HAMMOND — A former Lake County police officer and his wife, a 911 dispatcher, have settled lawsuits they filed against county government officials.
Lake County Attorney Matthew Fech said Lake County Commissioners are prepared to pay Karla and David Crane Jr. of Cedar Lake $311,500 in return for them dropping litigation against current and former county officials, who they claimed committed work-related discrimination practices that damaged them.
F. Harrison Green, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based attorney representing the couple, confirmed the settlement. Green declined to comment on the terms of the settlement.
David Crane filed suit in 2016 with U.S. District Court in Hammond against the county sheriff, board of commissioners, the Lake County police and Fraternal Order of Police lodge, claiming he was the victim of politically-motivated retaliation.
He said he joined the county police force in 1998 under former sheriff Roy Dominguez, who left office in 2010.
He said he supported the candidacy of Richard Ligon, of Gary, during the spring primary that year. Ligon lost by a narrow margin to John Buncich.
David Crane said shortly after Buncich took office as the new sheriff, he demoted David Crane from patrol and accident reconstruction duties to the less desirable assignment of prisoner transportation.
David Crane’s direct supervisor, Lt. Guy Mikulich, allegedly told David Crane after his demotion that he “got exactly what he deserved” for campaigning against Buncich.
David Crane said he asked Buncich several months later to be returned to his previous assignment and Buncich replied, “keep your mouth shut, do your job” and to avoid talking to Buncich again.
David Crane sustained neck injuries and nerve damage to both hands and his right foot in February 2014 when he fell while responding to a domestic violence call.
The sheriff placed David Crane on medical leave and refused to permit him to return to work with light duty that fall and later refused to extend David Crane paid medical leave after December 2014. Buncich and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department Merit Board terminated David Crane in February 2015.
Karla Crane, his wife, sued the Lake County E-911 Department in federal court in April 2017 over allegations her supervisors refused to honor her family and medical leave request to take time off to care for her disabled husband.
Karla Crane said she joined the county E-911 Department in 2015. A shortage of dispatchers at the time forced the county to assign mandatory overtime hours to dispatchers.
She requested family leave the following year to care for her husband. Karla Crane said initially, the county let her continue as a dispatcher without having to do mandatory overtime, but later rescinded that practice and forced her to work long hours of overtime despite her objections.
Federal court records indicate Karla Crane dropped her suit last week, and David Crane recently agreed to settle his claims, which will be finalized in 60 days.