Office of County Attorney and administrative staff to provide report on findings
Sarasota County Commissioner Michael Moran won agreement from his colleagues this week to direct the Office of the County Attorney and county administrative staff to research the steps necessary for the commissioners to allow county employees to carry concealed weapons.
Then the commissioners could have “a deeper discussion” of the potential of implementing a policy, Moran added.
“I think it’s worthy of studying what we could do policy-wise,” new Commissioner Neil Rainford responded.
Moran explained that he had reached out to Manatee County officials after the commissioners in that county on June 6 approved a concealed-carry policy for employees. Moran added that he had requested and received documents related to that vote.
Moran brought up the issue in a report to his fellow commissioners during their regular meeting on June 13.
As The Bradenton Times has explained, the Manatee County commissioners voted 7-0 on June 6 to approve a new policy that permits Manatee County staff to carry concealed firearms while they are on duty, in accord with provisions of state law.
Manatee Commissioner James Satcher brought up the idea during an April 11 discussion with his colleagues, The Bradenton Times noted.
“I had employees who had retired from law enforcement and the military who worked here at the county and were not able to exercise their Second Amendment right, when they came on the job,” The Bradenton Times quoted Satcher. “So, it concerned me, and it’s taken a while to get to this point where we’re making this vote, but I’m glad we finally are,” he continued on June 6. “I believe that when our forefathers adopted the Second Amendment, the point wasn’t so that people could go out and hunt pheasants. The point was that if you looked at history at that point in time nations were taking advantage of the individual. They were using military power to trample on personal rights. So, the point was for people to be able to protect themselves if they needed to, and also their nation,” Satcher said.
In July 2022, Manatee County Attorney William E. Clague prepared a report for the commissioners, explaining, “Depending upon how a policy is crafted and enforced, the County could face additional liabilities for allowing firearms in the workplace. The County will not initially face an increase in insurance costs,” he wrote. However, Clague pointed out, “If the County makes insurance claims resulting from firearms in the workplace, it may experience substantial increases in insurance premiums.”
Clague further cautioned the commissioners, “[The] Board should also understand that once it adopts a policy allowing concealed carry of firearms at work, the County could face liability if it fails to properly enforce the policy. For example, if the County allows licensed employees to carry concealed firearms at work, and it fails to suspend an employee’s privileges when the employee loses a State license, the County could face liability if the employee then engages in conduct that gives rise to a claim.”
Clague noted that “Florida Statute 790.33 provides a broad preemption by the Legislature of local government authority to regulate firearms, and even includes criminal penalties for elected officials that overstep this preemption.” Yet, he continued, that law does provide an exception that recognizes the authority of local governments “to regulate or prohibit employees from carrying weapons in the workplace, except to the extent authorized pursuant to Section 790.251 [of state law].”
He added that Florida Statute 790.51 “authorizes employees to possess firearms in their locked vehicles while at work, and prohibits public and private employers from inquiring as to whether employees have such firearms in their vehicles.”
The new policy contains the following provisions in regard to the right of a Manatee County employee to carry a concealed weapon, as written in that policy, a copy of which The Sarasota News Leader reviewed:
- “An employee must be over 21 years of age, not have a disqualifying felony, not have a domestic violence charge on his/her record or an injunction prohibiting them from carrying a concealed weapon of any kind.
- “An employee possessing a firearm under this subsection must retain control of it, on their person, at all times.
- “A firearm carried under this subsection may not be left in an unoccupied county vehicle at any time.
- “An employee possessing a firearm under this subsection must keep such firearm concealed. An employee may secure a concealed firearm in a locked drawer (for example, desk or filing cabinet) exclusively under the employee’s control meaning only the employee has a key to the lock. An employee may conceal the firearm in his/her purse, briefcase or backpack, but must keep such purse, etc., in his/her direct control at all times (for example, an employee securing a firearm in a backpack, must carry the backpack with them at all times).
- “An appointing authority has the authority to prohibit a given class or group of employees from possessing a firearm otherwise permitted under this subsection upon a determination by the appointing authority that the nature of duties or circumstances of the employee’s work environment renders the carrying of such firearm impractical or unsafe (for example, the possibility the employees duties involve entering on or into facilities where carrying a concealed firearm or weapon is prohibited by law).”
In response to a public records request, the News Leader learned from the Sarasota County Human Relations Department that the following relevant sections are in effect for employees:
• Section 4.02 Progressive and Cumulative Discipline — 21. “Unauthorized Possession or Use of Weapons. This includes on County property, facility or in a County vehicle, unless authorized as part of the employees’ position. A weapon in a personal vehicle on County property will only be allowed in accordance with Federal and State Law. First Occurrence. Dismissal. 37. Unauthorized Possession of Weapons or Firearms or the Use or Threatening Use of Weapons. First Occurrence. Dismissal.”
• Section 12.07 Inappropriate and Prohibited Conduct — “(14) Employees are prohibited from being in possession of weapon(s) in County owned vehicles, in a personal vehicle being used to conduct County business and/or at any time or location at which County business is being conducted. Employees are allowed to possess weapons in a personal vehicle on County property in accordance with Federal and State laws.”
• Section 14.03 Prevention — “(3) Possession of Weapons. Employees are prohibited from being in possession of weapon(s) in County owned vehicles, in a personal vehicle being used to conduct County business and/or at any time or location at which County business is being conducted. Employees are allowed to possess weapons in a personal vehicle on County property in accordance with Federal and State laws.”
After Commissioner Moran made his comments on June 13, Chair Ron Cutsinger asked whether a motion would be needed.
County Attorney Joshua Moye — who was participating in his first meeting in that position — suggested that consensus on the direction for completing what the commissioners refer to as a “board report” would be sufficient, instead of a formal motion.
After checking with his colleagues, Cutsinger told Moye that he had that consensus.