September 20, 2020
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HB 0771

A bill to be entitled
2An act relating to Columbia County; providing for career
3service for members of the Columbia County Sheriff's
4Office; providing for application of the act, career
5status of members, and administration; providing for a
6procedure with respect to complaints against members;
7providing for appeals; providing for certain protections
8during the transition of a new Sheriff; providing for a
9Career Service Appeal Board; providing for status as
10career members; prohibiting certain actions to circumvent
11the act; providing for exclusions; providing severability;
12providing an effective date.
14Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
16     Section 1.  Members of the Columbia County Sheriff's
17Office; applicability of the act; career status of the members;
19     (1)  APPLICABILITY.--
20     (a)  The provisions of this act shall apply to all full-
21time certified and noncertified persons in the employ of the
22Columbia County Sheriff's Office except as specifically
23described in section 6 of this act.
24     (b)  As used in this act, the terms "member," "employee,"
25"employ," and "employment" shall refer to all persons, whether
26employed or appointed, to whom the act applies. It is not,
27however, the intent of this act to grant any rights not
28specifically stated in this act beyond the provisions of this
29act to persons in the employ of the Columbia County Sheriff's
30Office who do not otherwise have those rights pursuant to law.
32     (a)  After a member of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office
33to whom the provisions of this act apply has served in such
34employment for a period of 1 calendar year and successfully
35completed a probationary training program, such employee shall
36have attained career status with the Columbia County Sheriff's
37Office, provided that, if an employee is terminated and rehired
38at a later date, said employee shall be required to complete 1
39calendar year of service from the date of rehire before being
40granted the right of appeal provided in section 4 of this act.
41     (b)  Any employee who has achieved career status with the
42Columbia County Sheriff's Office may only be terminated for just
43cause, provided that prior to such action the employee shall be
44furnished written notice of the proposed action and offered an
45opportunity to respond to the reasons for the termination.
46However, in situations in which delay could result in damage or
47injury, an employee may be relieved of duty immediately and
48provided notice thereof and reasons therefor within 24 hours.
49     (c)  Just cause for initiating an internal investigation
50that may result in termination of employment shall include
51violation of the provisions of law or office rules or direct
52violation of published Sheriff's Office policy.
53     (d)  Just cause for initiating an internal investigation
54shall also include, with respect to any felony or misdemeanor,
55adjudication of guilt by a court of competent jurisdiction, a
56plea of guilty or of nolo contendere, or adjudication of guilt
57withheld and the accused placed on probation.
58     (e)  The filing of felony or misdemeanor charges by the
59state attorney against an employee shall constitute just cause
60for initiating an internal investigation.
62     (a)  When a newly elected or appointed Sheriff assumes
63office, the new Sheriff shall continue the employment of all
64currently employed career personnel unless just cause for
65termination of employment, as provided herein, exists. However,
66the incoming Sheriff shall have the option of maintaining the
67current personnel assigned to the positions of Lieutenant and
68above, Executive Assistants, Executive Office Managers, and
69Administrative Positions of Trust.
70     (b)  Positions of Trust include the Comptroller, the
71Director of Property Management, and Special Investigators
72assigned and involved in conducting internal inquiries or
73internal investigations.
74     (c)  If the incoming Sheriff fills the positions of
75Lieutenant and above, Executive Assistants, Executive Office
76Managers, and Administrative Positions of Trust with new
77personnel, the current occupants of those positions may be
78reduced to the next lower existing rank or civilian designation
79and transferred to another assignment within the same division
80or a salary adjustment of up to 10 percent downward, or both. In
81the event no position is available downward, as in a one-person
82department, the occupant may be transferred to another
83assignment within the Sheriff's Office with up to a 10-percent
84pay adjustment downward.
85     (d)  The new rank of the individuals shall be the permanent
86rank of the individuals for a period of 6 months and then may be
87later changed by independent disciplinary action.
88     (e)  Initial actions taken pursuant to this subsection
89affecting the Lieutenants and above and other Executive
90Positions of Trust and within the guidelines of section 3 shall
91not be subject to appeal under section 4.
92     (4)  ADMINISTRATION.--
93     (a)  The Sheriff shall have the authority to adopt such
94rules and regulations as are necessary for the implementation
95and administration of this act.
96     (b)  The promulgation of rules and regulations related to
97this act by the Sheriff are at his or her sole discretion;
98however, nothing in this act shall be construed as affecting the
99budget-making powers of the Board of County Commissioners of
100Columbia County.
101     Section 2.  Complaints against employees; procedure.--
102     (1)  A complaint receipt and processing procedure shall be
103established in order to provide adequately for the prompt
104receipt, investigation, and disposition of complaints against
105members of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. The complaint
106procedure shall reflect the provisions in section 112.532,
107Florida Statutes.
108     (2)  After written receipt of the disposition of the
109complaint, if an employee is dissatisfied with the decision of
110the Sheriff regarding disciplinary action resulting in
111termination of employment, the employee may appeal the action to
112the Career Service Appeal Board.
113     Section 3.  Disciplinary appeal procedure.--
114     (1)  An appeal of disciplinary action resulting in
115termination of employment shall result in the opportunity for a
116hearing before a Career Service Appeal Board as specified in
117said procedure.
118     (2)  Immediately following the hearing, the board shall
119report to the Sheriff via the Director of Human Resources or
120other person so designated by the Sheriff.
121     Section 4.  Career Service Appeal Board; creation;
122membership; duties.--
123     (1)  FUNCTION OF BOARD.--
124     (a)  An ad hoc Career Service Appeal Board shall be
125appointed as provided herein for the purpose of hearing appeals
126from career employees brought under the provisions of this act
127or the Sheriff's Office rules or policies which result in
128termination of employment.
129     (b)  A board may also, upon the request of the Sheriff,
130provide assistance and advice to the Sheriff in matters
131concerning disciplinary actions and may take any other actions
132as authorized by the Sheriff.
133     (2)  MEMBERSHIP OF BOARD.--
134     (a)  When needed upon the call of the Sheriff or the filing
135of an appeal of a termination of employment, an ad hoc Career
136Service Appeal Board shall be appointed. The membership of each
137such board shall consist of two members selected by the Sheriff
138from among any full-time eligible employees from within the
139Sheriff's Office; two members selected by the employee filing
140the appeal from among any full-time eligible employees within
141the Sheriff's Office; and one member, who is a full-time
142eligible member from within the Columbia County Sheriff's
143Office, selected by the other members of the board, who shall
144serve as chairperson.
145     (b)  If a noncertified member requests an appeal, the two
146members selected by the noncertified member may be from among
147any full-time eligible employees from any division of the
148Sheriff's Office.
149     (c)  The appealing member shall have 7 calendar days from
150the date that the request for a hearing was delivered directly
151to the Sheriff, or to one of the Administrative Assistants in
152the Sheriff's Office, to select two qualified members willing to
153serve as members of the board and deliver their names directly
154to Human Resources. If, within the 7-day period, the appealing
155member fails to submit the names of two qualified members as
156outlined in this paragraph and paragraphs (a) and (b) who have
157been contacted and are willing to serve, the option to be heard
158by a Career Service Appeal Board is procedurally waived and
159ceases to exist.
160     (d)  The Sheriff shall, within this same 7-day period,
161deliver to Human Resources the names of his or her two
162selections to serve as members of the board. If, within the 7-
163day period, the Sheriff fails to submit the names of two
164qualified members as outlined in this paragraph and paragraph
165(a), the action against the employee is procedurally waived and
166ceases to exist.
167     (e)  The four members shall then have 5 calendar days to
168select the fifth member from the list of remaining qualified
170     (f)  If an impartial chairperson cannot be agreed upon
171within 5 calendar days after the first four members are
172selected, a judge from within the Third Circuit of the state
173shall, within 5 days, appoint a chairperson who is a full-time
174eligible member within the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
175     (g)  The ranking officer or his or her designee in charge
176of personnel matters shall serve as an ex officio member of the
177board for the purpose of providing procedural guidance to the
178board concerning the application of this act and any rules or
179regulations of this act and any rules or regulations adopted by
180the Sheriff relating thereto, but such ex officio member shall
181have no vote.
182     (h)  The Sheriff may, on his or her own initiative, appoint
183a Career Service Appeal Board for the purpose of receiving,
184considering, and making a recommendation on matters related to
185the formation or streamlining of rules related to this act or to
186consider any other matter deemed appropriate by the Sheriff,
187excluding disciplinary termination of employment. If the issue
188to be under consideration involves a specific member of the
189Sheriff's Office and may result in some disciplinary
190recommendation by the board, the Sheriff shall notify the
191individual and offer the opportunity for the individual to
192provide two members to the board to consider the specific
193question at issue. If no specific member is involved, the
194Sheriff shall appoint two members from the Civil Division and
195two members from the Criminal Division, and the Captain of the
196Administrative Division shall serve as the chairperson. A board
197appointed by initiative may only make recommendations.
200     (a)  Standardized dates and times of meetings shall be
201established by rule and shall occur during normal administrative
202office hours.
203     (b)  Members selected to serve on the board shall serve
204without additional compensation for meetings occurring during
205their normal work hours. For nonwork hours, compensatory time at
206the rate of 150 percent for the actual hours in session shall be
207credited to the member.
208     (c)  Once selected to the board, the members thereof shall
209serve until final action is taken with respect to the purpose
210for which the board was selected, at which time the board shall
211be dissolved.
212     (d)  A new Career Service Appeal Board shall be selected
213for each separate occurrence; however, multiple parties filing
214appeals on the same incident may request to be heard by a single
216     (e)  A person may not serve as a member of an ad hoc Career
217Service Appeal Board who:
218     1.  Was involved in the original incident that resulted in
219the disciplinary process that is the subject of the appeal.
220     2.  Is related to the appellant.
221     3.  Is currently under investigation or suspension.
222     4.  Has any ongoing litigation against the Columbia County
223Sheriff's Office.
224     5.  Is on probation or has received sustained discipline
225within the past year.
227     (a)  An appeal of an action specified in section 3 shall be
228made to the Sheriff in writing and must be received by the
229Sheriff no later than 5 calendar days after the employee is
230notified of the action on which the appeal is based.
231     (b)  When a Career Service Appeal Board has been selected
232for purposes of hearing the appeal, the Sheriff shall publish
233and furnish notice to the appealing person of the date,
234location, and time of the hearing before the Career Service
235Appeal Board. In any case, the date of the hearing shall be
236within 15 calendar days, excluding weekends and holidays, after
237notification of the selection of the fifth member.
238     (c)  The date of the hearing may be extended by mutual
239agreement of the parties.
240     (d)  During the hearing, the employee filing the appeal
241shall have the right to be heard, to be represented by a person
242of his or her choice, and to present any relevant evidence on
243his or her behalf, and during the hearing the technical rules of
244evidence shall not apply.
245     (e)  The board shall, in the conduct of a hearing, have the
246power to administer oaths, issue subpoenas, compel the
247attendance of witnesses, and require the production of books,
248records, accounts, papers, documents, prior statements,
249testimony, and investigative files related to the issue that are
250in the possession of or have been delivered to Human Resources a
251minimum of 5 business days prior to the beginning of the
252hearing. In case of disobedience of any person to comply with an
253order of the board or a subpoena issued by the board, or upon
254the refusal of a witness to testify on any matter regarding
255which he may be lawfully interrogated, a County Judge of the
256county in which a person resides, upon application of a member
257of the board, shall compel obedience by proceeding as for
258contempt. Each witness who appears in obedience to a subpoena
259before the board shall receive compensation for attendance fees
260and mileage as provided for witnesses in civil cases in the
261courts of this state. Such payments shall be made by the party
262calling the witness, except that with respect to any witnesses
263called by the board, payments shall be made by the Sheriff upon
264presentation of proper vouchers and approval by three members of
265the board. In any case, the board shall restrict its
266considerations and deliberations to the evidence presented at
267the hearing.
268     (f)  This board is not governed by the Administrative
269Procedure Act, as codified in chapter 120, Florida Statutes.
271     (a)  The board shall, by majority vote, dispose of the
272appeal for which it was appointed by making a determination of
273just cause and issuing a written decision. Such decision shall
274be based upon the simple determination of a preponderance of
275evidence (51 percent). In the instance of an appeal to the board
276concerning a termination, a majority vote of the board shall be
277required to overturn the Sheriff's decision to terminate. All
278members of the board must be present to conduct any official
279business of the board.
280     (b)  If the board does not sustain the action by the
281Sheriff, back pay and benefits shall be reinstated. No board
282shall have the authority to impose on any employee any penalty
283that is different than that which formed the basis of the
284appeal. If the board sustains the action of the Sheriff, it may
285also make a recommendation to the Sheriff to reconsider
286mitigating circumstances and reconsider the termination-of-
287employment action. The Sheriff shall review the determination of
288the board and consider its recommendation prior to imposition of
289final action.
290     (c)  The decision of the board, which is to be arrived at
291by paper ballot, shall be forwarded to the Sheriff.
292     (d)  This final decision of the board shall be binding on
293the employee and the Sheriff.
294     (e)  The Sheriff shall prepare, or cause to be prepared, an
295order and publish the final disposition of the appeal. The final
296disposition shall be binding on the employee.
297     (f)  The board hearing and the board's deliberations shall
298be open to the public, recorded, and preserved for the public
300     (g)  The chairperson of the board shall have the authority
301to receive and consider written prehearing motions that shall be
302presented to the full board at the hearing. He or she shall
303preside over the hearing, enforce the decorum of the hearing,
304receive requests for breaks, convene the deliberations, and
305cause the removal of anyone attempting to disrupt any of the
307     Section 5.  Upon enactment.--
308     (1)  INCLUDED INDIVIDUALS.--All full-time certified and
309noncertified persons in the employ of the Columbia County
310Sheriff's Office on the effective date of this act who have
311served for a period of 1 calendar year or more and successfully
312completed their probationary period as of such effective date of
313the act shall be career employees subject to the provisions of
314this act. All other full-time employees shall become career
315employees subject to the provisions of this act upon reaching
316their 1-calendar-year service anniversary date and successfully
317completing their probationary period.
318     (2)  CIRCUMVENTION.--
319     (a)  Promotions or demotions of members or creation of rank
320to circumvent the intent of this act shall be held as a valid
321reason to request the Sheriff to appoint a Career Service
322Appeals Board to consider the issue in question.
323     (b)  No certified or noncertified full-time employee of the
324Columbia County Sheriff's Office shall be discharged or
325discriminated against in regard to his or her employment or
326appointment, or threatened with any such treatment, by reason of
327his or her exercise of the rights granted by this act.
328     Section 6.  Exclusions.--
329     (1)  The career status provisions of this act shall not
330apply to the Sheriff; to Special Deputy Sheriffs appointed
331pursuant to section 30.09(4), Florida Statutes; to members
332employed pursuant to a grant whose continued existence or
333funding is subject to the expiration or withdrawal of the grant;
334to nondisciplinary termination of employment arising out of a
335reduction of force, layoff, or partial or total abolition or
336cessation of a program, service, operation, or department at the
337discretion of the Sheriff; to members of the Sheriff's Reserve
338Unit; or to individuals appointed as part-time Deputy Sheriffs,
339as defined by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training
340Commission, unless any such person is also employed full-time by
341the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
342     (2)  This act shall not apply to an otherwise covered
343person who claims that a termination of employment was for
344lawful off-duty political activity. Claims of this nature are
345already covered under chapter 30, Florida Statutes.
346     (3)  This act shall not apply to an otherwise covered
347person who claims that a termination of employment was for
348discriminatory purposes. Claims of this nature are already
349covered under state and federal statutes.
350     Section 7.  Severability.--The provisions of this act shall
351be severable and, if any of the provisions shall be
352unconstitutional, the decision of the court shall not affect the
353validity of the remaining provisions. It is hereby declared to
354be the intent of the Legislature that this act would have been
355adopted had such unconstitutional provision not been included
357     Section 8.  This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.

CODING: Words stricken are deletions; words underlined are additions.
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