A report from the state auditor found an employee of the Department of Public Safety failed to conduct the required federal background checks for nearly 6,000 people who applied for a private investigator or security guard licenses.
State Auditor Rob Sand says the security companies apply to the state to get license known as a “guard card.” “There’s first an Iowa background check and then a nationwide background check that’s supposed to be conducted prior to the individuals continuing their employment in those industries,” Sand says. A review from July of 2016 through August 15th, 2018 showed DPS clerk Joe Sheehan Junior did not do the federal background the checks.
Sand says the issue was first discovered by a Linn County Sheriff’s deputy. “That sheriff’s deputy had an individual in front of him applying for a permit to carry weapons and presenting the guard card,” Sand explains. “However that sheriff’s deputy knew that individual had convictions in other states that would prevent him from passing the background check necessary for him to receive that guard card.”
DPS Commissioner Stephan Bayens says Sheehan was fired. “Once the Department of Public Safety discovered the conduct identified in the auditor’s report today –we took swift action to investigate and remedy what had occurred,” according to Bayens. “Within the first few days of discovering what this employee had done, the Department Of Public Safety contacted the state auditor’s office for assistance and immediately initiated and opened a parallel personnel investigation and criminal investigation.”
Bayens says they found 5,817 cases where the guard card was issued without a federal background check. “As of the present date we have resolved 90 percent of those permits in question — and anticipate resolving the remaining 10 percent in the next 60 to 75 days.
Bayens says they did find cards issued that would not have been had the background checks been done. “We identified roughly 20 to 25 cards of the 5,817 that had a disqualifying conviction and were then improperly issued. Those cards were then revoked,” Bayens says. Bayens says he is not sure why the clerk did not do the background checks as required.
“Based on at least our investigation thus far — it did not appear that the individual was receiving some sort of tangible benefit for doing this. That’s the best information that we have. But I would not speculate further on what may motivate an individual to do these things,” Bayens says. He says the criminal investigation is continuing and did not say any charges had been filed. State Auditor Sands also says he did not find signs of benefit to the clerk. “Our investigation did not uncover any evidence suggesting that this employee was actually embezzling any money,” Sands says
. The auditor made several recommendations to DPS on safeguards to prevent this from happening again and Bayens says they are following through on those recommendations.