Sheriff Ted Mink is characterizing as “a joke” his comment that “we could have a fire” if a government agency requested access to his records on concealed-carry permits for handguns in Jefferson County.
Mink made the remark while speaking along with Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener to a March meeting of the 285 Corridor Tea Party. In response to a question from the audience about another government agency gaining access to those records with a warrant, Mink said: "We could have a fire. I mean, it happens."
Steve Zansberg, a Denver attorney who specializes in open records and open meetings law, said the intentional destruction of public records is a class 1 misdemeanor under Colorado law.
“Such a blanket destruction of records would also appear to violate Jefferson County’s records retention schedule that specifically addresses concealed-weapon permit materials in the possession of the sheriff,” Zansberg said.
Mink said his remark, which can be viewed in a video on the 285Bound.com website, was made in jest. It drew a round of applause from those in attendance.
"That was a joke," Mink said last week. "If you don’t know me well, I like to joke a lot."
Mink also said during the March appearance in Conifer that he has the legal authority to decide who is granted access to the records and may deny any request.
Mink said both the Sheriff's Office and the county attorney’s office would fight requests for the concealed-carry-permit records to be made public.
"Our files that we have are not a public record. They’re kept in a confidential, locked location, and I'm not going to turn those over to another agency or whatever," Mink said. "I'm the keeper of the records, and I get to determine by law who gets access to those records. I think we have a legal argument (against turning over those records) should that ever happen, which I doubt it would."
Assistant County Attorney Writer Mott concurred that any release of the records would be up to the discretion of the sheriff.
“Generally the sheriff has discretion under the Criminal Justice Act to release those records or not,” Mott said. “We don’t want to uniformly say we would fight a request. But a lot of the info contained in those conceal-carry applications would be private and confidential information.”
Mink said he could envision a scenario in which he might share the records with another sheriff if a Jeffco resident was applying for a concealed-carry permit in another county.
"There has to be a legitimate argument for why that particular record should be released and have a legitimate reason of where that's going to. And again, we would fight anything legally that I think we have standing to," Mink said. "Obviously, I would have to (obey a subpoena) or I would be in violation of the law. But again, I think we have recourse and I think a valid argument."
Advice for the legislative branch
Mink told the Tea Party audience that the state legislature should focus on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill and not worry about the capacity of ammunition magazines or about expanding background checks, a stance shared by the County Sheriffs of Colorado.
"It's not about guns. It's about the mentally ill people using guns to commit horrific crimes," Mink said during the meeting. "So why not focus on allowing us in law enforcement to look at the records of those that have been diagnosed with a mental illness and see if they pose a threat to the community? And then have the tools to do what I think we need to do, which is to keep guns out of the hands of those individuals that have some diagnosis of mental illness that could potentially be a harm to themselves and others."
Mink said the County Sheriffs had not formulated how such a database would work or how health-care privacy laws would apply.
When asked by an audience member about federal legislation creating new restrictions on firearms, Mink said, "You can read between the lines, but it’s scary to me. I’ll be frank: I don’t know what the Obama administration is up to. Honestly, I can't answer that, but it’s not good."
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.