Former officer files suit

A former Buckhannon police officer has filed a federal lawsuit in West Virginina’s Northern District Court claiming she was never compensated for time she spent caring for and training the city’s drug dog.

Loralie Hissam worked for the city’s police department from August 2008 to January 2011. In January 2009, she was assigned the job of being the city’s canine officer, which she continued to do until resigning in 2011, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court on Jan. 7.

Hissam claims in the filing that she made Buckhannon Chief of Police Matt Gregory aware that she was spending one to three off-duty hours daily feeding, training, grooming, brushing, bathing and exercising the dog. She also claims she used off-duty hours to clean the dog’s kennel and transport vehicle, to take the dog for veterinary care and to do demonstrations with the dog.

Hissam also claims in the lawsuit that she was never reimbursed for any financial expenses out of her own pocket for the dog’s food, medicine, medical treatments and exercise equipment.

The lawsuit was filed in the Elkins office of the Northern Division Court because Hissam claims the city and the police department are in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Buckhannon City Attorney David McCauley said he could not speak to the specifics of the case, citing its status as pending litigation.

However, McCauley said the “drug dog” program was terminated and the dog retired when Hissam resigned from the police department. The police department still has not resumed any similar program.

“Frankly, I do not believe our city would have had a drug dog, except for the plaintiff’s persistance,” McCauley said.

McCauley added that “to the best of my knowledge and recollection,” Hissam never approached the city council about overtime compensation for her off-duty hours spent with the dog “that she very specifically solicited the city to acquire.”

Hissam is seeking reimbursement for the costs incurred with boarding and training the dog, along with unpaid overtime compensation with interest for the off-duty hours needed in caring for and training the dog.

Hissam, who is now residing in Kanawha County, is being represented by Charleston attorney William C. Forbes in the matter.