Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau, speaks during the unveiling of the 2020 census advertising campaign on January 14, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson | Getty Images
The director of the US Census Bureau said Monday that he intends to retire on Wednesday as President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Steven Dillingham, an official appointed by President Donald Trump to head the office in 2018, has been accused of politicizing the office. His term of office should expire at the end of 2021.
Calls for Dillingham’s resignation grew after it was revealed Tuesday that the office was rushing to finalize a document that would reinforce Trump’s drive to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives.
Trump had ordered the office to create a population figure that excluded undocumented immigrants.
A dispute over the order found its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in December that it was too early to assess the legality of the plan. Trump’s efforts came after the court rejected his previous offer to include a citizenship issue in the census.
Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy Gustafson asked Dillingham in a letter published Tuesday whether the office was rushing to complete the document.
Gustafson wrote that bureau whistleblowers had reached out to their office to say they felt pressured to fill out the document without “sufficient time to complete their normal data quality checks.”
Two political figures, Nathaniel Cogley and Benjamin Overholt, led the effort, wrote Gustafson. She said both men would be leaving the office “in the coming days”.
On Wednesday, Dillingham said he had ordered staff to complete the project in order to “step down”. He told Gustafson that prior to receiving her letter, he had instructed staff that “the matter should proceed in the normal course of business and that no one should feel pressured.”
A number of civil rights groups called for Dillingham’s resignation shortly after Gustafson’s letter was published.
“After considering Director Dillingham’s efforts to undermine the Agency’s core standards of data quality in order to implement a policy agenda, we believe he can no longer fulfill his duties as head of our country’s most prestigious statistical agency,” said multiple organizations. including the Conference on Civil and Human Rights published in a joint letter on Wednesday.
In his letter of resignation, Dillingham ignored the controversy and praised his staff for conducting the once-a-decade survey amid a raging pandemic.
“Many institutions have denied themselves in the face of this pandemic, and it’s easy to see why. But you didn’t. You faced and faced that challenge right away,” Dillingham wrote.
“You adjusted operations to carry out the mission while following public health and safety protocols. You made great sacrifices to continue our work when you and your loved ones faced the pandemic. You were resilient and persistent” , he added.
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