An audit of the security policies and weapons stash of the Department of Economic Security under its former director found shoddy record keeping, insecure storage of guns and ammunition and violations of state procurement policies.
The audit, released Friday by the Department of Public Safety, noted the DES program under which officials amassed a stash of guns and ammunition to equip armed agency employees was “rife with disorganization and inefficiency.”
DES kept virtually no records documenting training or accounting for ammunition related to its security program under former director Tim Jeffries, who was forced to resign from the agency in November.
About 60,000 rounds of ammunition were purchased in violation of state procurement laws, a misdemeanor offense. About 4,000 rounds are also missing from the “excessive” stockpile of more than 88,000 rounds. And Jeffries, along with two of his top staffers, were not in compliance with DES policies when they carried firearms at state facilities, the audit found.
Fifty-five handguns were purchased for 28 armed security officers and 23 sworn law enforcement personnel, the audit found. Jeffries, his former Chief of Staff Clark Collier and former Chief Accountability Officer Jay Arcellana carried three of those firearms while on duty even though their “assignments did not require them to be armed,” according to the audit.
Carlos Contreras, the interim assistant chief for the DES Office of the Inspector General, told investigators that Jeffries wanted every DES employee to carry a gun while on duty – regardless of each employee’s job, responsibilities, experience or desire – but that Contreras and Charles Loftus, the agency’s former chief law enforcement officer, convinced Jeffries that was not wise.
Contreras said Jeffries cited the ISIS-inspired terrorist attack at a San Bernadino, Calif., social services center as reason to purchase the weapons stockpile and “wanted to create his own police force that he would control.”
Jeffries said in an interview with the Arizona Capitol Times the assertion he sought his own police force is “absolutely false. It’s a lie and it’s beyond realistic.” He also denied carrying a firearm while working at DES, and instead said he only tested the firearm to immerse himself in the experiences of his security staff.
“Clark, Jay and I never had a weapon while on duty,” Jeffries said. “At least as it pertains to me, the only reason I had a weapon was to try out the very weapon that our sworn officers and security officers carried.”
He said there was no violation of DES policy.
“It was servant leadership at the very core,” Jeffries said.
The former director added that he never sought to arm every employee at DES, but only sought to boost security at every DES service center, the roughly 70 facilities at which the public directly interacts with DES staff.
“My intention well before San Bernardino was to arm every office where colleagues were pleading for the protection that they deserved as state employees,” Jeffries said.
Some current and former DES employees suggested Jeffries was to blame for the unlawful purchase of more than 60,000 rounds of ammunition.
However, the purchases made outside of state regulations circumvented the system in such a way that could not be determined “short of a confession from the perpetrator,” the audit found.
“Subsequently, there would not be any reason to go to the trouble of circumventing the contract unless one was attempting to evade detection and scrutiny from the State Procurement Office,” the auditor’s report read. “This would suggest whomever is responsible for failing to utilize the state ammunition contract did so to conceal the purchases from those within the State Procurement Office who might question so many, and such large, ammunition purchases.”
And that, the auditor went on to surmise, may be the reason ammunition was purchased in nine batches rather than one or two as is typical of larger agencies like DPS.
Loftus told investigators that purchases were made hastily due to an election-related concern.
Had Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won, Loftus feared there would be a shortage of available ammunition for purchase, ammunition he needed to train the soon-to-be-hired security force, according to the audit. Loftus claimed he’d witnessed a similar shortage of available ammunition after the election of another Democrat, former President Barrack Obama.
Loftus “vehemently denied” any knowledge that ammunition was purchased in violation of procurement code.
DES was stocked with excessive amounts of ammunition, even had the agency hired dozens of new security staffers as planned under Loftus and Jeffries. Whereas the Department of Public Safety allots 500 rounds of ammunition per officer per year, DES had purchased enough rounds to allow for more than 2,000 per armed employee at the time, according to the audit.
Had a full complement of staff been hired, there still would have been roughly 850 rounds available per armed employee, the audit found.
Terry Azbill, who was fired during Jeffries’ tenure but brought back as chief law enforcement officer after Jeffries was forced to resign, told an investigator that if ammunition contracts were bypassed, “it was done so at the direction of Jeffries because he was crazy and wanted to speed up the process.”
Jeffries’ own chief law enforcement officer, Loftus, also suggested that procurement officers may have violated purchasing policies “out of fear and at the direction of Tim Jeffries.”
Jeffries said he had no hands-on involvement in any ammunition purchases, nor did he order staff to expedite purchases in violation of state policy.
“I crisscrossed the state. I visited 155 facilities. I moved a lot of people out that should’ve been moved out. I was a busy, busy guy,” he said. “So for anyone to think I was involved in ammo purchases, it does not pass the reasonable test.”
Jeffries was never interviewed by DPS investigators, and had not yet seen the audit when reached by the Capitol Times. Jeffries said he returned a call from DPS investigators in May, but never heard from the agency again.
The bulk of the ammunition was housed in an “unoccupied office in a state of disarray” with practically no security.
DPS concluded just about any DES employee had access to the supply. The absence of sign-out logs, training records, inventory documentation, other records or “even independent recollection of DES Security Services personnel” led to difficulties tracking the distribution of practice or service rounds.
Though Jeffries and Loftus reportedly said they used DES rounds for personal shooting at a private range, for example, DPS found no evidence to support that account.
The lack of training records has also led DPS to determine DES employees were not receiving adequate training on technical skills nor the “ability to protect themselves or DES personnel and clients” as Jeffries may have intended.
Even if records were kept, according to the DPS report, employees were unable to find them.
DPS did acknowledge significant improvements have been made since Dennis Young was named interim inspector general at the agency.
Young has implemented a computer-based training and firearms qualification records database in addition to comprehensive lesson plans for the non-sworn protective services arm of the OIG.