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Union: Cleared coach unfairly fired

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)

A former head football coach for Minnesota State University, Mankato, who was cleared of child pornography charges last year but reassigned to an administrative position, is no longer employed at the university, the school said Wednesday.

However, a faculty union said Todd Hoffner was fired and that it has filed a grievance over his termination.

Hoffner's last day on the university's payroll was Tuesday, school spokesman Dan Benson told The Associated Press. He declined to say whether Hoffner was fired or left on his own, calling it a private personnel matter, and also would not give further details.

Hoffner was charged with possession of child pornography in August after school officials found videos of his naked children on his work-issued cellphone, which he had turned in to be repaired. A judge cleared him in November, ruling that the short videos of his children acting silly after a bath were not child porn and showed nothing illegal.

After the criminal case was dismissed, university officials removed Hoffner as head football coach, reassigned him to an administrative role, as assistant athletic director for facilities development, and suspended him for 20 days for an unspecified reason. He tried to fight his reassignment and suspension though his union, the Inter Faculty Organization, which represents faculty in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

His attorney, Chris Madel, referred questions to the union. In a statement Wednesday, the union said the school terminated Hoffner and that the union immediately filed a grievance. That grievance will be combined with an earlier grievance over Hoffner's January suspension and reassignment and heard by an arbitrator this summer, the union said.

''We expect Coach Hoffner to prevail,'' the union said.

Hoffner does not have a listed phone number. KEYC-TV reported that Hoffner declined to answer questions from a reporter who went to his house in Eagle Lake.

KTOE radio first reported Hoffner's separation from the school.

Hoffner had a 34-13 record in his four years at Mankato. He was beginning a new four-year contract when he was escorted off a practice field in August, a few days after he returned his malfunctioning phone to the school. University technicians found the videos and notified university officials, who contacted police.

Hoffner was not allowed back and had to miss the Mavericks' 13-1 season, including their appearance in the NCAA Division II semifinals Dec. 8 under acting head coach Aaron Keen. In January, the school named Keen interim head coach pending a national search for a permanent head coach.

The MnSCU system has a policy prohibiting the use of university-issued cellphones or mobile devices for personal business.

On Friday, the judge ruled that the investigative file in Hoffner's criminal case should remain sealed, citing his family's right to privacy. Some news organizations had sought access to the file. But Blue Earth County District Judge Krista Jass wrote that because she had already found insufficient evidence of any harm to the family, their right to privacy outweighed the rights of the media to see the material.

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