June 10, 2014

Judge orders Arlington to rehire officer

The city plans to appeal the ruling to rehire Tibor Kovacs, who was fired three years ago after being accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend and interfering with the investigation.

A Tarrant County judge reinstated an Arlington police officer who was fired three years ago after being accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend and interfering with the investigation.

State District Judge David Evans ruled late Monday that the Police Department should immediately rehire Tibor Kovacs and awarded him $164,471 in back pay.

Assistant City Attorney Melinda Barlow said that Arlington plans to appeal the ruling and that Kovacs had not rejoined the force as of Tuesday and had not received the back pay.

“As long as we continue to exercise the right to appeal, the judgment does not go into effect until the final ruling of the last court of jurisdiction,” Barlow said.

Christopher Livingston, an attorney for Kovacs, said the city is violating the judge’s ruling as well as an order from an arbitrator.

“The city is going to continue spending money on an outside law firm to fight this. The fact that the city has continued to disregard the law has been frustrating,” Livingston said.

The case wound its way through the courts for more than two years and pitted Arlington against Kovacs, who was fired in January 2011 while in jail on charges that he sexually assaulted his girlfriend and retaliated against Arlington and Cedar Hill police officers who investigated the case.

A Dallas County grand jury eventually declined to indict Kovacs in the assault.

At the time, Kovacs was on paid leave for an October 2010 incident in which he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman whom he saw driving erratically. The woman told Kovacs that she had been at a strip club where she was previously employed and was “ a little tipsy.”

She said Kovacs assaulted her while she was riding in the front seat of his patrol car, but the charges were dropped a month after the officer was released from jail in March 2011.

The legal battle between Arlington and Kovacs centered on a ruling from arbitrator Frederick Ahrens that said Kovacs should be reinstated with back pay, including for time spent in jail.

Arlington said Ahrens acted outside his authority because he considered evidence not available when Kovacs was fired.

The city also wanted Kovacs to complete evaluations from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, including a declaration of psychological and emotional health, as well as a new criminal history check.

Livingston said Kovacs has completed the requirements, including passing a psychological evaluation and criminal history.

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