It’s no secret that university officials and campus police chiefs are
opposed to Rep. Greg Steube’s campus-carry bill, which would allow those with valid concealed-carry licenses to carry concealed pistols on college grounds.
It’s certainly their right. It’s a controversial bill. Steube knew that when he drafted the legislation.
However, according to emails I obtained from a trusted source, it appears these officials and campus chiefs may have gone too far in their opposition to the legislation.
Well, I think that’s something Attorney General Pam Bondi should decide.
First, a bit of background.
Eric Friday, general counsel for Florida Carry Inc., filed the 10 complaints Monday with the Florida Commission on Ethics, accusing the police chiefs of failing to register as lobbyists and of using state funds and resources to attend the hearing. Friday pointed out in his complaints that the chiefs were on-duty when they lobbied lawmakers.
According to statutes, penalties for these violation can include being forced to repay the funds used to attend the hearing, and being barred from lobbying for two years.
To be clear, Florida Carry Inc., accused the campus chiefs of breaking state law, albeit one with minor penalties.
Now, the emails I received Tuesday show that Janet Owen, University of North Florida’s vice-president of governmental affairs, laid out the strategy for the campus police chiefs to follow when they appeared before the legislative committees.
In other words, Owen may have orchestrated the rule breaking, if in fact it did occur.
There’s a legal term for his, which I am purposefully avoiding.
In an email Owen sent March 11 to UNF Police Chief Francis Mackesy, she lays out her plan to “get a member of the committee to invite the State University System (SUS) Police Chiefs to attend the committee meeting ‘for information’ on the bill.”
Further, and this is the troubling part, she advised that police chiefs “take annual leave, just as a precaution” but to wear their uniforms “as if on duty.”
Just two hours later, Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) sent an email to Florida State University Police Chief David Perry inviting the campus chiefs to appear before the Senate Higher Education Committee. Chief Perry copied other university police chiefs and coordinated the effort.
On Monday March 16, 10 campus police chiefs showed up – in uniform with their sidearms – in opposition to the campus-carry bill.
Owen did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment for this story.
My source says more emails will be forthcoming, which will show the behind-the-scenes efforts of university officials and their campus police chiefs.
I have sent a link to this story to Attorney General Bondi’s office.
I shall update you with more information as it comes in.