- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

CARROLL, Iowa (AP) - A newspaper investigation shows two Carroll County Sheriff’s employees used county equipment and other resources to promote and conduct gun classes from which they collected tens of thousands of dollars, and now the state auditor’s office is investigating.

Deputy Tom Fransen and Administrative Assistant Shanna Balukoff have held the classes since December 2010 - mostly in the county courthouse - and charged $50 per person, the Carroll Daily Times Herald reported (https://bit.ly/2ePMvQe ) Saturday. Those who attend the classes get a certificate they can use to obtain a permit from the sheriff’s office to openly carry a firearm.

The county received none of the money from the classes, even though the certificates say, “Sponsored by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.” The classes have been heavily promoted on the county’s website and Facebook pages and Fransen also used a county laptop and projector for the presentations, the Times Herald said.

State law does not allow public employees to use public resources for personal gain.

Fransen, Balukoff and Sheriff Ken Pingrey defended the classes in interviews with the newspaper, and Pingrey said his office is cooperating with the state auditor’s investigation.

“We told them we were happy to give them whatever they need,” Pingrey said. “We have nothing to hide.”

It’s unclear how many of the county’s more than 2,000 permit holders took Fransen and Balukoff’s class, because the office did not keep records of certificates until this year. But the two initially held a near-monopoly in Carroll when former Sheriff Doug Bass refused to accept certificates from online courses. He was the only sheriff in Iowa to refuse online certificates, according to Iowa Concealed, which offers online classes.

“At first there was some controversy over online classes,” Bass, who retired earlier this year, told the Times Herald. “Someone should be face-to-face or have some interaction with the person putting on the class.”

Iowa law draws no distinctions between online and in-person classes. Bass eventually reversed that policy, but said he could not recall when.

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Information from: Daily Times Herald.

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