State auditor investigating licenses issued by DPS clerk

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A former clerk for the Iowa Department of Public Safety approved more than 5,000 licenses for private investigators, security, and bail bondsmen without running the proper background checks, according to a new report from state auditor Rob Sand.

In a release today, Sand says former clerk Joe Sheehan Jr. was put on leave and ultimately fired last year. A total of 5,817 licenses were approved by Sheehan without a nationwide background check.

Sand says records weren't available to see if Iowa background checks were done or if all the fees were properly deposited.

The background checks were questioned by the Linn County sheriff's office when a person with an active guard license applied for a weapon permit, but they say the man had a criminal history in another state that should have prevented him from getting the guard license.

The Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens has issued a statement:

“The Iowa Department of Public Safety holds dear the public’s trust. When an employee allegedly engages in conduct that tarnishes that trust, we take that matter seriously. Once the Department discovered the conduct, we took swift action to investigate and correct what had occurred. Within the first few days, the Department contacted the State Auditor’s Office for assistance and immediately opened parallel personnel and criminal investigations. We cooperated with the Auditor’s Office, terminated the employee’s employment, and submitted our criminal investigative reports to the Polk County Attorney’s Office for review of possible legal action.

While those investigations were ongoing, the Department began tackling the 5,817 permits that were issued without a supporting nationwide background check. As of the present date, we have resolved 90% of the permits in question and anticipate having the remaining 10% cleared in the next 60 to 75 days.

I want to thank Auditor Sand and his office for their fine work and thoughtful recommendations to make the current permitting system stronger and less vulnerable to employee misconduct. Finally, I want to thank the diligent employees of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, who not only brought this matter to light, but have been working tirelessly to resolve these improperly issued permits while doing their level best to meet their daily duties.”

Iowa Department of Public Safety

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