JEFFERSON CITY - Revenue Department officials said Wednesday they would continue to scan and keep documents with Missourians' personal information regardless of lawmakers decisions to severely cut the department's budget.
The chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R- Columbia, cut the budget to the department because of its involvement in the scanning, retaining and sharing of personal information, such as documents used for obtaining driver's licenses. When discussing the proposed budget earlier in the month, Schaefer said the department could have their budget back when he got some answers he was looking for on why the department shared the documents without letting the public know.
Revenue Department Acting Director John Mollenkamp told the committee that the central issuance process they have switched to that requires them to scan documents replaces the old process of renewing licenses over the counter. Mollenkamp says the process is cheaper than the old process. Earlier in the month, Gov. Jay Nixon said the department will no longer scan concealed carry information. The department maintained they will only continue to scan the documents that are required, which do not include concealed carry information.
There is currently proposed legislation that would restrict the department from scanning and retaining documents. Mollenkamp remained hesitant to say the department would stop scanning documents if the legislation passed. He said there should be flexibility in the money from other departments, such as the Office of Administration to continue to scan the documents.
"For the exact reason that you just said, which is enough flexibility, that if we try and send the message to stop doing it to stop by cutting it there would be sufficient flexibility with other money to continue to do it. This is why we took the step we took," Schaefer said.
Mollenkamp failed to appear before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules earlier in the day. The committee requested Mollenkamp be present to explain why there was not a public rule made through the state to inform residents of recent changes to the state license process. The general counsel for the department, Trevor Bossert, said Mollenkamp had other meetings and couldn't make it.
The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is expected to review the procedures of state agencies to ensure they comply with state statutes. Bossert told the committee that the director did not think it was necessary to make a rule to let residents know at the time of the changing procedure. Bossert also said legally he does not think it is something under Missouri law that needed to be made public because he thinks it is an internal procedure. He said however, in retrospect, it would have been beneficial to have made it public.
Committee Chairman Sen. Eric Schmitt, R- St. Louis County, said the department should have come to the committee so it could have vetted the rule. Schmitt said the number of rules the department has brought before the committee has significantly decreased in the past two years.
“I hope this is just some sort of statistical anomaly, but what’s concerning is that, we don’t know what other decisions you’re making that aren’t coming before this committee either,” Schmitt said. “So this is just an opportunity I suppose. It’s just disturbing.”
The department faced further scrutiny when it became public that it shared a list of concealed carry permit holders information with the federal Social Security Administration.
Social Security Agents maintain they never opened CCW investigation
After contradicting reports emerged about the handling of a list of concealed carry license holders in Missouri, the Social Security Administration agent who had asked for the list testified to lawmakers that he was never able to open the list he requested.
Special Agent Keith Schilb told the Senate Appropriations Committee that he asked for the list of concealed carry license holders because he was trying to catch fraud within the system. He said his curiosity stemmed from a case he looked into years ago involving fraudulent use of disability benefits and concealed carry permit holders.
Schilb maintained throughout the hearing that the project never turned into an investigation because after three attempts to access the information, he was not able to.
Sen. Mike Parson, R- , who has worked in law enforcement, said he does not understand why they would ask for the list if they were not planning on starting an investigation.
“It doesn’t sound like any of you really cared ... you put a lot of Missourian’s names and information on the line for just thinking ‘maybe I want to do this,’” Parson said. “That’s my real heartburn with this whole thing and that’s why I think things got out of hand real quick.”
Schilb said the investigation would have been used to try to match individuals that were on Social Security benefits that were mentally incompetent and owned a concealed carry permit. Though there are circumstances in which people would be able to qualify for both, they would target those who appeared to lie on one or the other.
Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he was disappointed with the way the state handled the request after Schilb testified that the discs holding the list were delivered through the mail. Schilb said there was no signature required for the delivery, the discs were not password protected and they were not encrypted.
“I am floored at the casualness both on your end in requesting what is personal information and (the) large volume of it,” Schaefer said. “And even more floored at the casualness on behalf of the state of Missouri on doing nothing to have an agreement in place, to not look further into the purpose and to just giving up the information apparently with great ease, with apparently no procedures, no protocol, nothing, even though that information under state law is personal information.”
Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said he thinks there must be some reason why the data was unable to be accessed.
“It does appear that the only thing that prevented a huge breach of Missourians personal data and information was either an accident or an act of God,” Brown said. “I think you fully intended to go forward with this expedition, a fishing expedition, and for some reason you couldn’t use the data which is the only thing that saved us.”
Special Agent Troy Turk, Schilb’s superior, said they have to make requests for information from state agencies often for investigations. He said their motives were purely to detect fraud within the Social Security system. He said a federal agency is allowed to ask state agencies for the necessary information. Turk also said the state agency is not obligated to hand over the requested information.
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