Report: Former DPS employee issued thousands of licenses without background checks

Local News

DES MOINES — At a press conference on Thursday, State Auditor Rob Sand outline his office’s special investigation into a Department of Public Safety former clerk specialist who issued thousands of licenses to state employees without performing background checks.

According to a special report issued on Thursday, Sand’s office investigated former Clerk Specialist Joe Sheehan Jr. Sheehan was placed on leave on August 16, 2018 and terminated from his position on November 6, 2018.

The state auditor reported the special investigation identified Sheehan was responsible for ensuring appropriate procedures were performed prior to issuing licenses to individuals who applied for private investigator, private security, and/or bail enforcement licenses. Appropriate procedures include conducting an Iowa background check and a nationwide background check. Sand reported, using documentation from an outside source, it was determined 5,817 licenses were issued between July 1, 2016 and August 15, 2018 without a nationwide background check.

“We identified roughly 20 to 25 cards of that 5,817 that had a disqualifying and were then improperly issued,” said Commander Stephan Bayens with the Iowa Department of Public Safety. “Those cards were then revoked.”

Discrepancies were also found in some of Sheehan’s documents that were supposed to go to the FBI.

“After Mr. Sheehan was placed on leave, the former Bureau Chief discovered 2 FBI reports for May 21, 2018 when he was going through Mr. Sheehan’s desk. When the former Bureau Chief compared the 2 FBI reports, he identified names in common between the 2 reports,” the report reads. “He also determined certain names were not included on both reports and the formatting between the reports was different, including the font, placement of the FBI logo in the heading, and a footnote disclosure.”

Because of the differences in formatting, one of the reports was deemed to be “not authentic.”

According to the special investigation, it is possible nationwide background checks may have been processed in late August or September 2018 for a limited number of the guard cards issued near the end of the period tested. Sand also reported, based on procedures performed by a DPS official in August 2019, the validity of around 600 licenses are still pending.

The investigation began as a result of concerns regarding certain financial transactions processed by the former clerk specialist and at the request of DPS officials.

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