When I read the Nathan Anderson authored BLOG titled “Taser-The Chronicles of John”, I clipped and saved an entry were the anti-hero (John) attended the Taser Training Conference that was scheduled just after their Initial Public Offering. In the posting, Nathan described John’s memories of how Rick Smith gave to everyone in attendance, a grey Commemorative M26 Advanced Taser. According to that posting, several dozen working (as in “on the job”) police officers were in the room. These cops were Taser instructors who were there to be certified as Master Instructors. Each one received one of the grey guns. Knowing about gift limitations involving vender/customer’s employees relationships, it raised questions as to whether each of those cops reported the $500 gift to their respective departments.

Anyway, in this morning’s news, I find a story out of Florida where the High Sheriff of Orange County, Kevin Beary, is under investigation of the Florida State Commission on Ethics. Seems another public official has fallen prey to the Taser freebee program. Make no mistake; this is nothing more than a blatant bribe of a public official charge. Bottom line; Beary may have violated state ethics laws when he accepted from Taser a special gift of thanks for his agency’s $600,000 purchase of Tasers, Cartridges, Batteries and Holsters. Agency heads who refuse to buy Tasers do not receive such gifts from Taser.

According to sources, the Orange County sheriff accepted expensive gifts and goods worth hundreds of dollars each from vendor companies doing business with his agency. The law clearly prohibits elected officials from taking gifts worth more than $100 from lobbyists, venders and any entity that is applying to do business with a public agency. "The commission rule contemplates that any person who tries to influence government decision-making for compensation is a lobbyist and that would include a person who is selling or tries to sell goods or services to the government official's agency," said Bonnie J. Williams, the commission's executive director.

Williams specifically declined to interpret the law as it related to Beary's situation. But she contacted the Orlando Sentinel newspaper to clarify the law after the Sentinel reported on Beary's gifts this past Tuesday. The newspaper said that Beary had done nothing illegal by accepting gifts from vendors and others because he had disclosed gifts worth more than $100. "The article in today's Sentinel does not appear to correctly represent the mandates of several of those laws," Williams wrote in an e-mail this past Tuesday.

Regardless of his disclosure of actions however inappropriate, past alleged misdeeds reported in the press concerning insider trading disclosures to Police Department Chiefs, Commissioners and Sheriffs who had “approved” purchases for their agency, regarding Taser stock price movements still plague Taser. Executive board members of the company are spending an inordinate amount of money and effort to fight the thousands of little brushfires that won’t go out.

Beary's spokesman declined to offer any comment other than to accuse the Sentinel of bias and providing misleading information to the state Commission on Ethics. Vendors' gifts to Beary include an $800 Taser X26 stun gun, an $800 assault rifle, two $1,000 pistols and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle jacket, according to state gift-disclosure forms. There are lingering questions over how many gifts under $100 that the Sheriff received.

The Taser stun gun inscribed with Beary's name was presented by Taser International, which has sold more than $600,000 worth of the devices to the Sheriff's Office.

Public officials who break what is known as the "gifts law" can face penalties ranging from a public reprimand to impeachment and up to $10,000 in fines. The Ethics Commission does not investigate unless a complaint is made. All ethics complaints against public employees are confidential until the Ethics Commission investigates them and issues a ruling.

An expert on ethics law suggested by The Florida Bar turned out to be Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron, who is representing Beary against an ethics complaint over accepting $43,000 from a nonprofit homeland-security business the sheriff founded. Herron would not comment when asked about the conflict of interest.

Earlier this week, a sheriff's spokesman said Beary intends to donate the firearms presented to him to the agency when he leaves office. As per Florida law, Tasers are not firearms. Under the gift law, anyone accepting a gift from a lobbyist on behalf of an agency or charity should transfer custody as quickly as reasonable. Prohibited behavior under the gift law also includes asking a lobbyist-vendor for a gift of any value.

An e-mail sent last year to Beary by a Law Enforcement Sales Director of Taser International, which gave him the $800 Taser X26 stun gun, shows the sheriff and two of his children wanted promotional shirts from the company. It was not clear if the shirts he wanted were the Embroidered Black Taser Mock Turtlenecks made famous in all those promotional photos released to the press by Taser. As of yesterday, the shirts are selling on the Taser Store website for $35 for small to extra large with extra extra large selling for $37.
The e-mail does not mention any costs for the requested items. Beary responded with “no comment” after repeated requests from the press for interviews regarding accepting gifts and could not be asked about the shirts.

One wonders if those Taser Mock Turtlenecks run a little tight in the neck.