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Senate leader commands state to stop scanning Missourians’ documents

By   /   April 16, 2013  /   No Comments

LICENSES IN AFFTON: One of nearly 150 license offices in Missouri. All are now scanning important documents and sending them to a state database in Jefferson City.

LICENSES IN AFFTON: One of nearly 150 license offices in Missouri. All are now scanning important documents and sending them to a state database in Jefferson City.

By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog

AFFTON – Missouri’s Senate leader has ordered the Missouri Department of Revenue to cease and desist scanning the personal documents of the state’s residents.

Whether the agency complies is another matter.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey sent a letter to DOR acting director John Mollenkamp on Monday accusing the department of a “serious breach of the public trust” for keeping copies of such documents as birth certificates, Social Security cards and marriage licenses from applicants for driver licenses and concealed carry endorsements.

Those actions would seem to be in violation of a law passed by the Missouri General Assembly in 2009 that forbade compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005.

“The Department of Revenue has violated the trust placed in it by the people of Missouri and has repeatedly failed to be candid with members of the General Assembly,” Dempsey wrote.

DOR communications director Ted Farnen did not immediately return a call from Missouri Watchdog on Tuesday morning.

That letter was addressed to Mollenkamp because the previous director, Brian Long, resigned Monday after only four months in the post.

In his resignation letter to Gov. Jay Nixon, Long wrote that the job “has taken a toll on me and my family that I could not have anticipated when I accepted the position.”

Nixon released a statement thanking Long for his service. His office said the governor did not ask for Long’s resignation.

“I hope it signals that the department will continue to take this serious moving forward,” said Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, sponsor of a House bill attempting to bar the DOR from scanning those documents.

House Speaker Tim Jones gathered lawmakers and media in front of Attorney General Chris Koster’s office on Thursday afternoon to press the state’s top law enforcement official to investigate the revenue department.

Koster’s office has remained tight-lipped on the issue. His spokeswoman, Nanci Gonder, hasn’t returned multiple calls from Missouri

DEMPSEY TO DOR: Cease and desist document scanning immediately.
DEMPSEY TO DOR: Cease and desist document scanning immediately.

Watchdog since Friday. She also hasn’t provided comments to other media.

Jones admitted to reporters at an impromptu press conference that he hadn’t consulted with Koster’s office before delivering his letter requesting the investigation and grandstanding in front of the AG’s office.

Missouri Watchdog visited the Affton license office, operated by Lavin Company, LLC, to obtain a driver’s license on Tuesday. A reporter provided a passport and water bill, which were scanned and returned, along with a temporary license.

Nixon has denied that he is trying to comply with the REAL ID act, a 2005 initiative attempting to impose universal technological standards and verification procedures in each state to create a de facto national ID card.

Republicans keep pressing the governor, a Democrat, on the issue, and Long’s resignation did little to stop the furor.

“Governor Jeremiah Jay Nixon, your Department of Revenue is doing something that has our entire state upset,” Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, said on the Senate floor Monday evening. “So, Governor Jeremiah Jay Nixon, please answer us this: Why, governor, do you not publicly tell the Department of Revenue to cease and desist what they’re doing, to calm this whole thing down and fix it?”

Contact Johnny Kampis at johnny@missouriwatchdog.org.  For more Missouri Watchdog updates, visit Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for our free newsletter with investigative reports and breaking news alerts.   

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Johnny Kampis is a content editor at Watchdog.org, and is helping to start the organization’s Alabama Watchdog bureau in his home state. Johnny previously worked in the newspaper industry and as a freelance writer, and has been published in The New York Times, Time.com and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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