The Iowa State Auditor's Office weighed in Wednesday on a 2012 gun swap by a southwest Iowa sheriff, stating in a report that the disposal of roughly 115 guns did not follow state law.
The report also states that the Fremont County Sheriff's Office should follow Iowa code from now on when disposing of unneeded firearms and that the county should seek legal advice to ensure compliance with the law.
In the report, Sheriff Kevin Aistrope acknowledges “procedural errors” in how his agency disposed of the guns in early 2012, but says he acted “in good faith with the sole intent of ridding the office of a stockpile of useless weapons.”
Auditors did not refer the matter to the Iowa Attorney General's Office or to state criminal investigators, said Deputy Auditor of State Andy Nielsen.
Under state law, officials who want to dispose of seized and forfeited guns must turn them over to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation's crime lab in Ankeny. There is no specific penalty for violating the statute.
The Fremont County sheriff did not turn the weapons over to the state. Instead, Aistrope said in an interview last month that his agency traded the weapons to a firearms dealer.
In return, the dealer upgraded the office's M16 rifles, improving the barrels and installing folding stocks. Both the dealer and Aistrope estimate the value of the work at about $6,000.
Some of the guns Aistrope traded included seized weapons as well as guns that citizens voluntarily turned in.
A list of the weapons indicates they included rifles, pistols and at least 10 sawed-off shotguns. District Court Judge Timothy O'Grady signed an order in 2011 allowing the Sheriff's Office to dispose of the guns “in any reasonable manner.”
The dealer told The World-Herald last month that he destroyed the sawed-off shotguns.
Aistrope said Wednesday that, going forward, his plan will be to turn over all weapons held as evidence to the state crime lab.
“I just did what I thought was best for the county,” he said. “Now that I know how to do it, I definitely will do it right next time.”
His opponent in the 2012 election for sheriff, David Dreyer of Shenandoah, brought the matter to the attention of the Auditor's Office as it conducted its annual audit of Fremont County.
“He can't trade them like he did,” Dreyer said Wednesday. “I think what he did was wrong.”
In the auditor's report, Aistrope said he was initially contacted by an out-of-town company about disposing of old guns in exchange for new equipment.
Aistrope wanted to get rid of some old weapons his office had held onto for years, and he spoke to other Iowa law enforcement agencies that had worked with the company, but decided he would rather deal with someone local. He also says in the audit that he has since consulted with the county attorney for training and advice on what to do in the future.
Contact the writer: