MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Following a unanimous vote to change a policy, county employees in Manatee County will soon be able to bring their concealed firearms to work. It’s a change commissioners have been discussing for almost a year.

The current policy prohibits the possession, use, or threat of use of a deadly weapon while on duty on county property or in a county vehicle. A draft of the new policy provided to 8 On Your Side Wednesday states, “the County permits concealed carry and takes no measure to prohibit any County employee from carrying a concealed weapon in the course of employment.”

Commissioner James Satcher, who has been leading the way pushing for the change, believes the policy will improve both safety and security for county employees.

“I think that is wrong to have criminal empowerment zones, so I worked to eliminate those whenever I can and so one of the ways we can do that is by allowing an employee that otherwise would be allowed to carry, to carry if they work for Manatee County,” said Satcher.

There is no rule in place banning the public from entering a county building with a firearm. Commission Chairman Kevin Van Ostenbridge says it puts the county’s nearly 2,000 employees at a disadvantage when it comes to defending themselves.

“We want to ensure that all of our employees felt safe and that they knew that they could defend themselves if the worst were to happen. I like the idea of having additional folks out in the community, good guys, who are carrying,” said Commissioner Van Ostenbridge.

A few members of the public spoke out against the policy change Tuesday, some citing safety and liability concerns. Others expressed transparency concerns with the way the commission decided to vote on the issue.

“First of all, shame on you for titling this item ‘Update and Discussion on Personnel Policy,’ disguising the topic…unbelievable. Secondly, shame on you for not providing any documents. Clearly, you are all referring to a draft policy that was not made public at all, even late…so shame on you,” said county resident Virginia McCallum.

“I don’t understand how you can make a vote on something that the public hasn’t even had the chance to read and comment on and you slipped this in deceptively, that is not okay,” said resident Shannon Keever.

8 On Your Side asked the commission chairman to address the transparency concerns.

Here’s what he had to say:

“This has been going on since May, so for a long time this has been discussed in the public, it has been discussed by commissioners, employees have been aware that this has been transpiring and working its way through the legal pipeline. I don’t think that there was anything that was not transparent about it. It did not even need to come to the board for a vote, we chose to do that in the spirit of transparency,” explained Commissioner Van Ostenbridge.

He says there are a few tweaks being made to the draft before it is finalized and put into place.