K-9 officer sues, seeks pay for after-hours care
COLUMBIANA — Patrolman Bryan Granchie, who is a K-9 handler in the Columbiana Police Department, filed a lawsuit against the city in federal court on Sept. 25.
Claiming he hasn’t been compensated for the time spent caring for his K-9, Csuti, outside of work, Granchie filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The law recognizes that police departments are required to compensate a police officer for time spent caring for a K-9 outside of work, which includes feed, training, grooming and more. The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and says that the city has not paid Granchie the time-and-a-half for work beyond his 40-hour week. It seeks unspecified wages and attorney fees.
The lawsuit alleges that Police Chief Tim Gladis has acknowledged several times over the past two years that Granchie should be receiving compensation for the time he spends taking care of K-9 Csuti at home.
Granchie has been a K-9 handler for the department for over two years. In August, the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (OPBA), which represents all full-time sergeants, patrolman and dispatchers employed by the city, became aware of the alleged situation.
On Monday, the OPBA issued a press release laying out what it believes to be the truth behind the situation. In the press release, the OPBA stated, “Patrolman Granchie started the K-9 program because of his love for dogs and his desire to make a difference in his community. But that does not change the fact that the law considers caring for a police K-9 compensable work under the Fair Labor Standard Act.”
According to the press release, on Aug. 12 the OPBA held a Zoom meeting with the city manager, a city attorney and two members of the police department to discuss the union’s list of concerns. At the end of the meeting, according to the release, there were conversations surrounding the compensation of Granchie and the other K-9 handler. However, Granchie and the OPBA said they were not contacted by anyone from the city after the meeting.
Following the filing of the lawsuit, the OPBA believes that Granchie and Csuti were the target of retaliation by Gladis. On Sept. 25, K-9 Deputy Michael Creager of the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office passed away. The press release said that Creager was a role model and friend to Granchie.
Granchie allegedly informed Gladis about Deputy Creager’s death and later requested to attend the funeral on Oct. 1. OPBA attorney Danielle Chaffin said that Gladis did not permit Granchie to attend the funeral.
Chaffin said that Gladis’ reasoning for not allowing Granchie to use department vehicles, K-9s and time to attend the funeral was due to an incident that happened a couple years ago in which a car accident in Pittsburgh during a funeral detail caused city equipment to be damaged. Gladis allegedly doesn’t send officers that far away anymore.
According to Chaffin, office records state that Granchie was permitted to attend a funeral with Csuti in Tuscarawas in March.
“Seven months before the lawsuit was filed, it was OK for Officer Granchie to travel 60 miles with a K-9 and cruiser to pay his respects to a fallen officer,” Chaffin said. “But after the lawsuit was filed, it’s not OK for Officer Granchie to travel 65 miles with the K-9 and cruiser.”
In accordance with the department’s policies prohibiting retaliation against its employees, Granchie has filed a complaint with the city manager.
Gladis and the city manager, Lance Willard, have elected not to comment since it is an active lawsuit.