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YOUNGSTOWN Acquitted officer denied back pay

Published: Sat, July 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.

The other officer involved in the case had a different arbiter, who reached the opposite conclusion.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Patrolman Mark Rakocy can't claim lost pay for the time it took him to be acquitted of robbing a man in a bar, an arbiter has ruled.
In a decision released Friday, arbiter Alan Miles Ruben of Bratenahl, Ohio concluded that he found no evidence to suggest that the police department pursued a sham investigation of Rakocy and co-defendant Patrolman Christopher Lombard because of some hidden agenda. On the contrary, Ruben said, the investigation was exhaustively pursued by the Internal Affairs Division.
Ruben disagreed with the union's contention that a finding of innocent dictates a corresponding finding that Rakocy's unpaid suspension was without just cause.
Ruben denied the grievance Rakocy filed to collect back pay for his suspension, which began April 20, 2001, and ended Jan. 31, 2002.
Rakocy, 34, and Lombard, 33, were cleared of robbery charges Jan. 29. A jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court deliberated eight hours before returning the verdicts.
Felony charges
The officers had been accused of roughing up a Struthers man in the restroom of the Pulse bar on Market Street in March 2001, taking $480 from him in the process.
Both officers were suspended without pay when indicted in April 2001. Under Ohio law, they could not carry a firearm while under indictment for a felony. They returned to work after the acquittal and filed grievance for back pay. Lombard won his grievance.
Administrative charges, which deal with rules violations, are still pending against both officers, said Capt. Martin F. Kane, internal affairs commander. Punishment can range from verbal reprimand to termination, he said.
Kane said he was puzzled, not by the arbiter's decision with Rakocy, but with the decision reached by the arbiter who decided that Lombard should be awarded back pay. "These were identical circumstances," Kane said Friday. Lombard's arbiter, James C. Duff of Pittsburgh, issued his decision May 13.

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