Missouri Director of Revenue Resigns After Investigation
JEFFERSON CITY (KMOX) - A week after refusing to commit to lawmakers that his department would stop scanning the personal documents of applicants for concealed carry permit holders, the Missouri Department of Revenue Director Brian Long announced his resignation, leaving the chairman of the committee investigating the scandal to charge he was thrown under the bus.
The recent findings contradict comments made by Gov. Jay Nixon less than two weeks ago in which he claimed the Revenue Department was not forwarding the private information it had collected to the federal government.
“This Department of Revenue in this state of Missouri is not collecting a bunch of unuseful data to send to some sort of magical database someplace to mess with people.” Nixon said.
Long’s announcement follows a number of conflicting stories from the State Highway Patrol, Social Security Administration, and the governor’s office both denied and confirmed this release of information. Gov. Nixon has named Deputy Director of Revenue John Mollenkamp as acting director of the department.
In his resignation letter, Long said that his time in office took a toll on himself and his family which he did not anticipate when accepting the position late last year.
The Department of Revenue and Governor’s office refused to comment on Long’s resignation.
Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, called Long a “sacrificial lamb” for the department and asked why the Nixon administration would not stop collecting this information.
“Your Department of Revenue is doing something that has our entire state upset,” Nieves said. “Gov. Jeremiah ‘Jay’ Nixon please answer us this: why do you not publicly tell the Department of Revenue to cease and desist?”
Earlier in the day, State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Ron Replogle said he would not resign.
“I will stay in this position until the Governor asks me to leave it,” Replogle said to a group of reporters Monday, April 15.
Spokesperson for the governor, Scott Holste, said Nixon was not considering asking Replogle for his resignation.
The conflicting stories originated when U.S. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, announced his intent to investigate the transfer of private information of gun owners to the Social Security Administration.
He said he discovered the Social Security Administration requested access to concealed weapon permit information to investigate those receiving mental health benefits from the organization and holding a permit. If a person receives these kinds of benefits, they are ineligible to carry a concealed weapon permit.
Luektemeyer said Highway Patrol sent the Social Security Administration this information via a disk in November 2011. At first they could not access the information on the disk and destroyed it. They then made a second request in January 2013. When they received the information a second time, they successfully accessed the disk but found the information was not what they wanted and destroyed it a second time.
Replogle had a different story and said the Social Security Administration did not gain access to the second disk, and had to destroy it again without ever receiving the information.
The Social Security Administration issued a correction after the press conference, stating that the administration was not able to open the second disk or view any of the data and it was destroyed.
Replogle said he believes there is a better way to handle these kinds of controversial requests.
“If it happens again, it will have full staff and legal review before any information is released,” Relogle said, “I can assure you that I will be looking at that myself and that we are putting written policy in place.”
Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Andrea Spillars said there would be repercussions for employees not following the new rules.
“There are going to have to be consequences if they are violating policy,” Spillars said. “That is going to be the general order of the highway patrol that is going to have to be followed.”
Lawmakers also said they disagree with the current process. Luetkemeyer said in his discussion with the Social Security Administration, he was assured that it was legal, although not the norm.
Spillars said despite the controversy, there were no illegal actions on the part of the Highway Patrol.
“In hindsight as we look at it now, it was a legal disclosure,” Spillars said.
Luetkemeyer said on the federal side he does not see any abuse, but he will continue to monitor to ensure Missourian’s information remains protected.
Replogle said the federal investigators had a right to the information, and could have easily accessed it through the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System or MULES database. This database provides access to information which identifies those with concealed and carry permits. The investigator could have used this database, but would have had to search each person of interest individually, taking more time than a simple request from the Highway Patrol would.
Speaker of the House Tim Jones said this is a question of scope and purpose.
“We are continuing on the quest for truth,” Jones said. “What is the scope and what is the purpose?”
Jones added he believes an “information dump of 160,000 plus Missourians seems broad and overreaching.”
“There is no excuse for the Department of Revenue to maintain a database of information gathered from the licensing process or share this information,” Jones said in a statement. “Concealed carry paperwork is especially sensitive given the potential for misuse, and that is why our laws explicitly state that it must remain confidential.”
Marie French and Elizabeth Hagedorn contributed to this report.