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Officials, officer strike deal on care for K-9

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Penn Township commissioners approved a $5,000 settlement Wednesday with a police officer who sued the municipality for overtime pay for caring for a now-retired police dog outside of normal work hours.

Township Solicitor Leslie Mlakar said Officer Ross Piraino will receive $1,666 of the settlement for payment of back wages. The remainder will be for Piraino's attorney fees.

Piraino claimed in the suit that he should be compensated at an overtime rate for the time he spent providing food and water, grooming and veterinary care outside of normal working hours. The suit was filed in April in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

Court documents do not indicate an amount Piraino was seeking.

“His initial demands were ... very high,” Mlakar said during the township's regular meeting.

Piraino joined the force in November 2006 and began working with Charro, a German shepherd, in early 2009. The dog was retired in January after behavioral issues and township commissioners agreed the following month to sell Charro to Piraino for $1.

Piraino claimed in the suit that he is entitled to relief under the Fair Labor Standards Act, claiming that “off-the-clock” work included maintaining and cleaning the kennel and yard, ridding his house of dirt and hair, providing water and food, grooming, applying flea and tick treatments, and exercising and training the dog.

Mlakar said the settlement will help the township avoid ongoing legal costs.

“When you look at the costs of litigation, etc., it's not worth it,” he said.

In other business, commissioners approved the purchase of three police vehicles for $68,250. Also, the sale of four older model, “surplus” vehicles for $5,345 was approved.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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