boise, Idaho; Gardiner, Maine; Kansas City, Missouri; New Orleans; and Oklahoma County, Oklahoma.
The census takers originally were supposed to head out in May, but the spread of the new coronavirus delayed that operation. The majority of census offices in the rest of the country will begin the follow-up work on Aug. 11, officials said.
The spread of the virus also postponed existing field operations for a month and a half, and caused the Census Bureau to push back the end of the once-a-decade head count from the end of July to the end of October.