Judge refuses to remove ex-Woodway official from sexual misconduct suit

Yost Zakhary and Sandra Bickel. (City photo/courtesy photo)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) For a fourth time, a judge has refused a request made by the attorneys representing the City of Woodway and Yost Zakhary to remove the former City Manager and Director of Public Safety as a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed against both parties by a veteran dispatcher alleging sexual misconduct.

On Tuesday, 170th District Court Judge Jim Meyer denied another motion to dismiss filed on behalf of Zakhary and the city, the defendants in Bickel v. Zakhary/City of Woodway.

Attorneys representing the plaintiff and alleged victim, Sandra Bickel, said they’re pleased with the judge's ruling, but not with the other side's behavior.

"We're just disappointed that the city's resources and their attorneys are spending all this time and all this effort trying to protect the perpetrator instead of the victim, it's ridiculous,” said Ryan Johnson, Bickel’s attorney.

During the hearing, the defendants’ attorneys charged only the suit against the city should move forward since the alleged sexual misconduct took place at work or at work-related functions, which they averred, falls “under the general scope of his employment,” and therefore, Zakhary should be dismissed from the case.

“The city’s attorneys are trying to suggest that rubbing your genitals on somebody and simulating a sex act is within the course and scope of employment of the police chief,” said Johnson.

“We just think that sexual misconduct, live simulating sex acts, isn't within the scope of the police chief's duties, and we think that most people in this county would agree with us, and for some reason the city's attorneys are hell-bent on getting Mr. Zakhary off the hook here."

While Bickel was present for the hearing, Zakhary was not; his attorneys would not provide an explanation and refused to comment on the case.

Although Woodway has a city attorney, additional representation has been hired to defend the city and Zakhary including attorneys John Hawkins and Roy Barrett of Naman Howell Smith and Lee, one of the largest law firms in Waco.

“The city's attorneys are spending the city and the citizen's resources trying to get the perpetrator off the hook rather than protecting their employee, the victim, and to us that's disappointing, and it's probably why people hate lawyers,” said Johnson.

Zakhary’s near 40-year career with Woodway ended in April when resigned from both of his positions after Bickel filed a sexual harassment complaint with the city and the state, then launched the lawsuit.

"The Texas Workforce Commission's division on civil rights is investigating the city's response to the sexual harassment complaint and the sexual assault," said Johnson. "We're waiting on those findings, then based on those we will determine whether or not to continue to pursue the claim against the city."

Johnson said they would pursue the claim against Zakhary, regardless of the outcome of the TWC complaint.

On Tuesday, Meyer also ruled-on and signed orders from a previous hearing on April 26.