Pennsylvania - Fired Reading police Officer Mark S. Groff has lost a federal court battle to get his job back and more than $150,000 in damages from the city and police Chief William M. Heim.
Following an eight-day trial in U.S. District Court in Allentown, a federal jury said the city had the right to fire Groff for repeatedly fraternizing with the Pagans motorcycle gang while he was off-duty.
The jury agreed that violated a contract clause that bans police from associating with a felon or someone with a reputation for criminal behavior. Groff, a four-year veteran, also was accused of alcohol abuse and lying during the internal affairs probe.
"I'm glad the jury ruled in our favor," said Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer. "It think it validated the concerns the chief had."
Heim fired Groff in June 2009, and Spencer was president of City Council when it backed the move.
Groff filed a grievance over the firing, but an arbitrator ruled in the city's favor in March 2010.
In his federal suit filed in June 2011, Groff said he was a member of the Leathernecks motorcycle club, consisting of honorably discharged Marine veterans.
He said that what the city called illegal fraternization with the Pagans motorcycle club was really just negotiations that got the Pagans to stop beating up members of his club.
Groff had claimed his supervisors were aware of his efforts, but didn't warn him he was doing anything wrong.
Heim had been named among the defendants, but subsequent court rulings dismissed him as a party.
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