BRIDGETON — Cumberland County is preparing to settle a lawsuit filed by a Prosecutor’s Office employee who wants her 2013 demotion — linked to comments she made about a visit to an adult boutique — reversed.
The visit involved the plaintiff, Francine Hovermann, and county Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McCrae, who bought adult toys at the Philadelphia shop owned by Hovermann’s son.
An internal affairs investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office into comments Hovermann made about the visit, and her actions during that investigation, resulted in both a reprimand and Hovermann’s demotion from office administrator to legal secretary.
The county Board of Chosen Freeholders was to vote Tuesday on a settlement agreement involving Hovermann’s lawsuit. Hovermann would receive $63,806.86, according to the authorizing resolution.
The board never voted on the measure, with county Administrator Ken Mecouch saying final details of the settlement are still being worked out with Hovermann and her attorney.
The resolution could be put up for a vote when the freeholders meet next Tuesday, provided the details are complete, he said. If not, the settlement would undergo a vote by the freeholders next month, he said.
Jennifer Webb-McRae wants another term as Cumberland County’s prosecutor.
County Counsel Theodore Baker said the freeholders might have to further discuss the proposed settlement if it undergoes any changes.
County officials didn’t discuss the settlement Tuesday because it involves litigation.
However, the resolution states that both Hovermann and the county want to bring “an end to all disputes between them by entering into a settlement agreement and terminating all litigation between the parties.”
Hovermann alleged in Superior Court documents that she was reprimanded for telling another Prosecutor’s Office employee that Webb-McRae bought the adult toys in January 2013. The visit to the shop followed a dinner to celebrate Hovermann’s birthday.
Hovermann also contests a demotion imposed for her reviewing confidential documents regarding the internal investigation into her comments, and then not telling supervisors she saw the documents.
Documents that accompany Hovermann’s lawsuit include a letter to Hovermann from First Assistant Prosecutor Harold Shapiro.
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Shapiro tells Hovermann that the reprimand resulted from her “lack of candor” during the internal investigation. He further writes that Hovermann’s “untruthfulness acted as a hindrance to the investigation.”
Hovermann’s demotion resulted from a “direct violation of the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office policy manual and code of ethics for county prosecutors,” states a final notice of disciplinary action approved by Webb-McRae in September 2013.
Hovermann’s attempt to have her demotion overturned follows an unsuccessful bid to have her reprimand voided.