The Madison County Sheriff’s Office used tens of thousands of dollars in concealed weapons permit fees to purchase carpet, tile, guns and even a car.
Records turned over to IdahoReporter.com reveal the law enforcement agency spent more than $60,000 between 2011 and 2014 on expenses seemingly unrelated to concealed weapons permit license administration.
In 2011 alone, Madison spent just more than $24,000 on tile and carpet for a front office and a training room. On April 12, 2011, the agency paid Rexburg Tile and Stone $10,251 for “Tile - front office + dl,” as described in the memo line. Then just five months later, the agency paid the stone and tile company $14,038 for “tile upstairs.”
The agency didn’t stop there. On May 1, 2012, Madison paid Rexburg Tile & Stone $18,820 for carpet in a training room and offices.
Concealed weapons fees also funded exterior upgrades. Madison paid Wilcox Logging $750 in May 2013 for bark in a shooting range area.
That same month, the concealed weapons account funded new guns for the agency after officials traded in used weapons. After Red’s Trading Post gave Madison a $19,800 credit for the used weapons, the concealed weapons account covered the extra $2,339.46 to complete the purchase.
Less than a year ago, Madison paid Taylor Chevrolet $14,270 to buy a used car for its deputy doing civil work. An Idaho Transportation Department document listed that car as a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze with 21,354 miles on the odometer when purchased. The agency traded in a 2002 Chevrolet Impala and received $3,630 for the trade.
Idaho legislators rewrote the state’s concealed weapons permit code this year in hopes of forcing counties to slash fees. The measure provided modest reforms outlining how sheriff’s offices handle fees.
Even before the reform, Idaho code limited sheriff’s offices to a $20 service fee for first-time permit applicants, plus the cost of fingerprinting and related materials. Sheriff’s offices could charge, the code said, $15 for renewals plus associated expenses.
The reformed code still contains those restrictions, but adds a few words that minorly strengthen the language.
Still, critics wonder why Madison spent permit fees on items that governments typically cover in appropriated general fund budgets.
Chief Deputy Ryan Kaufman, who signed several checks in the records, did not return a call for comment Monday. Kaufman will return from vacation next week.
Captain Bruce Bowler declined to speculate on Kaufman’s spending decisions.
“There are times when things come up,” Bowler said. “You know, emergencies or whatever.”
Bowler added his office may pull from one fund when another fund runs dry.
Greg Pruett, president of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, blasted Madison for the purchases.
“Madison shouldn’t use responsible gun owners as the agency’s piggy bank,” Pruett said. “ISAA has long believed permit fees serve as a revenue stream for sheriff’s offices and this just proves it.”
Pruett wrote and introduced House Bill 89 in 2015, a measure that would have introduced permitless carry and optional licensing of gun owners. House leadership declined to give the bill a hearing, instead favoring the NRA-backed measure.
“Where else is this happening?” Pruett asked. “This is just one of Idaho’s 44 counties. If Idaho lawmakers had been bold enough to adopt optional permitting and constitutional carry, we may not have this problem.”
More than a month after the reform, concealed weapons permit prices vary wildly, though one county pledged last week to drop its costs.
The Idaho Freedom Foundation and the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance jointly revealed the wide disparities in permit costs in a video released last month. The project found Teton County’s permits as the most costly at $115. Just 96 miles away, applicants pay $62, the lowest in Idaho.
Teton County said last week it will drop its rate to conform with the new reform law.
While Pruett sees the rate drop as a victory for Idahoans’ rights, he wonders why Madison, which charges $70 for its first-time permits, had so much extra money to pay for purchases he sees as outside the law’s intent.
“Forcing Idahoans to pay for the constitutional rights is problematic enough,” Pruett said. “Charging responsible gun owners to pay for county goodies makes it even worse."
Take a look at Madison’s records below: