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O.C. sheriff revoking concealed weapons permits

March 26, 2009|Tami Abdollah

Several major GOP power brokers with ties to convicted former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona are about to lose their concealed weapons permits under an order by the new sheriff.

Those who have received notices of revocation from Sheriff Sandra Hutchens include Michael Schroeder, chief political and legal advisor to Carona and a former chairman of the state Republican Party; Adam Probolsky, a GOP pollster; and Stephen Mensinger, a political ally of Carona and business executive for major GOP benefactor and developer George Argyros, public records show.

Schroeder, for one, is fighting back.

He said his attorney on Wednesday sent a letter to Sheriff's Capt. Dave Nighswonger alleging that Hutchens' "abrupt and inappropriate attempt to strip the license violates Mr. Schroeder's rights."

The letter alleges that Hutchens is not following penal code requirements for revoking permits. Schroeder said he believes he eventually will file a lawsuit.

"The penal code sets forth the grounds under which you can revoke them," Schroeder said. "People, once they have them, have to engage in certain violations to have them taken away, and that has not occurred here."

Schroeder said he has had his permit since 2000 and that it does not expire until 2010. He also requested that he be given more time to reply to a letter from the Sheriff's Department because it was sent to the wrong address and did not arrive until after a deadline to respond had passed.

Hutchens began a review of 1,069 active permit holders in July. A total of 423 were sent letters asking for more information to support their "good cause" to carry a concealed weapon. Late last month, the Sheriff's Department sent letters to the 57 who had not responded -- including Schroeder, Probolsky and Mensinger -- saying that their permits would be terminated Friday. In all, 133 people have been told their permits will be terminated Friday unless they provide "good cause."

To date, 183 people have been approved to continue to carry a concealed weapon based on the additional information they provided.

Hutchens worked with the California Department of Justice to allow the option of having a permit expire early because of concerns that a revocation would taint permit-holders' Department of Justice record. Nineteen people have requested that their permits be expired, said John McDonald, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department.

Probolsky said he has not responded to the department's letters. He said he has had his permit since 2002 and needs it because he worked as a volunteer reserve for the department.

"I don't think that it's productive to respond to the sheriff at all," he said. "So I'm just going to ignore it."

Mensinger declined to comment.

Nighswonger had not seen Schroeder's letter by late Wednesday. He said the department would continue to receive and evaluate "good cause" paperwork through Friday.

Hutchens' decision to review the permits was vetted by county counsel, Nighswonger said, adding that the department had also consulted with the state Department of Justice.

"We fully expect there will be legal challenges," he said. "But we feel we're on solid legal ground, and the sheriff's actions are purely intended to bring consistency and provide [permits] to people who have a valid and significant reason to fear for their safety."

Nighswonger said that Schroeder's reasons for needing to carry a concealed weapon, such as protecting valuables or because he had received death threats, can often be sufficient to show "good cause," depending on the circumstances.

Many of those who are going to lose their permits "are not going to understand what the sheriff is doing," Nighswonger said. "She's tried to be as fair and open and transparent as she can . . . and she's listened to everybody's viewpoint, and she's modified."

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tami.abdollah@latimes.com

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