MANVILLE — A police chief placed on paid leave after a lawsuit accused him of repeated sexual assault is reportedly under investigation by the state Attorney General.

NJ Advance Media reported that the Attorney General's Office is leading the investigation into Manville police Chief Thomas Herbst. The outlet reported that the accuser's attorney and labor counsel for Manville confirmed the report.

“We are hoping that the Attorney General’s Office concludes this investigation so that we can move forward with whatever action that is appropriate with these officers,” labor counsel Franklin Whittlesey said in a statement.

The shocking accusations against Herbst emerged in a lawsuit filed on Feb. 15 by a borough aide. It claimed a “prolonged pattern and practice of abhorrent sexual harassment” starting in 2009.

Herbst, who was the accuser's supervisor at the time, started by masturbating in front of her and groping her, according to the lawsuit. It claims he then escalated to raping her in the police archive room around ten times.

As time passed, he began raping her at her home and at a hotel parking lot regularly, the suit said. The accuser, a single mother, said she did not report the incidents for fear of losing her job.

The lawsuit also claimed Lt. Paul Meixner pointed a shotgun at the accuser and laughed after she asked him to do some work for her.

Manville Council held an emergency meeting after the lawsuit came to light and voted to place Herbst and Meixner on leave with pay.

State records show Herbst makes a salary of $173,945. Meixner's salary is $156,715.

Whittlesey reportedly told NJ Advance Media that Herbst and Meixner cannot be put on active duty amid an ongoing criminal investigation.

“When and if criminal charges are filed or disciplinary action initiated, we will be able to remove them from paid leave,” Whittlesey reportedly said. “Until then, they are presumed innocent and there are laws which address the manner in which police officers can be suspended with and without pay.”

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at richard.rickman@townsquaremedia.com

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