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Mayor: Pittsburgh officer acquitted of assault won't be rehired

| Thursday, April 22, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said yesterday that he won't rehire a police sergeant he fired because of domestic violence accusations unless an independent arbitrator forces him to do it.

An Allegheny County judge this week acquitted former Sgt. Eugene Hlavac on one count of simple assault, based on witness testimony that Hlavac was defending himself when he struck ex-girlfriend Lauren Maughan in the face during an argument Dec. 18.

"Hlavac should not be working with the city, and we will continue to take that course of action," said Joanna Doven, Ravenstahl's spokeswoman.

Police officials fired Hlavac, 43, in January after Maughan said he partially dislocated her jaw when he slapped her in front of their 3-year-old child, Austin.

After Common Pleas Judge Tom Flaherty announced his verdict, Hlavac said he would try to get his job back. He was on the police force for 18 years. He was paid $64,000 a year.

Phillip DiLucente, Hlavac's attorney, criticized the mayor's handling of the case and said his client will fight for his job.

"I think this is a political hot potato," DiLucente said. "I truly believe in my heart that this administration does not know how to deal with the policy of domestic allegations, not domestic abuse. They don't know how to deal with domestic allegations so that they're not infringing on a person's employment rights."

The matter of Hlavac's job likely will go before an independent arbitrator who would rule whether the city should reinstate Hlavac and whether he deserves back pay.

No date for an arbitration hearing is set.

Police Chief Nate Harper said he stands by his decision to fire Hlavac for violating the department's anti-domestic violence policy. The firing was not based on the crime with which Hlavac was charged, said police spokeswoman Diane Richard.

Dan O'Hara, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said he expects Hlavac to be reinstated with back pay. Based on his annual salary, Hlavac has not received 14 weeks of pay, or about $18,000.

"He's going to win because he did not get convicted of a criminal defense and there is no reason to fire him," O'Hara said. "It's going to be more wasted tax dollars when the arbitrator rules in his favor."

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