(1) It is the finding of the Legislature that building code enforcement officials are employed by local jurisdictions to exercise police powers of the state in the course of their duties and are in that way similar to law enforcement personnel, correctional officers, and firefighters. It is the further finding of the Legislature that building code enforcement officials are thereby sufficiently distinguishable from other professionals regulated by the department so that their circumstances merit additional specific protections in the course of disciplinary investigations and proceedings against their licenses.
(2) All enforcement officials licensed under this part shall have the rights and privileges specified in this section. Such rights are not exclusive to other rights, and an enforcement official does not forfeit any rights otherwise held under federal, state, or local law. In any instance of a conflict between a provision of this section and a provision of chapter 455, the provision of this section shall supersede the provision of chapter 455.
(3) Whenever an enforcement official is subjected to an investigative interview for possible disciplinary action by the department, such interview shall be conducted pursuant to the requirements of this subsection.
(a) The interview shall take place at a reasonable hour. If the interview is taken in person, it shall take place not more than 30 miles from where the licensee works, or at any other mutually agreeable location or time.
(b) An enforcement official may not be subjected to an interview without first receiving written notice of sufficient details of the complaint in order to be reasonably apprised of the nature of the investigation and of the substance of the allegations made. The enforcement official shall be informed prior to the interview whether the complaint originated from the department or from a consumer.
(c) At his or her request, an enforcement official under investigation shall have the right to be represented by counsel or by any other representative of his or her choice, who shall be present at such time as the enforcement official wishes during the interview.
(d) During the interview, the enforcement official may not be subjected to offensive language. No promise may be made or reward offered to the enforcement official as an inducement to answer any question.
(e) If requested by the enforcement official, the interview of an enforcement official, including notation of all recess periods, must be recorded on audio tape, or otherwise preserved in such a manner as to allow a transcript to be prepared, and there shall be no unrecorded questions or statements. Upon the request of the enforcement official, a copy of any such recording of the interview must be made available to the enforcement official no later than 72 hours following the interview, excluding holidays and weekends. The expense of the recording and transcript shall be borne by the enforcement official.
(f) If the testimony is transcribed, the transcript must be furnished to the enforcement official for examination, and shall be read to or by the enforcement official, unless waived by all parties involved. Any changes in form or substance that the enforcement official wants to make shall be listed in writing, with a statement of the reasons for making the changes. The changes shall be attached to the transcript. Any transcript of an interview with an enforcement official which is to be used in any proceeding against the enforcement official shall be sworn or affirmed to and acknowledged by the enforcement official.
(4) The investigation of a complaint against an enforcement official is subject to the time restrictions set forth in this subsection, and failure to comply with any time restriction set forth in this subsection shall result in dismissal of the complaint against the enforcement official. An investigation of a complaint against an enforcement official that was dismissed for failure to comply with a time restriction set forth in this subsection may not be reopened. However, in any instance of an additional complaint being initiated, information or investigation related to the dismissed complaint may be used.
(a) The department must inform the enforcement official of any legally sufficient complaint received, including the substance of the allegation, within 10 days after receipt of the complaint by the department.
(b) The enforcement official shall be given 30 days to respond to any legally sufficient complaint.
(c) No longer than 180 days from the date of the receipt of the complaint, the department shall submit the investigation, whether complete or not, to the probable cause panel for review. In the event the investigation is not complete, the probable cause panel shall review and instruct the department to complete the investigation within a time certain and, in no event, greater than 90 days or dismiss the complaint with prejudice.
(5) The enforcement official shall be considered an agent of the governmental entity employing him or her and as such shall be defended by that entity in any action brought by the department or the board, provided the enforcement official is working within the scope of his or her employment.
(6) An enforcement official shall not be subject to disciplinary action in regard to his or her certification for exercising his or her rights under this section.
(7) If any action taken against the enforcement official by the department or the board is found to be without merit by a court of competent jurisdiction, or if judgment in such an action is awarded to the enforcement official, the department or the board, or the assignee of the department or board, shall reimburse the enforcement official or his or her employer, as appropriate, for reasonable legal costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred. The amount awarded shall not exceed the limit provided in s. 120.595.
(8) An enforcement official may bring civil suit against any person, group of persons, or organization or corporation, or the head of such organization or corporation, for damages, either pecuniary or otherwise, suffered pursuant to the performance of the enforcement official’s duties or for abridgement of the enforcement official’s civil rights arising out of the enforcement official’s performance of official duties.
(9) Notwithstanding any other provision in law, while under investigation the enforcement official shall not be denied any and all the rights and privileges of a licensee in good standing.
(10) This bill of rights applies to disciplinary investigations and proceedings against licenses issued under this part and disciplinary investigations and proceedings relating to the official duties of an enforcement official. This bill of rights does not apply to disciplinary investigations and proceedings against other licenses that the enforcement official holds or disciplinary investigations and proceedings unrelated to the enforcement official’s official duties.