OCEAN CITY – The issue involving a former Ocean City police officer and the health of his K-9 partner stands in a state of confusion this week as evidence is unable to be produced to close the chapter on the matter.
Following last week’s City Council 5-2 vote to reimburse former Pfc. Earl Campbell $6,000 for the surgery of K-9 partner Charlie, Police Chief Bernadette DiPino conducted an internal investigation and found no evidence from any veterinary hospital in the region that a surgery was actually performed.
The research was conducted because city protocol would require an invoice to be provided in order to write a check for the reimbursement. Campbell has rejected any sort of payment from the city.
On Wednesday, Mayor/Acting City Manager Rick Meehan said he received an email from DiPino on Dec. 22, and he in turn forwarded it to the City Council.
“She sent me an email stating that they were unable to locate or find a veterinary facility in the Maryland, Delaware, Virginia area that had performed any kind of operation on Charlie, so we were at a bit of a loss as to how we would be able to compensate the former officer for that bill,” he said.
The memo also reported the OCPD contacted Chesapeake Veterinary Surgical Services in Annapolis. This was the facility Campbell said referred him to another veterinary surgeon and had previously operated on the dog, but DiPino reported the last contact the facility had with Campbell was back on Feb. 16, 2010.
In her memo, DiPino said the internal investigation contradicted Campbell’s claims, which she believes the public has a right to know.
Earlier this month, Campbell resigned after the department reportedly was slow to retire Charlie in order to allow him to have the surgery he required. Campbell ultimately paid for the surgery.
Charlie was originally injured in May of 2009 and required surgery to repair and replace slipped discs in his back. Charlie later returned to service with the department, but scar tissue from the original surgery was causing nerve damage in the animal’s back and it became evident a second surgery was needed.
By Nov. 28, Campbell knew it was time to alleviate Charlie’s severe pain but he wasn’t entirely sure on how to proceed. If the dog wasn’t officially retired by the department, he remained town property, and Campbell felt he could not have the surgery done because the dog did not technically belong to him. It wasn’t until Dec. 5 that Campbell received the retirement papers from the police department and the surgery took place.
Once the City Council decided to reimburse Campbell for the surgery, he sent a letter to the council rejecting the offer and stated that the costs of the surgery were never the issue, as well as he has never asked anybody to pay for it.
“I am not sure what transpired there, whether the operation took place or not, but Pfc. Campbell has stated he does not want, or has never requested to be reimbursed,” Meehan said. “So I guess that is his personal decision whether he releases that information [surgery invoice] if he has it, or if he chooses not to.”
This week Campbell did not want to comment on the matter but expressed that he and his family wish to move on from the issue as a result of serious threats being made against him and his children.
“If his personal feelings are that it is over and he would like to move on, I support that decision,” Meehan said. “I think that we should all move on.”
The mayor added that the council members who did vote to reimburse Campbell for Charlie’s surgery costs had reasons in doing so, including compassion for the animal.
“I would hope that the officer would recognize that and would supply that bill in support of those that did vote to reimburse, whether or not he chooses to be reimbursed or not,” he said.