Concealed weapon permit review finds mistakes in Florida, including issuing licenses to felons

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A 2012 internal investigation released this week to The Associated Press after a records request found that 48 Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employees made mistakes while issuing concealed weapon permits and armed security guard or similar licenses.

One employee resigned during the investigation, one was fired and others received suspensions or written reprimands. In all, two concealed weapons permits and one armed security guard license were revoked, according to department spokeswoman Jennifer Meale.

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Department Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, was criticized last month after acknowledging that the agency revoked 291 permits awarded in 2016 and 2017 and fired an employee last year.

The department’s inspector general began an investigation in August 2012 after it learned an employee issued an armed security guard license to a felon. The employee’s supervisor said there had been past problems with the employee issuing licenses to felons and counselling occurred beginning in 2008, but no formal disciplinary action was taken. Putnam took office in January 2011.

The employee resigned during the investigation, which found he had issued 35 licenses without looking at the applications or reviewing arrest reports. At that point, the inspector general decided to review the work of all employees who processed license applications and renewals.

Computer records from July 2010 to July 2012 were reviewed to see if employees opened license applications. Investigators could also tell if only the first page of applications was reviewed while subsequent pages were ignored.

Of the 47 other employees who failed to follow proper review procedures, the error rate varied widely, from an employee who reviewed 2,219 applications and failed in one case to look at the second page of a security officer license renewal, to a woman fired after it was learned she approved 3,625 licenses without a full review, including 99 concealed weapons permit applications that were never viewed. Her error rate was nearly 13 percent of the 28,275 licenses processed.

Several employees blamed the errors on computer glitches, while other said phone calls and other distractions might have caused them to make mistakes.

The inspector general made several recommendations since implemented by the department, including random checks of approved licenses, improved employee training and weekly reports reviewed by supervisors to ensure employees are complying with licensing procedures.

“What these IG reports show is that we learned of a problem, evaluated it thoroughly, took action to hold employees accountable and implemented checks and balances,” Inspector General Ron Russo said in a statement issued by the department.

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