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Report: Former DPS Worker Issued 5,817 Licenses without Background Checks

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DES MOINES, Iowa – A special investigation by the State Auditor’s Office has determined a former employee of the Iowa Department of Public Safety issued more than 5,000 private investigator, private security, and bail enforcement licenses without doing the proper background checks on applicants.

A report released Thursday by the State Auditor Rob Sand's Office says they were contacted by the DPS in August of 2018 about concerns regarding a former Clerk Specialist, Joe Sheehan Jr. He was responsible for issuing the licenses, also referred to as “guard cards.”

Questions were raised about Sheehan’s work after the Linn County Sheriff’s Office contacted DPS earlier that month about an individual who had a guard card and applied for a weapons permit but was found to have an extensive criminal conviction history outside of Iowa. Those convictions should have prevented the issuance of a guard card.

Sheehan had been responsible for processing the applications and doing state background checks on applicants before issuing a guard card. Once an applicant passed the state background check, he was to send their fingerprint card on to the FBI to do federal checks.

The former chief of the Program Services Bureau, who is no longer with the department, looked into the matter and found major discrepancies with other cases – including thousands of fingerprint cards that were never submitted to the FBI.

The State Auditor’s Office looked at a period between July 1, 2016 and August 15, 2018 for their investigation. They found that 5,817 guard cards were issued without a federal background check. As of August 21st, 2019 the validity of 578 licenses was still pending.

The auditor also found Sheehan didn’t keep sufficient records to reconcile financial payments made for the applications.

Sheehan was placed on leave from his position on August 16, 2018 and he was fired on November 6, 2018. He had worked for the DPS since December of 2004.

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