1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



The  Great Lawsuit

John McCurdy - January 25, 2018

In the 1940s something occurred in Alderson besides  WW2! 

The event may actually had about as much of a lasting effect on many of the employees of the Federal Reformatory as did the conflict and which effects lives still today not only monetarily but also in relationships formed at that time and still felt to these times  nearly three quarters of a century later. 


Those Female Correctional Officer who were assigned to a Cottage began work at 2:00PM . They were on duty for the very important 4:00PM Count of  Inmates that would assure that at that time of day all Inmate were where they were supposed to be.  Other Official Counts, just as important to the orderly running of the Institution were  taken throughout the day. In addition, Correctional Officers were expected to always be Counting and of  where their inmates were.  

A Correctional Officer was terminated for  reasons not  now known. What is known is that she took issue with the action and secured an attorney, Petar J. Betar from Huntington, WV.  Attorney Betar later was the candidate for Governor of the State of West Virginia. 

Attorney Betar accepted the case on a Contingency Fee Basis of 33 percent. He would pay all expenses of his clients(s), and would be entitled to 1/3 of the Judgment if any, If he lost the case he would get nothing.  

He, rumor had it, then began to recruit, with some success, other Correctional Officers to also allow him to represent them with the same deal.,  in their suit as Injured Parties.  

The 6th Judicial Court heard the case and this is what happened.

Remember I told you Correctional Officer assigned to Cottage Duty.

Went to work at 2 PM?  They, after supervising supper and evening activities, conducted  a Safety check of the building, and  retired to the  Officers Room & Bath for the night. In event of an emergency such as fire or sickness she would be awakened by the Annunciator System connecting the Officers Room and the Inmates Rooms and take appropriate  action. The next morning she would arise, awake the Kitchen Inmates and supervise Breakfast and after an Official Count, send the inmates out to their jobs and then  supervise the Cottage Maintenance workers, after supervising the Noon Meal she prepared her reports of the shift and be relieved by another Correctional Officer at 2:00PM.                                                 

The Officers said they had been required to be on the job, and even though they might be sleeping or otherwise out of direct contact with the Inmates, they were still responsible for the safety and care of the Inmates and that therefore they were entitled to pay for the entire time they had to be in the cottage, 24 hours, instead of the 16 hours  they had actually  been paid! 

The Bureau of Prisons were left with the fact that if they were working as directed in the Post Orders then they must be paid! 

The 6th Judicial  Federal Court agreed with the Officers and ordered the BOP to compensate for all the unpaid time for both current, retired, and even former employees who had worked under those conditions.

The search of dusty and musty Time & Payroll Records was a difficult task, but finally completed and the Officers were paid.  Both the officers who sued and who had to pay the attorney, and also those didnít sue.. Which meant the Officers who did not sue received roughly 1/3 more Back Pay than those who paid for the suit! Some bad feelings resulted from the two Groups and remained for a long time, even though only a few of the Principals are still living! 

Back Pay Compensation ranged from a few dollars in some cases to as much as  $ 20K in others, Around
$6,000,000.00 total!

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