Southampton Circuit Court to rule on Franklin police officers’ lawsuit

Published 2:09 pm Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Southampton County Circuit Court judge is reviewing a demurrer filed by Sands Anderson P.C. on behalf of the City of Franklin, as well as a memorandum in opposition to said demurrer filed by Randall Page P.C. on behalf of 25 Franklin police officers alleging under-compensation.

A demurrer is a legal motion that admits the truth of a plaintiff’s presented facts, but contends that the facts are either irrelevant or insufficient to justify ruling in the plaintiff’s favor. The judge has also requested the transcript of a hearing on the matter, held in the City of Suffolk’s Circuit Court building on Thursday.

This marks the latest development in the ongoing $5 million lawsuit Randall Bailey, et al v. City of Franklin, initially filed in October 2015. That suit alleges that the City of Franklin has not paid the officers for time worked during the 11-hour window over the 160 hours per 28-day pay period specified in their contracts with the city, but under the 171 hours per pay period the city defines as eligible for overtime.

According to J. Daniel Vinson, the attorney with Randall Page who represented the officers during Thursday’s hearing, the demurrer is essentially an antiquated method of making a motion to dismiss a lawsuit, and so, if the judge sides with the city, the suit will be on hold, pending an appeal to the state Supreme Court. If the judge sides with the officers, the suit will proceed.

In the demurrer, the City of Franklin claims that, “Employment contracts unequivocally show that the officers were hired and compensated on a salary basis, and the Plaintiffs’ contract claim for unpaid hourly wages therefore cannot proceed,” and suggests that the officers may even have been overcompensated for their time on the job.

“We have claimed that the overtime payments that have been made to the police officers have been made at a higher rate of overtime pay than they would technically be entitled to under how payroll practices should have been conducted,” said C. Michael DeCamps, the attorney with Sands Anderson who filed the demurrer on behalf of the city.

The memorandum in opposition, filed on behalf of the officers, however, argues that the city’s claim that its officers are salaried rather than hourly employees is not supported by documentation. It further alleges that the city’s acknowledgment of its hourly compensation formula, specifying 160 hours worked per 28-day pay period, is sufficient grounds for proceeding with the suit, stating, “The presence of the aforementioned hourly rate calculation in said documents fully supports [the] Plaintiffs’ breach of contract allegations.”

Neither attorney could estimate when the judge might reach a decision on the suit.