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Former Gloucester County, N.J., Prosecutor Andrew Yurick is suing the county and the state for removing him from office when his five-year term expired but before his replacement came on board. Yurick claims he had a statutory right to stay on the job in the interim. He also raises whistleblower and retaliation counts against the county freeholders, who he says subjected him to “administrative harassment” for prosecuting associates of local politicians on drug charges. The suit, filed Sept. 12 in Gloucester County Superior Court, names the freeholders, the state, Attorney General David Samson and Gov. James McGreevey as defendants. Yurick, whom Samson discharged on Feb. 1, claims that the state was obligated to keep him on until Sean Dalton took office on May 31, because N.J.S.A. 2A:158-1 states that a prosecutor serves “for a term of 5 years and until the appointment and qualification of his successor.” Instead, Samson appointed First Assistant Prosecutor Mary White to serve as interim county prosecutor in the four-month period between Yurick’s departure and Dalton’s arrival. “I think it raises an important constitutional issue,” says Yurick’s attorney, Linda Wong of Wong Fleming in Princeton. The prosecutor “should not be unilaterally succeeded by the attorney general unless there is cause, such as misconduct, and in this case there has been none. You risk the danger of infecting the prosecutor’s office with politics.” Yurick, a Republican appointed by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, often argued with the Democrat-controlled freeholder board over funding and personnel issues. His complaint includes a federal civil rights claim, namely that the state and county conspired to violate his rights under 42 U.S.C. 1985 by removing him from his position and interfering with his work after his office broke up a drug ring last year. He says that “individuals related to, or otherwise associated with defendants or the local Democratic Party” were arrested in the drug sweep. Supervision of the drug case was transferred to the attorney general’s office about six weeks ago because Dalton said he recognized the names of 10 or 11 of the 56 people arrested in that case from his childhood, says state Division of Criminal Justice spokesman John Hagerty. Hagerty says that the assistant county prosecutor assigned to those cases, Michael Curwin, will report to state officials and will not discuss the cases with Dalton or his executive staff. Hagerty declines to comment on Yurick’s suit. Gloucester County Counsel Martin Abramson says he is confident the retaliation claim will be disproved, adding that Yurick is incorrect in thinking he could stay beyond the end of his term.

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