A City of Sunrise utility field supervisor — dressed in a city uniform — was caught on camera handling and looking through the scope of a rifle on city property. The city first received photos of Francis Verardi April 30 via a letter, which voiced concerns associated with the prevalence of school shootings and workplace gun violence.
"Specifically, the letter had two pictures that revealed two individuals, one who was clearly identified as employee Francis Verardi, and another unknown individual who could not readily be identified because the individual was facing the opposite direction," human resources manager Jose Murrillo wrote in his investigation report. "The letter further stated... the employee was allegedly handling the firearm in a reckless manner."
Upon receiving the letter, Murrillo and Stella Mesa, the acting human resources director, interviewed Verardi to determine if he violated city ordinances. Verardi admitted he was in the photos and identified utility mechanic Jose Rodriguez as the other individual.
During the investigation, it was discovered that Verardi is a concealed-carry license holder who always keeps a firearm — sometimes more than one — in his car during work hours. Investigators also learned he would go on hunting outings with utility co-workers.
According to the report, Verardi believed the photo was taken in the operations and maintenance building's parking lot, but he was unsure of the date and time. He also told the city he did not remember if the weapon was his, suggesting it might have belonged to Rodriguez.
"[Verardi] vaguely remembers this particular incident, but suggested it could have been a time where Mr. Rodriguez got a new firearm and it was being shown to him as a 'show and tell' for him to review the craftsmanship of the firearm itself," the report reads. (Verardi did not respond to New Times' request for comment.)
However, during an interview the following day, Rodriguez, who initially was unable to identify himself in the photos, admitted he also owned firearms but denied ever bringing them into work.
"When Mr. Rodriguez was told he was identified as the other person in the picture, he then recalled the incident and admitted [it] could have taken place 2-3 years ago," the report says. "He further stated this was the first time ever doing anything like that. Initially, Mr. Rodriguez did not see any type of inappropriate action by either him or Mr. Verardi because both of them enjoy the sport of hunting."
Verardi, who has worked for the city since 1994, has received a number of promotions throughout his time with the city. He does not have a disciplinary record, "with the exception of a Documented Verbal Counseling for an accident that was deemed preventable" in May 2002.
As for Rodriguez, he was hired in 2002 and has no prior disciplinary issues.
After conducting their investigation, Murrillo and Mesa concluded, "These employees were not handling the firearms recklessly [and] were showing off this firearm to each other as a form of 'show and tell.'" Although the city did not find their actions to be malicious, it concluded they were unprofessional and warranted disciplinary action. As a result, both men received written reprimands for their misconduct.
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