The front desk at Charlotte County’s Public Safety Building sat empty, days after one of the nation’s deadliest attacks on a workplace in Virginia.

There should have been someone there, a Sun photographer on assignment at the building that houses the Emergency Operations Center, was told June 5.

That attack at a government building May 31 in Virginia Beach is prompting some security reviews here.

A former employee fatally shot 12 people, mostly other employees, with a legally obtained firearm, police in Virginia Beach said.

He sent a resignation notice just hours before, and was killed by police responding to the building.

We asked our cities and counties about security and procedures in light of this.

Some wouldn’t answer all our questions, citing safety concerns. But here’s what they did say ...

See the Q & A on page 4

Q: Have there been any changes in security in the wake of the fatal shootings in Virginia Beach?%5Ep

%5Ep City of Arcadia: Undergoing a complete review by Arcadia Police Department.

City of North Port: No big changes.

City of Punta Gorda: Punta Gorda Police Department has sent out refresher training information regarding active shooters. PGPD will also be providing an active shooter training for all employees at the Punta Gorda Fire Department’s Annual Emergency Preparedness Training session.

City of Venice: Even prior to the incident the City was engaged in a security review of City Hall. The incident has underscored the need for that. “In the Virginia Beach incident, this subject was a government employee who utilized the building frequently and knew the security measures, which is scary,” Venice Police Department Capt. Mike Rose said in a statement. “One of the most important lessons should be the employees knowing what to do, where to go and how to report in a ‘fluid incident.’ The scenario-based training is tough because, how much of the emergency protocols do you show, as the shooter could or would most likely be attending the training. I know this incident has caused a city department-wide discussion on safety.”

Charlotte County: The county is reviewing security systems and procedures in light of developments, but will not be commenting on those topics.

DeSoto County: No changes. However, the safety of the public as well as the employees will continue to be a top priority for DeSoto County. County Administrator Mandy Hines meets regularly with DeSoto County Sheriff Jim Potter, as well as the five commissioners, and together they will continue to discuss and implement different procedures and policies to best keep the administration building a secure location for all.

Sarasota County: No answer provided.

Q: %5EpDo our buildings have armed security guards?%5Ep

City of Arcadia: Police at meetings.

City of North Port: We have police on hand, and at all meetings.

City of Punta Gorda: No answer provided.

City of Venice: No answer provided.

Charlotte County: No answer provided.

DeSoto County: The county’s administration building does not have armed security guards. However, members of the public will often see armed deputies from the sheriff’s office in and around the building.

Sarasota County: No answer provided.

Q: What are the policies on guns in our buildings?%5Ep

City of Arcadia: %5EpNo firearms on city property (employees).

City of North Port: No guns allowed in commission chamber. Otherwise, allowed.

City of Punta Gorda: This is the city’s policy on guns: “Except as specifically authorized by State or Federal law, or unless expressly authorized to do so by the city manager as part of their job, no one, including city employees, is allowed to possess or carry a weapon of any kind on city property, while on city business, while in a city vehicle, while on city time or while wearing a city uniform.”

City of Venice: State statute addresses guns in public buildings (790.06). A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into: Any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05; any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station, detention facility, prison, jail, courthouse, courtroom (except that nothing in this section would preclude a judge from carrying a concealed weapon or determining who will carry a concealed weapon in his or her courtroom), polling places, any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district, or any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof. Regarding weapons at work, except as provided for in the Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008, employees are not allowed to have weapons in their possession on city property unless these weapons are necessary to perform the job or as authorized by the city manager. The term “possession” is defined to mean in lockers or toolboxes, in an employee’s personal possession, or anywhere else on city property. Employees who violate this policy will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including immediate dismissal.

Charlotte County: For the safety of our employees and the public, we do not discuss security plans. County facilities rules are posted on the county’s website. (Editor’s note: the rules online do not specifically address guns in county buildings.)

DeSoto County: Covered by general law.

Sarasota County: No answer provided.

Q: Have there been any changes or recommended changes in any HR policies in the aftermath of the shooting, as it relates to employees who resign or are terminated?%5Ep

City of Arcadia: No.

City of North Port: No.

City of Punta Gorda: No answer provided.

City of Venice: No.

Charlotte County: No answer provided.

DeSoto County: No changes. However, the county’s HR Department regularly conducts exit interviews to gain valuable information which can prove to be useful in all aspects of the work environment, including the culture, day-to-day concerns, issues around management style, workplace ethics and employee morale.

Sarasota County: No answer provided.

Q: What mental health services are available to employees?%5Ep

%5Ep City of Arcadia: All employees have an EAP, which provides assistance in many areas such as time off, medical care, drug and alcohol counseling, and mental health care.

City of North Port: All employees have an EAP, an employee assistance program. Confidential. If you have issues, you get confidentially hooked up with a counselor.

City of Punta Gorda: The City of Punta Gorda’s health insurance provides an Employee Assistance Program and mental health services.

City of Venice: Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through ComPsych.

Charlotte County: Charlotte County offers an employee assistance plan that covers counseling and therapy for employees and their dependents.

DeSoto County: DeSoto County is a great place to work and offers a competitive benefits package to its employees, including access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who are faced with personal and/or work-related issues and challenges.

Sarasota County: No answer provided.

Q: Are employees screened when they leave their jobs? Does screening involve any mental health elements?%5Ep

%5Ep City of Arcadia: Workers are afforded an exit interview survey/separation summary, which looks at many factors such as work environment, pay, fair treatment, job recognition and rating supervisors. There is not a mental health component.

City of North Port: No. An exit interview only.

City of Punta Gorda: No answer provided.

City of Venice: There is an exit interview but no screening upon separation.

Charlotte County: Employee terminations are handled on a case-by-case basis.

DeSoto County: No answer provided.

Sarasota County: No answer provided.

Q: Do our complexes have metal detectors? If not, should they?%5Ep

%5Ep City of Arcadia: No. But everything is under review and subject to change.

City of North Port: No.

City of Punta Gorda: No answer provided.

City of Venice: No answer provided.

Charlotte County: The Justice Center is equipped with metal detectors.

DeSoto County: Administration building, no. Courthouse, yes.

Sarasota County: No answer provided.

— Compiled by Andrea Praegitzer, Craig Garrett, Tom Harmening, Betsy Calvert, Warren Richardson and Daniel Sutphin.%5Ep

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