Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert has a new armed guard watching her back: Chief of Staff Marty Bilek.
Bilek, a 38-year veteran of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, was given permission Thursday to carry a concealed handgun in the City-County Building.
Federal law allows retired peace officers to carry concealed weapons in places that don't prohibit them.
Because the City-County Building doesn't allow weapons, Stothert had to seek permission from Paul Cohen, administrator of the Omaha Douglas Public Building Commission.
In her request, Stothert raised the prospect of gunmen targeting random citizens or elected officials in a mass shooting.
Her office has a security detail of four retired Omaha police officers, one of whom is on duty each day. But they and other guards in the building are not “always in the presence of the Mayor,” she wrote. Bilek, however, is usually nearby.
“Marty Bilek is a highly trained career law enforcement officer,” Stothert said in a statement to The World-Herald. “Our request for him to carry a weapon inside city hall is simply another layer of caution.”
Bilek will carry his old service weapon — a 9 mm pistol he's had for 25 years — and he'll buy his own bullets, Stothert spokeswoman Carrie Murphy said.
Cohen said this is the first concealed-carry request from the Mayor's Office in his 13 years at the commission, but he said he would approve other requests if applicants could prove they needed to carry a gun as part of their job.
“In this case the mayor is very clear that it's in the job description,” he said.
Stothert's office made the request last week, and building commissioners met in executive session July 11 to consider it.
“They said, 'Follow the policy,' ” Cohen said. “And we did.”
Apart from Bilek, the only civilians allowed to carry guns in the City-County Building are a handful of armored car drivers who are in the building briefly to deliver or pick up money, Cohen said.
Bilek takes an annual shooting test overseen by the Sheriff's Office to qualify for his concealed permit, Sheriff Tim Dunning said. Bilek was chief deputy for 11 years before retiring to take the job with Stothert.