Buckhannon Council settles lawsuit

The Buckhannon City Council has agreed to pay $15,000 to a former police officer to settle a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year.

Loralie Hissam, who worked as a police officer for the Buckhannon Police Department from August 2008 to January 2011, sought to be paid for hours worked training and caring for the city’s drug dog and for other expenses associated with food, medical care and other matters. She served as the city’s K-9 officer from January 2009 until leaving the department.

“The city evaluated the case from both best-case and worst-case scenarios, including the cost of prevailing while factoring in our attorney fees and energy expended to win,” City Attorney David McCauley said. “When a settlement amount is a fraction of what it will take to possibly or even probably prevail, it often makes sense to end the litigation given the lawsuit’s uncertainty.”

McCauley said the money will come from the city’s general funds, though an attempt to have that cost covered by the city’s insurance carrier will be pursued. The insurance carrier initially denied coverage, McCauley said.

Hissam filed the lawsuit in West Virginia’s Northern District Court in January, claiming she had never been compensated for the off-duty time she spent caring for and training the city’s drug dog. McCauley said at the time of the filing that Hissam never made the Buckhannon City Council aware of the issue.

“I do not believe our city would have had a drug dog, except for (Hissam’s) persistence,” he said at that time.

Hissam claimed in the lawsuit that she spent three hours of her off-duty time each day feeding, training, grooming and exercising the dog, along with demonstrating the dog’s skills to the public and taking it for medical care.

She also claimed that she was never reimbursed for food, medicine or medical care for the dog. She claimed in the lawsuit that she made Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory aware of the issue.

The drug dog was taken out of service after Hissam left the department.