Putnam’s office mischaracterized interviews for concealed carry investigation, withheld records from media

Politico by Matt Dixon

July 10, 2018

TALLAHASSEE — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s bid for governor has been dogged over the past month by an explosive report that his office didn’t fully review applications for hundreds of concealed carry gun permits.

The missed permit reviews, though, are not the end of Putnam’s problems.

His department’s own investigators signed off on a final report looking at the issue that said every interview conducted with department staff was done under oath and recorded, but according to records reviewed by POLITICO, two key interviews were not. In addition, his office delayed the release of records related to the report, including not initially releasing requested documents to the media outlets.

“It’s a huge issue,” Barbara Petersen, an attorney and president of the First Amendment Foundation, said of interviews listed as “sworn” not being under oath. “It is at the heart of our ability to oversee our government and hold them accountable.”

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspector general’s report — which found 291 people who weren’t supposed to got concealed carry permits —has already dogged Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign. The additional recordsreviewed by POLITICO, now outline that the investigation into improperly reviewed conceal carry gun permits included key inaccuracies, and that Putnam’s office dragged its feet when receiving requests for further records.

Putnam has been seen as the GOP front-runner in Florida’s nationally watched governor’s race. He has responded to critics of his handling of the permits, which in Florida are issued by Putnam’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, by blasting the Tampa Bay Times’ original reporting on the investigation, which initially overstated the number of applications impacted.

Jenn Meale, the communications director in Putnam’s official office, confirmed that two staff interviews as part of the investigation were listed in the report as being recorded and sworn, but were not. She said they were characterized that way in the final inspector general’s report “inadvertently.”

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