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Beaver County First Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Popovich submitted her resignation today after 17 years with the county.
Sources say her resignation letter came about two weeks after she filed a complaint against District Attorney David Lozier for “exceedingly unprofessional comments” he made to another female prosecutor in his office.
Four separate courthouse sources, speaking on condition of anonymity to BeaverCountian.com, corroborated and confirmed that Popovich went to the county Human Resources Office on Aug. 8 to file a complaint against Lozier on behalf of Assistant District Attorney Angela Reed-Strathman.
Popovich declined to provide comment for this report, but sources close to her say it was on Aug. 7 when Reed-Strathman contacted her about a conversation she had with Lozier that afternoon.
Based on Reed-Strathman’s account of the conversation, the sources said, Popovich determined she had a legal obligation as a supervisor to report Lozier to Human Resources.
Reed-Strathman also declined to provide comment for this report. But two courthouse sources with direct knowledge of the complaint said the incident occurred after the close of business on Aug. 7, at about 4:37 p.m., when Lozier told her he wanted to speak with her.
“Lozier calls her in by himself after hours. There was a baby death that day and she thought it would be case related,” said one source.
“He asked her if there are ‘any medical conditions’ she has that he needed to be aware of. She said no, she did not have a medical condition, but then told him that she is having a child. … He asked her if she was having one or two.”
According to the sources, Lozier then began asking Reed-Strathman details about her pregnancy. She is due in January.
“He asked her if her last child was early or late, and she assured him that the office had her case load under control and that anything that needs done on those cases will be finished before the end of the year. … He told her that’s too late and the cases will need dealt with sooner. He said ‘jurors don’t like pregnant women, they make them uncomfortable. It’s not fair to anyone including the defendant.'”
Human Resources Director Sidney Shaw declined to provide comment for this report, citing the confidentiality of employee complaints. But BeaverCountian.com was able to independently verify the existence of an Aug. 13 email she sent to Popovich and Reed-Strathman after meeting with Lozier on Aug. 12 about the matter.
Lozier essentially confirmed the details of the complaint, although he told Shaw his remarks had been taken in the wrong light, a source said. He also told Shaw that he had felt hurt that Reed-Strathman had not told him about her pregnancy.
The county Human Resources Office is a department under the Board of Commissioners, and according to Pennsylvania law has no authority over Lozier as an independently elected official.
Shaw documented the incident in the event Reed-Strathman decided to file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a source said.
This is not the first time Reed-Strathman had expressed concerns about Lozier.
In March, Reed-Strathman received an ethics advisory opinion from the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee in response to her request for guidance about what she felt could be unethical directives Lozier was giving her.
Lozier would not follow her advice to “conflict himself out” of cases filed against Aliquippa Assistant Police Chief Joseph Perciavalle. The PBA’s guidance led to Lozier turning them over to the state Attorney General’s Office, which subsequently dropped one of the remaining charges filed against Perciavalle by county detectives.
Sources close to Popovich said she had been “miserable” working under Lozier.
“County judges often asked her to explain the actions of her boss, which she was unable to do because Lozier’s actions often defy rational explanation,” a source said.
“She was already looking for another job before the incident involving (Reed-Strathman), but this was definitely the straw that fractured the camel’s broken back in new places. … She redoubled her efforts and with her experience and reputation it didn’t take her long to find employment elsewhere.”
Popovich’s last day is slated for Sept. 13, when she is expected to join a law firm in Pittsburgh.
Lozier did not comment about the complaint filed by Reed-Strathman, but wished Popovich well in her future endeavors.
“I always encourage my employees to grow in their profession,” Lozier told BeaverCountian.com.
“Jennifer is a fine lawyer and master trial lawyer. That’s why I asked her to serve as my first assistant four years ago. This move is great for Jennifer, who served this office well for a long time. She will be hard to replace.”