Suit claims 25 police are undercompensated

Published 12:38 pm Friday, October 23, 2015

Twenty-five members of the Franklin Police Department have filed individual lawsuits against the City of Franklin in reference to breach of contract and actual fraud. These members, however, are trying these individual claims as one complaint against the City, totaling compensation over $5 million, including punitive damages.

In the contract these police members signed with the City upon being hired, any time worked over 171 hours per each 28-day cycle is considered overtime. These 25 plaintiffs agree that since 2002, the City has been paying them the 160 hours each 28-day cycle and any overtime they worked past 171 hours.

However, they claim the City has allegedly not been paying them the 11-hour window from 160 hours to 171 hours for each 28-day cycle that they may have worked.

Jack T. Randall and J. Daniel Vinson of Randall | Page, P.C., the lawyers who are representing the members of the police department, said that each person’s case is different, but they all show the same problems of not getting paid any time they may have worked from 160 hours to 171 hours.

“We think this may predate before 2002, but we know it’s been going on since at least then,” Vinson said. “The focus of this is on the window from 160 hours to 171 hours that were worked. We’re not making any allegations that they weren’t paid the overtime hours, but again overtime doesn’t trigger until they have reached 171 hours.”

Before obtaining a lawyer, many of 25 officers allegedly talked with the City, and said they didn’t do anything about it.

In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Randall and Vinson revealed that the City is allegedly withholding documents needed by the plaintiffs for evidence.

“We’re trying to obtain three documents from the City,” Randall said. “We need the personnel action sheets, the hourly sheets that show regular time and overtime worked and the pay stubs.”

From the documents that they have seen, Randall and Vinson noted inconsistencies between the documents and the policy.

“Obviously we went ahead and filed the suit because we can’t get the specific documents to our forensic accountant. These documents are vital in the suit. We have a good faith basis at this time because we have some of this documentation and it just doesn’t add up,” Randall said. “This isn’t a gray area, this is more of a math equation and the math equation involves the personnel action sheets, the hourly sheets and a copy of the pay stubs.”

Vinson added, “Once we can get all of the documents we need in front of our forensic accountant, our focus may be shifted to other areas, but from what we got that’s where our issue [the 11-hour window] is.”

Randall said, “It will be very black-and-white with the inconsistencies. The proof is in the documents. I’m perplexed why my clients’ documents are being withheld.”

The lawyers said that it is a safe interpretation that these members of the police department are frustrated with City officials; but, to their knowledge, the police have continued to conduct themselves in a professional manner and haven’t let any of this affect their work ethic.

In a letter obtained by The Tidewater News that was sent to Franklin City Attorney Taylor Williams from Randall | Page, P.C. on Thursday, Randall is claiming that according to his information and belief, Franklin City Manager Randy Martin is allegedly taking it upon himself to coordinate various meetings for the specific purpose to refute the litigation and fracture the police department members. Williams’ response is not yet known.

Also revealed during the press conference, Randall and Vinson are receiving calls from former members of the Franklin Police Department who are making the same claims. Another lawsuit will soon be filed against the City.

“We’re receiving phone calls every day on new parties making the same claim, probably two a day…this is a verified complaint of fraud and we have many who are in other jurisdictions in other states….so that is delaying us. We want to add the rest of the parties, so I would assume we would have everyone listed and all our paperwork complete in three weeks,” Randall said.

Randall and Vinson said that as of early Thursday afternoon, they had 15 former members of the police department involved in the second suit, but they are expecting up to 30 to be involved by the time they file.

When asked about where he thought the money would come from if they win the case, Randall replied, “Right now I don’t know, it could come from the general fund or insurance protection if they have one, but I just don’t know yet.”

The Tidewater News has made multiple attempts to contact Martin, asking where the money would come from if the 25 police were to win the case, but they have all been unsuccessful.

The lawyers added, “We feel very confident in our case. Our clients are looking for justice and the compensation they rightly deserve. We wouldn’t be here if the City wasn’t unresponsive to the earlier inquiries our clients made to them about this matter.”