PRINCETON — A former assistant prosecutor whose position was terminated June 10 after Mercer County’s prosecuting attorney did not win his bid for re-election filed a civil suit Wednesday against the prosecutor and the Mercer County Commission. 

David Pfeifer, who was hired in December 2018 as an assistant prosecuting attorney, learned that he had lost his job when, after the June 9 primary, he came to work and found a letter signed by Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler on his desk, according to the suit filed at the Mercer County Circuit Clerk’s Office by attorney Ryan McCune Donovan of Charleston.

The letter, dated June 10, consisted of one sentence stating, “Effective immediately your employment is terminated,” according to court documents.

Sitler, who ran against attorney Brian Cochran during the June 9 primary, had lost his bid to win the Republican nomination. Cochran will run unopposed this November. 

In the civil suit, Pfeifer’s attorneys said that Pfeifer had “served the county with distinction” while he was working in the prosecutor’s office, and “was never disciplined or reprimanded for any reason and received only positive performance reviews,” according to the court document. 

According to the court document, “Sitler engaged in an inappropriate pattern of exerting political pressure on his employees in order to coerce their political support. That effort culminated in Pfeifer’s unlawful termination.” Pfeifer’s attorneys argue in the civil suit that Sitler questioned Pfeifer’s loyalty to his re-election bid after Cochran announced his candidacy in January. 

Pfeifer’s attorney also argued in the court documents that Sitler and the Mercer County Commission violated their client’s constitutional rights “by terminating his employment based solely on Pfeifer’s perceived political beliefs and associations,” adding that the termination was also “malicious and oppressive.”

Sitler is being sued individually and as Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney along with the Mercer County Commission.

Sitler said Wednesday that he was aware of the civil suit, but could not comment about pending litigation.

Mercer County Commission President Gene Buckner said Wednesday evening that he had not yet been informed about the suit.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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