Hurricane police officer seeks benefits

By Chris Dickerson | Jun 14, 2006

WINFIELD – A Hurricane police officer has filed a civil lawsuit seeking benefits he says are due him.

Anthony D. Lawhon filed the lawsuit May 26 in Putnam Circuit Court. In the complaint, Lawhon says he was hired Aug. 11, 2000, as a patrolman with Hurricane's police department. His starting salary was $26,500.

On Feb. 17, 2004, Lawhon was promoted to corporal. With that promotion came a pay raise to $28,900, according the city handbook and his contract. However, he says that raise didn't begin until July 3.

The complaint goes on to say Lawhon met in mid-March 2005 with Police Chief Mark Baker and asked for an unpaid leave of absence.

"Chief Baker unilaterally denied the plaintiff's reasonable request," says the suit, filed by attorney Shawn D. Bayliss.

On April 7, 2005, Lawhon resigned to attend a truck driving school. However, he was rehired as a patrolman by the department on June 16, 2005, at a reduced pay rate. His new start date was June 21, 2005, according to the suit.

In the suit, Lawhon says he would have been promoted to the rank of sergeant, as he would have been a corporal for two years. The city required him to complete a Field Training Program for a new hire "as if he were a boot patrolman with no experience."

On July 27, 2005, Lawhon wrote Hurricane Mayor Raymond Peak and asked that he review the circumstances. He also asked to be returned to the rank of corporal, that he receive his seniority time less his time absent, that he be compensated for his two-week vacation time and that his sick leave be reinstated.

On Aug. 2, 2005, former Hurricane city manager Karen Lilly again denied his request and further stated that his rehire date would be the beginning of his employment and that the city couldn't go against "past practices."

In the suit, however, Lawhon says he is aware that "the city has repeatedly granted a variety of employees a leave of absence, and that many of the same have been repeatedly extended."

Thus, Lawhon seeks to be returned the rank of corporal, compensated at that pay rate commensurate with experience and time of employment, compensated beginning at the date of rehire, have seniority time reinstated, receive any raise he would have been eligible for as part of his August 2005 evaluation raise, have two weeks of vacation time reinstated, have banked sick time from original employment reinstated, be reinstated to his unit position of 979 in rank structure of the Hurricane Police Department and be granted judgment against the city in an amount that will fully compensate him for all work performed at the lower rank and pay.

He also requests attorney fees, court costs, expert fees and other relief. He requests a
jury trial.

Putnam Circuit Court case number: 06-C-171

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