JEFFERSON CITY (MDN) – After weeks of questioning from lawmakers, the Missouri Department of Revenue responded to a rare Senate-issued subpoena Tuesday by delivering a mountain of documents to the state Capitol.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said the department has been violating state privacy laws by sharing Missourians’ personal information with the Department of Homeland Security when they apply for driver’s licenses and concealed-carry permits.
The Senate issued a subpoena last week demanding the department turn over information related to the licensing program and any documents involving communication between the department and any federal agency dating back to 2009.
The response was 50 boxes, some packed with thousands of pages. Sixteen were delivered straight to Schaefer’s office Tuesday which the department told him were more related to his inquiry. The other 34 are available for review in the department’s office.
Schaefer, who is the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, said he plans to review all of them. He and other Senate leaders suggested they might delay work on the department’s budget until the review is complete.
“Before we can, in good faith, allow spending of the public’s money, we have to have a full and accurate picture of what’s going on,” Schaefer said. “If it takes going through all those boxes to get an accurate picture, which I’m assuming its going to, then that’s going to take awhile and everybody needs to understand that.”
Schaefer initially started his inquiry in response to a lawsuit filed in Stoddard County last month. In that case, a man alleged the department had been making gun owners’ personal information accessible to the federal government and private vendors. The court there has since ruled that the man has not presented sufficient evidence of such a program.
Schaefer accused the department of breaking a four-year-old state law that forbids state agencies from taking part in a federal program proposed by Homeland Security that tightens identification requirements intended to make it more difficult to get fake driver’s licenses.
But Missouri is one of 25 states that opted out, and Schaefer said he expects to find evidence inside the 50 boxes that proves the department is violating at least one state law by ignoring that fact.
The department repeatedly denied that it is sharing personal information in hearings last month where Schaefer and other lawmakers grilled senior revenue officials. The department has also not responded for requests for an interview but maintains in brief statements that it has not shared any personal information.
But Schaefer said Tuesday he’s not convinced.
“From what I know of in the Stoddard County case is that they really haven’t done any discovery, so it’s not surprising that the judge didn’t have any evidence,” Schaefer said. “It’s the same issue we’ve been dealing with for the past month, which is basically the Department of Revenue not giving us the documents or the information that we’ve requested.”
Senate Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said he’s not surprised with the amount of information the department provided.
“It’s just a way to try to keep us from trying to get to a solution faster,” said Dempsey, R-St. Charles County. “It’s unfortunate, but we’ll put in the hours it takes to go through every single document to get to the bottom of the story.”