The Mt. Juliet City Commission has deferred a proposed amendment to the municipal personnel manual that would allow city employees to carry firearms at work.
City Commissioner Art Giles sponsored the amendment, which passed first reading at a previous meeting. Monday night, though, Giles made small changes to the amendment, and the commissioners determined that they needed answers to liability questions before they could take a final vote.
The ordinance removes from the manual a sentence that prohibits "all weapons and other dangerous or hazardous devices
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or substances" from city property and workplaces with the exception of law enforcement. It replaces that statement with one saying any city employee can carry as long as he or she has a permit and notifies human resources.
The ordinance also removes two sentences that require city employees to report violence or threats of violence. One of the changes Giles made to the amendment was that human resources should not have to be notified that a city employee is carrying at work.
"I don't want to know who's carrying a concealed weapon -- a concealed handgun," Giles said.
"If you go to human resources and you give them a copy of your permit, then automatically it's assumed you're carrying, and I don't want any kind of implication for anyone to have any kind of responsibility that they are supposed to protect you or you or you or you," Giles added, pointing to other commissioners on the board.
He added that each city employee is entitled to his or her Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense but cannot be expected to protect anyone else at work, which they theoretically might be if coworkers know that they carry a gun.
The amendment was in response to a letter written to Mt. Juliet City Recorder Sheila Luckett in 2013 by Public Entity Partners, an insurance firm then known as TML Risk Management Pool. In that letter, Underwriting Director Jon Calvin explains two contexts wherein the city might increase its liability on the issue. The letter says the city's liability arguably increases both by prohibiting city employees from carrying at work and also by authorizing them to carry.
The letter cited an independent legal consultant, who was quoted as saying that a future lawsuit could argue that a policy authorizing employees to carry makes the city responsible for damages if an employee's handgun discharges deliberately or accidentally. The legal consultant added that, in that case, "any employee who intentionally shoots somebody could be argued to have been acting 'under color of law'."
Giles asked Luckett what came of discussions she'd had with the insurer since me the letter was received, and she answered, "I believe what [the underwriter] said was, 'Don't let your board do this.'"
Public Entity Partners determined at the time the letter was written to charge the city a premium for every employee authorized to carry who exercised that right.
The company said the premium increase would be a minimum of $350 per trained employee and $1,460 per untrained employee. Giles's proposed change to the amendment removing the need to notify human resources would make it harder for the city to know how many employees that is and thus how much more the city would have to pay for insurance.
City Attorney Charles Michels stated that the cost of insurance for the city would increase for every employee who carried without training. Commissioner Ray Justice made the argument that the city is going to incur increased liability regardless and that commissioners should, therefore, focus on figuring out what they can do limit that liability.
Justice then recommended deferring the ordinance until changes in state law can be taken into consideration along with any changes P.E. Partners may now make to the statements in its 6-year-old letter. The vote to defer the issue was unanimous.