State and local public sector employees should be responsible for public property in their possession and control and financially liability for its loss unless compliance with a specific lost, damaged, or destroyed personal property procedure is accomplished and documented. After all, this personal property belongs to the taxpayers, and we're stewards of the taxpayers' property.
As an example, federal employees are responsible and may be financially liable for loss, damage, destruction, and unauthorized use of personal property in their possession and control. Liability of federal employees is governed by Title 18 U.S. Code Section 641 and Title 5 CFR Section 2635.704. All instances of loss, damage, destruction, or unauthorized use of personal property must be reported, documented, and investigated. At a minimum, this includes the following:
(a) Notifying appropriate offices and, when necessary, law enforcement organizations as soon as possible but no later than 24 hours after the property loss becomes known.
(b) Determining the circumstance or cause.
(c) Determining responsibility and financial liability for repair, replacement, or unauthorized use. (d) Identifying actions taken to prevent—
1 further loss, damage, destruction, or unauthorized use of property and/or
2 recurrence of the same or similar incidents.
Generally and as an example, the federal government divides personal property into three categories (with differing levels of scrutiny to each category of personal property): sensitive items, high value personal property (that is not sensitive), and expendable items.
"Sensitive items" are property that is easily converted to personal use or sold for cash, is more susceptible to theft than other property, has no minimum acquisition cost threshold, and has the potential for maintaining its integrity (i.e., not expendable due to use). These include cameras (digital, still, TV, movie, and video), firearms, personal computers (includes work stations and desktop, server, laptop, notebook, and hand-held PCs), printers, two-way radios, video recorders, dictation machines, CD/DVD media and player/recorders, digital scanners, and cell phones. [Many of these items also have separate and important issues involving the data that was on them when they were lost.]
Any personal property that does not meet the definition for sensitive items but has initial acquisition or fabrication costs of $5000 or more and has the potential for maintaining its integrity is "high value personal property."
Anything else is considered "expendable personal property."
Typically, there is no "out of pocket" cost to an employee who, for example, loses a cell phone. However, there should be a system of (public sector and employee) accountability in place to clearly document why it was lost, how the incident can be avoided in the future, and a system of progressive penalties of inappropriate use of public property.