The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, January 19, 2021 1:00 am

Census director resigning amid criticism

Followed Trump's push on citizenship data

Associated Press

Facing criticism that he was acceding to President Donald Trump's demand to produce citizenship information at the expense of data quality, U.S. Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham said Monday that he planned to resign with the change in presidential administrations.

Dillingham said in a statement that he would resign on Wednesday, the day Trump leaves the White House and President-elect Joseph Biden takes office. Dillingham's term was supposed to be finished at the end of the year.

The Census Bureau director's departure comes as the statistical agency is crunching the numbers for the 2020 census, which will be used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.

In his statement, Dillingham said he had been considering retiring earlier, but he had been persuaded at the time to stick around.

“But I must do now what I think is best,” said Dillingham, 68. “Let me make it clear that under other circumstances I would be honored to serve President-Elect Biden just as I served the past five presidents.”

Last week, Democratic lawmakers called on Dillingham to resign after a watchdog agency said he had set a deadline that pressured statisticians to produce a report on the number of people in the U.S. illegally.

A report by the Office of Inspector General said bureau workers were under significant pressure from two Trump political appointees to figure out who is in the U.S. illegally using federal and state administrative records, and Dillingham had set a Friday deadline for bureau statisticians to provide him a technical report on the effort.

One whistleblower told the Office of Inspector General that the work was “statistically indefensible” and others said they worried its release would tarnish the Census Bureau's reputation.

After the release of the inspector general's report, Dillingham ordered a halt to the efforts to produce data showing the citizenship status of every U.S. resident through administrative records.

In Monday's statement, Dillingham said whistleblower concerns stemmed from what appeared to be misunderstandings about how the data would be reviewed and posted.

“There has been no suggestion to me that the work described above posed any potential violation of laws, rules, or regulations,” Dillingham said.

The 2020 census which Dillingham oversaw experienced unprecedented obstacles because of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as wildfires in the West and hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.

The pandemic and errors found in the data have forced the Census Bureau to delay releasing the numbers used to apportion congressional seats until early March.


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