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A county prosecutor can’t file a whistleblower suit claiming his failure to be reappointed was in retaliation for carping about insufficient funding, the New Jersey state Supreme Court ruled June 22. The decision, which leaves former Gloucester County, N.J.Prosecutor Andrew Yurick without a remedy, reverses an appellate ruling that the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 et seq., protects broadly against retaliation and should be read liberally. Yurick, a Republican who had been hoping for a second, five-year term when his first expired on Feb. 1, 2002, was removed from office by Attorney General David Samson. Gov. James McGreevey had so instructed Samson by letter, writing that an audit of Yurick’s office had identified management deficiencies. Yurick then sued McGreevey and Samson, alleging retaliation for having made complaints that his office was underfunded, and the Democratic-dominated freeholder board, claiming funds were withheld because he was a Republican. The trial court dismissed the suit but the Appellate Division revived it. The justices were unanimous in bouncing the suit, Yurick v. New Jersey, A-34/35-04 [digested in this issue at page 52], finding the complained-of actions were not CEPA-protected. Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said McGreevey and Samson did nothing improper. She noted that N.J.S.A. 52:17B-103 authorizes the attorney general to “maintain a general supervision” over prosecutors’ activities and supersede if necessary. And N.J.S.A. 52:17B-106 says the attorney general “shall” supersede if the governor makes a written request. Had he not been superseded, LaVecchia said, Yurick would have remained a holdover until McGreevey renominated him (which was unlikely) or chose someone else. As for his budget complaints, Yurick failed to follow N.J.S.A. 2A:158-7, which says a prosecutor who believes the freeholders did not provide enough can file an action with the assignment judge, who in turn can order the freeholders to provide more money, LaVecchia said. His attorney, Linda Wong, says Yurick did not pursue that route because the freeholders were also withholding budget information from him. Wong, of Princeton, N.J.’s Wong Fleming, notes that the justices did not address Yurick’s claims of a hostile workplace and improper intrusion by the freeholders into his duties. Yurick, a Woodbury, N.J., solo, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. The freeholders’lawyer, William Tambussi of Westmont’s Brown & Connery, says the court reached a logical conclusion. Officials of the Department of Law and Public Safety are satisfied with the ruling, says spokesman Peter Aseltine.

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