Belhaven paying for officials’ legal fees

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

By Staff
Town’s insurance covers defendants
Staff Writer
The cost of defending two Belhaven officials and one town employee against a lawsuit brought by a fired police officer is being covered by the town’s insurance policy.
Mayor Adam O’Neal, interim Town Manager Guinn Leverett and telecommunicator Tiffany Williams with the Belhaven Police Department, defendants in a civil suit brought by former police Lt. Josh Hopkins, are covered under the town’s insurance policy, according to O’Neal.
Hopkins filed two claims — the first accuses the defendants of defamation; the second accuses O’Neal and Leverett of civil conspiracy.
It was the intention of Hopkins to sue the defendants as private citizens, according to his wife, Kellie. Even so, O’Neal and Leverett would be covered under a typical town insurance policy “if the policy covers someone in their official capacity and action is taken,” an area attorney said Tuesday.
Coverage becomes an issue when town officials take action outside their authority, according to the attorney.
Because Leverett was acting in his capacity as interim town manager when he fired Hopkins, Leverett could be covered under the policy in defense of the civil suit, the attorney said.
This includes individual claims against defendants, he said. Therefore, although it was the intention of Hopkins and his attorney, Mary-Ann Leon, to sue the defendants as private citizens, they could still be covered as town officials, he said.
Numerous attempts Tuesday to reach Leverett in regard to details of the town’s insurance policy were unsuccessful. Several calls placed to the defendants’ attorney, Robin Davis, were not returned Tuesday.
Without examining the town’s insurance policy, the attorney contacted by the Daily News was unable to comment on whether it provides coverage for the defendants in Hopkins’ suit.