Clay Township code enforcer seeks permission to carry | News

Clay Township’s Code Enforcement Officer Jim Praught is asking the board to allow him to carry his firearm while on the job.

During the July 24 meeting, Praught approached the board to cite his reasons for wanting access to his weapon at any time.

Praught is a retired Detroit police officer who was hired as the code enforcement officer in 2012. At the time, Tom Kruger occupied the supervisor position and Lisa White was the township’s clerk. Both Kruger and White had checked with the township association and the insurance company to verify any issues with Praught carrying his firearm. Finding none, he was granted permission.

It was then found in the city’s employee handbook that no Clay Township employees may carry firearms in the workplace. However, Clay Township board member Mark Borachardt believes “workplace” can be construed as being in the municipal building and as long as Praught is off-site or out of the building, he is free to carry his weapon.

The township’s insurance company is also requiring Praught to complete the same firearms training as the Clay Township police officers to be insured for $1,000 under the township’s liability insurance.

In order for Praught to participate in the training, he will become the responsibility of Clay Township’s Police Chief Mike Koach.

“I respect Jim as retired law enforcement and I respect what he’s trying to do here,” Koach said during the meeting. “My concern is with the insurance company wanting him to qualify as my officers do. That puts the ball in my court, makes my firearm instructor liable and responsible.”

If the position of code enforcer was put under the preview of the police department, as opposed to the building department, Koach would not object to Praught carrying, he said.

“I’m not asking to be a police officer,” Praught said during the meeting. “I’ve been one. I just want to be able to carry the gun I’ve been carrying for over 30 years.”

As a retired police officer, Praught is protected by the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, a U.S. federal law enacted in 2004 that allows two classes of persons — the “qualified law enforcement officer” and the “qualified retired law enforcement officer” — to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of state or local laws, with certain exceptions, the website of the Defense Consulting Services in support of the Army and U.S. Air Force states.

“I’ve never had an incident where I’ve needed it,” said Praught. “But I have to write tickets and people don’t like getting tickets. I don’t have the luxury of a uniform or police car, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask to be able to do what other people are able to do every day.”

Clay Township Supervisor Artie Bryson told Praught to enlist the help of law enforcement when he feels he may be in a precarious situation, Bryson said during the meeting.

“I have my own firearm and I carry it sometimes,” said Clay Township Supervisor Artie Bryson. “So I can understand why Jim would want to carry it. But it’s a sticky wicket, because where do we draw the line?”

The board chose to render a decision on the issue after more information was gathered from the insurance company, the township’s legal counsel and what policies neighboring communities hold.

A similar discussion is taking place in neighboring Algonac in regards to hiring a part-time code enforcer who wishes to carry a sidearm.

Since her tenure as the township’s clerk, White has been charged with embezzlement of $100,000 from 2009 to 2014 and embezzlement in public office over $50 from 2009. She was sentenced to a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail. Kruger sat on the board for more than 15 years as a trustee, supervisor and treasurer and retired in February.

Pamela Binsfeld is a staff writer for The Voice. She can be contacted at 586-243-7498 or pbinsfeld@digitalfirstmedia.com.

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