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Hurricane pays to settle former police officer’s lawsuit

By Ryan Quinn, Staff writer

WINFIELD – The city of Hurricane has agreed to pay a former K-9 officer $77,500 to settle his lawsuit alleging the city didn’t pay him overtime for grooming, training and otherwise caring for his dog.

In April 2013, Raleigh County resident Jason Kerr sued the city and its police department in Putnam Circuit Court, demanding compensation for various damages, including for unpaid wages from his roughly three years as a K-9 officer.

Kerr claimed the city had paid previous K-9 officers for the extra time spent caring for their dogs with an additional regular or and/or overtime hour worth of pay every day plus an extra 16 hours of regular or overtime pay each month.

Kerr alleged the city violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act, which states that if an entity fails to pay its worker’s unpaid wages no later than the next regular payday following his or her resignation, the worker can receive four times the amount owed.

“Defendants’ violations of Plaintiff’s rights under the FLSA were knowing, willful, intentional and/or voluntary,” the suit argued, adding that the city’s actions were also “malicious, intentional and in reckless disregard of Plaintiff’s protected rights.”

In addition to the unpaid wages, Kerr also requested payment for litigation costs, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

In June of 2013, the city moved the case to federal court in West Virginia’s Southern District because the suit involved an alleged violation of federal law. The city also denied wrongdoing.

“At all material times, Defendants paid Plaintiffs (sic) all sums of money to which he was entitled,” the city argued in its answer.

In an agreement filed Monday to dismiss the suit, the city agreed to pay Kerr $10,000, less payroll withholdings, for the unpaid wages. It agreed to pay him about $40,000 in compensatory damages and as consideration for his execution of the deal. It also agreed to pay about $27,600 in attorneys’ fees.

The agreement states that it “shall not apply to any claims regarding Mr. Kerr’s employment and/or the propriety of his discharge or resignation.” The suit doesn’t make clear the circumstances of Kerr’s leaving the police department. The city also stated in the deal that it was neither admitting nor denying liability.

When asked if he thought the police department did anything wrong, Hurricane Police Chief Mike Mullins told the Gazette, “No, I do not, not to the point where they paid that out.”

He would not elaborate when asked if the department would change its policies.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1254.


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