Audit spurs changes to way county doles out concealed handgun permits

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Multnomah County sheriff's office has taken greater control of its handgun safety class following an audit that recommended more professionalism.

Sheriff Dan Staton requested the audit of the entire concealed handgun licensing unit after an employee was arrested in 2011 and accused of improperly approving a license for her son.

The audit by a Clackamas County sheriff's deputy concluded the licensing unit is in "complete compliance" with local, state and federal laws, and noted that its financial accounting system quickly detected the employee misconduct. But Deputy Joel Manley recommended changes to the safety class that's required for a concealed-handgun license.

Until January, the class was taught by an instructor under contract with the county, which is Oregon's most populous.

Manley, who sat in on the class last year, observed that students paid their fees and received certificates of completion before the session began, allowing them to potentially skip out without ever being trained. Moreover, the name portion on the certificate was blank, opening the door for someone else's name to be inserted.

Manley said the teacher provided handouts that were "unprofessional" and had inaccurate information. He also took the instructor to task for his appearance, saying he wore jean shorts, tennis shoes and a T-shirt that advertised "The Gun Store."

"Two students who attended the class stated they were surprised by the lack of professionalism of the instructor," the audit says. "Both stated they expected more from a law enforcement agency."

The instructor was also the only person who knew how many students were in attendance and he handled all the cash and receipts.

"It should be clearly understood that there was absolutely no sense of impropriety on the instructor's part, but the system currently in place is at a high risk for financial impropriety," the audit says.

The county's contract with the instructor expired in January. In response to the audit, the sheriff's office revamped the class by changing its cash-handling procedures and requiring students to attend the entire 2 1/2-hour session before receiving their certificates of completion. The classes are now taught by deputies from the sheriff's office training unit.

"I can tell you our training unit dresses with a polo shirt that says "Sheriff's Office Training Unit" and khaki pants," sheriff's Lt. Steve Alexander said Tuesday.

Alexander said about 700 people have taken the class since January.

Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon, a gun-control group, said the audit is timely because several bills before the Legislature pertain to those who have or seek concealed-weapons permits.

"It sounds to me, I haven't seen it, like it has been tightened up and is more professional," she said. "It would be interesting to see audits in some of the other counties."