Judge finds again that ex-Pittsburgh cop ineligible to serve as Ellwood City chief

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A federal judge today found for the second time that a Pennsylvania board did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when it stopped former Pittsburgh police officer Richard McDonald from serving as Ellwood City's chief of police.

The Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission declined to recertify Mr. McDonald as a police officer after Ellwood City hired him in 2007, despite several doctors' opinions that a past back injury did not disable him, because he was taking the pain medication Avinza.

U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry dismissed the case, but in June the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent it back to him, saying he erred in finding that the commission was not covered by the act.

Judge McVerry today again dismissed the case, for different reasons.

"McDonald clearly did not have an actual disability," the judge wrote in a 29-page opinion.

The commission "merely refused to certify McDonald as a police officer due to concern over the side effects of his Avinza medication."

Mr. McDonald didn't present any evidence showing that Avinza was the only medicine he could take, the judge continued.

Judge McVerry wrote that he empathized with Mr. McDonald but was "reluctant to usurp MPOETC's authority to issue certifications."

Mr. McDonald is now working for an insurance company, Judge McVerry wrote.

Mr. McDonald's attorney, Timothy O'Brien, could not be immediately reached for comment.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. First Published October 31, 2012 12:45 AM


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