Council settles with K-9 officers for $29,000

 Vote is split, 3-2, as Preslar questions “lost” training records

By Kevin Spradlin

HAMLET — Members of the Hamlet City Council voted 3-2 to settle with two of the city’s police K-9 handlers over time management issues going back three-plus years.

Sgt. Josh Glenn was awarded $14,924.30 and former officer Steven Williams was awarded $13,999.25 for a total of $28,923.55. Mayor Bill Bayless said prior to the vote that both officers had signed the agreement but it required the approval of at least three of the five council members.

hamlet_policeCouncilman Jesse McQueen said it was an issue that was brought to the council’s attention “several months ago.” He explained that the two officers had been, in accordance with city policy, directed to take comp time while caring for their police dogs. McQueen said Marchell Adams-David, former city manager, instructed the police department that the practice needed to end even though the policy was still in place.

McQueen offered his apologies to both officers for the incident. Councilmen Pat Preslar and Tony Clewis, however, questioned the amount of the settlement. Preslar said city attorney T.C. Morphis Jr. recommended a settlement in half that amount.

“These guys were instructed they couldn’t claim it anymore,” Preslar said. “I’m not saying we don’t take some blame on this. But I asked for, and never received, any training records on these dogs. No training records, no callout records, no logs to show we even had dogs other than their physical presence.”

Preslar said city officials had fought harder to retain taxpayer money in other matters. He didn’t understand why the city settled so quickly this time around.

“Our policy said they were supposed to submit your hours per day,” Preslar said. “They didn’t do that. We didn’t make it clear to them to do that. My feeling is, we should have met them in the middle with $15,000 in lieu of $30,000. I just don’t know where we’re going to keep getting this money from.”

Preslar also questioned why Glenn, still with the department, wasn’t sent home early as often as possible to make up any of the difference.

“That (was) an option,” Preslar said. “But we gave cash. The full amount. It just seemed we were eager to pay $30,000.”

Preslar said credibility was lost when those training records “were lost.”

Clewis agreed, at least in part, with Preslar. He called it “a cloudy issue all the way around.”

“I didn’t agree with the amount either,” he said. “I feel like we should go with our attorney” while Morphis nodded in apparent agreement.

“I felt like it could have been handled in a little different manner.”

Councilman Eddie Martin and Preslar questioned how the city arrived at the figure. Preslar said he felt the city went strictly by what the police officers told city officials. McQueen asked Tammy Kirkley, interim city manager until about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when Marcus Abernethy was appointed to the position, if the city did its due diligence. Kirkely said yes — that the time equivalent to “several days” was spent by her and Edna Cumberland, human resources director to determine the amount the city owed to the officers by reviewing time sheets and comp time request sheets.

“Training for dogs is not what was in question,” McQueen said. “What was in question (was) the hour they were supposed to get by city policy” for caring for the dog each day. “Up until three years ago, they were told to take it as comp time. Then they were told not to take it as comp time. Policies are changed by City Council, not staff. I’m not going to make an effort to settle a situation that the city needs to settle for less than what these guys were due. What makes you think that half is what needed to be paid? These guys were due this money.”

But Preslar noted those documents were the equivalent of the words of only the officers.

“We went on their words,” Preslar said.

“That’s all we had to go on,” Kirkley said.

Both McQueen and Councilman Johnathan Buie said the payroll documents should be sufficient to resolve the issue.

Though council members opted to move a discussion of a revised K-9 policy to the November meeting, Bayless said the amended policy “will be clear.” The department is currently operating under the existing policy. Kirkley, however, noted that procedure has been modified in order to prevent the issue from coming up again.

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