York City officer accused of reenacting George Floyd murder continues fight

Brandon Addeo
York Dispatch
York City Police Chief Troy Bankert, left, and Officer Clayton Swartz as officials investigate a fatal shooting reported near the corner of South West and West Princess Streets in York City, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said the shooting resulted in the death of an adult male and an injured juvenile who was transported to York Hospital. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Attorneys for the York City officer suspended after allegedly reenacting George Floyd's murder at a party have asked a county judge to reconsider his ruling.

Lawyers for Officer Clayton Swartz motioned Judge Matthew Menges to reconsider his Aug. 5 decision, which overruled a series of objections from Swartz to the city's appeal of his reinstatement. In response, city Mayor Michael Helfrich said that the judge overturning his decision "doesn't seem like a likely case."

Three people had previously accused Swartz of jokingly pressing his knee on the neck of another man at a party in May 2020, shortly after Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer in the same manner. A three-member police trial board found Swartz not guilty of violating department policy, and an arbitrator later sided with Swartz and recommended he be reinstated with lost wages.

More:Trial board clears York City police officer of wrongdoing

More:Judge rejects argument from suspended officer accused of imitating George Floyd death

The city had since appealed the trial board ruling to the county's Court of Common Pleas.

"It is the decision of the administration that Officer Swartz should not be an officer with the York City Police Department," Helfrich said during his weekly online address. "However, we have to follow all the rules and so we have to play these out in court and arbitration."

More:Arbitrator says York City officer accused of reenacting Floyd death can return to work

The city's appeal drew preliminary objections from Swartz's lawyers. Some points of contention were that the trial board's decision was "final and binding" under the police union's collective bargaining agreement, and that the Court of Common Pleas shouldn't have jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

Menges' Aug. 5 decision threw out each of Swartz's objections individually, in addition to ruling that his attorneys can't submit such objections under local agency law.  

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Motion to reconsider: One other significant ruling by Menges was that the "final and binding" legal language doesn't apply to a police trial board, as Swartz's attorneys argued, but to a legally distinct "board of appeals."

In their motion to reconsider, Swartz's attorneys argued that the city acknowledged that a police trial board and board of appeals are the same thing in prior court filings; Swartz attorneys Ed Paskey and Douglas France wrote that should "shock (the) court's conscience."

For that reason, they argue, the judge must reconsider his ruling and overturn a past motion from another county judge that allowed the city to appeal the trial board ruling.

More:Judge orders York City Police trial board to issue findings in Clayton Swartz case

Attorneys for the city government filed a brief motion asking Menges to either deny Swartz's attorneys' new motion outright, or give the city the chance to file its own motion opposing Swartz's.

Separate from that appeal effort in the county courts, Swartz also recently sued the city to get his job back. That lawsuit seeks his immediate reinstatement with lost wages and additional monetary damages.

More:York officer accused of reenacting George Floyd murder sues city, demanding reinstatement

City attorneys haven't yet responded to the lawsuit.