A Pittsburgh police sergeant fired after being accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend in 2009 must be allowed to keep his job, Commonwealth Court has ruled.
Sgt. Eugene Hlavac, an officer at Zone 2 in the Hill District, was arrested in December 2009 and charged with aggravated assault after allegedly slapping Lauren Maughan, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son, so hard that he partially dislocated her jaw. Sgt. Hlavac later was cleared of the charges, and an arbitration panel ordered him reinstated to his former rank, shift and duty location after Ms. Maughan failed to appear at two arbitration hearings -- once while under subpoena -- to testify against him.
The City of Pittsburgh appealed the grievance arbitration award, but Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and, on Wednesday, Commonwealth Court upheld the decision because they stated that without Ms. Maughan's testimony, city officials lacked sufficient evidence against Sgt. Hlavac.
Sgt. Hlavac's supporters cheered the Commonwealth Court decision.
"Justice is not swift, but it is certainly just," Phillip P. DiLucente, who represented Sgt. Hlavac in his criminal case, said Friday. "This is a long, long time coming."
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss, who pursued multiple appeals of the arbitration panel's decision, could not be reached for comment. Neither could Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, or Ms. Maughan.
Diane Richards, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Police, said she was unfamiliar with the Commonwealth Court's decision and declined to comment.
Sgt. Hlavac returned to "modified duty" at the department's warrant office after a judge cleared him of assault charges in April 2010. He has been working the night shift at Zone 2 for several months, according to an officer at the Hill District station.
As part of the arbitration award and the courts' affirmations of it, Sgt. Hlavac also is in line to recoup about $75,000 in lost wages and benefits, including about $25,000 in moonlighting pay that he previously earned during the same period.
The December 2009 incident between Sgt. Hlavac and Ms. Maughan began during a custody transfer of their son while Sgt. Hlavac was off-duty. Sgt. Hlavac later testified that he injured Ms. Maughan in self-defense, and a neighbor's testimony supported that assertion. Ms. Maughan testified that Sgt. Hlavac was the aggressor and that he slapped her while in uniform.
Sgt. Hlavac's previous conflicts with Ms. Maughan -- along with the fact that he and two other police officers with domestic violence allegations against them were promoted at the same time -- put pressure on city council in 2007 to pass the city's "zero-tolerance" policy against domestic abuse under which Sgt. Hlavac later was fired.
Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: 412-263-1719 or firstname.lastname@example.org .