ELIZABETH, NJ — State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has replaced Acting Union County Prosecutor Michael Monahan with his top aide and called on Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove to resign in the wake of an investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office that confirmed Cosgrove used derogatory terms to refer to staff.
First Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Davenport was appointed acting prosecutor, in addition to her state duties, according to a statement by Grewal’s office April 26. She is to assure that the “UCPO exercises appropriate oversight of the Elizabeth Police Department and works to rebuild trust with the community and external stakeholders,” the statement said.
Davenport becomes Union County’s fifth acting prosecutor in less than two years. She follows Grace Park, who resigned in 2017, Thomas Isenhour, Ann Luvera and Monahan. Union County has not had someone with the full prosecutor title since Theodore Romankow served in the role from 2002 to 2013.
The governor has the nominal power to appoint county prosecutors, however Grewal said he was exercising his “authority under the Criminal Justice Act of 1970” to remove Monahan and replace him with Davenport.
“One of the core responsibilities of an effective law enforcement leader is to maintain the trust of the community he or she serves,” Grewal said. “Director Cosgrove has violated that trust and, in doing so, undermined confidence in our system of justice. I believe that Director Cosgrove should resign his position immediately.
“Conduct like this requires a prompt, comprehensive response.”
In addition to appointing Davenport, Grewal designated another of his aides, Joseph Walsh, special assistant to the attorney general, to serve as “counsel to Acting Prosecutor Davenport.”
Walsh will oversee the internal affairs functions of the Elizabeth Police Department.
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office announced April 23 that it had assumed oversight of the Elizabeth Police Department’s internal affairs division.
Monahan will return to the post of deputy attorney general in the Division of Criminal Justice, a position he held before taking the acting prosecutor’s role in Union County, Attorney General Office spokeswoman Sharon Lauchaire said in an email to LocalSource.
The upheaval came following complaints to the Prosecutor’s Office by Westfield attorney Josh McMahon, filed in February, that accused Cosgrove of using a disparaging term in reference to some women and a slur in reference to black people in the Elizabeth Police Department. McMahon represents a woman in a civil matter against Cosgrove that repeats many of the same charges.
An April 16 letter signed by Monahan to McMahon said the Prosecutor’s Office investigation determined that Cosgrove “has used derogatory terms in the workplace when speaking about city employees.”
Copies of both letters were provided to LocalSource by McMahon.
McMahon did not immediately respond to a phone message left with his office. Similarly, an email sent to Elizabeth Police Department spokesman Lt. Michael Kelly did not elicit a response.
As reported previously by LocalSource, McMahon represented one of the police officers who ultimately sued the borough of Mountainside last year on sexual harassment charges that led to the resignation of the police chief and another senior officer and the suspension of a third.
According to Grewal’s statement, he has directed Davenport to “conduct an audit of EPD’s workplace culture, including its hiring and promotional practices and to “ensure that all EPD managers and officers are appropriately trained on matters of implicit bias and sexual harassment.
“Here in New Jersey, we have worked hard to strengthen trust between police and the communities we serve, and we have no patience for those who fail to recognize that our ultimate responsibility is to the laws of this state and the people of New Jersey. While I have great faith in the men and women who make up the Elizabeth Police Department, it is apparent that their director has fallen short.”