JACKSON-The rift between township Republican party members behind closed doors in Jackson spilled out into the open public hearing on September 10th. After what some political insiders describe as a public hit job to settle political scores within the Jackson Republican Club against Mayor Reina’s top political allies, Richard Egan, Dr. Sheldon Hoffstein and Joseph Sullivan, the trio were forced to resign by the council faction aligned with Jackson Township Republican County Committee Chairwoman Clara Glory, according to a statement made earlier by Sullivan.
In doing so, the Jackson Township Council effectively ousted Mayor Reina’s top political enforcers and campaign volunteers that led him to a nearly 3 to 1 victory last November against Phil Murphy Democrats who made a play for power in the township.
Hoffstein said his forced resignation by the council was unfair.
“It’s my opinion that the council acted hastily in requesting resignations without fully discussing the situation with the two zoning board members,” Hoffstein said. “Instead they bypassed the concept of fundamental fairness.”
He then launched an attack into council member Ken Bressi over an interview Bressi did for the group Lakewood Neighbors.
“This group plans to influence the future development of Jackson, Brick, Toms River, and Howell,” Hoffestein said. “Lakewood Neighbors is overwhelmingly Lakewood centric. It consists of leaders of the BMG Yeshiva, the VAAD, members of the Lakewood planning and zoning board, Lakewood civic leaders, Lakewood business leaders, Lakewood builders and other big shots, just a couple of outsiders.”
According to Lakewood Neighbors’ website, Jackson Mayor Michael Reina is one of the charter signees of the movement.
Hoffstein blamed the leadership of Lakewood Neighbors for the financial, social and political misfortunes of neighboring Lakewood Township.
“These Lakewood leaders have destroyed their town,” Hoffstein said. “Overcrowding, terrible traffic, lack of open space and the failed public schools that this leadership brings.”
Hoffstein, a member of the Jewish faith himself said many of the new Jackson residents involved in the mass exodus from Lakewood, Brooklyn and other heavily Orthodox communities have come to Jackson to escape from the overdevelopment and conditions in their former towns.
“Most of the new neighbors here in Jackson have the same feeling, they moved here because they want to get away from the overcrowding, the terrible traffic and they want open space for their family and friends,” he said.
He then accused Bressi of acting behind the backs of Jackson residents.
“What is Mr. Bressi planning to accomplish behind the backs of Jackson residents?” Hoffstein asked. Hoffstein called for the resignation of Councilman Bressi. “Is he Jackson Bressi or is he Lakewood Bressi?”
Richard Egan, known as one of Reina’s top enforcers and allies also lashed out at Bressi.
“We have a mess here, how did things get so far?” Asked former board member Richard Egan who blamed Bressi for his forced resignation. “He was demanding that we all resign.”
“How did my letter of resignation end up on the Lakewood Scoop Monday morning after being submitted to the township clerk on Friday?” Egan asked. “Dr. Hoffstein’s resignation ended up on the Lakewood Scoop an hour later…how did it get there?”
Egan claimed there was a “mole” in town hall feeding documents to the public after his resignation and those of Hoffstein and Joseph Sullivan were released shortly after being submitted.
Township clerk Janice Kisty notified Egan that an Open Public Records Act request was submitted to her office by a member of the public.
“We need a full council administration along with the business administrator to find out how these got to the Lakewood Scoop in two hours,” Egan said. “We can’t run a government like this?”
“Excuse me, but there was an OPRA request to my office,” Kisty said. Kisty added that she fulfilled the requests.
“That’s utterly incredible,” Egan said.
The three ousted board members claimed wrongdoings with the township council and township clerk and said any employee, volunteer or elected official found guilty of leaking information to the Lakewood Scoop should be fired or forced to resign.
Councilman Rob Nixon disagreed with the assessment but said he understood Egan’s opinion.
“They are public documents, there is no rule that you have to have an OPRA request,” Robert Nixon said.
Sullivan was visibly upset over his letter of resignation being delivered to the Lakewood Scoop soon after it was submitted to town hall.
“Is it normal procedure f0r an OPRA request to be responded to in one hour and thirty minutes?” Joseph Sullivan asked.
“If I have the information, I would respond right away,” Kisty said. “If the information is there, if not I have to research it.”
Sullivan, who serves on the Jackson Republican Club executive board also accused his fellow Republicans of allowing a scandal in the Lakewood Scoop to be used against him by the Township Council for his resignation but blamed Councilman Bressi for his resignation. He then alleged that Bressi leaked his resignation to the Lakewood Scoop for political retribution.
“In volunteering my service to Jackson, I did not give up my right to due process,” Sullivan said of his forced resignation. He then called for the resignation of Councilman Bressi and for the reinstatement of Hoffstein and Egan.
Earlier in the month, Sullivan blamed Jackson Township County Republican Committee Chairwoman Clara Glory for orchestrating the ousting of the trio, but later rescinded his comments, instead, he later blamed Bressi. Over the years Glory and Reina had not always seen eye to eye in politics in Jackson. In June, Glory and Reina were both split on their support for the next chairman of the Ocean County Republican Party. Glory, favoring the winner, Frank Holman, Reina initially backing his opponent Frank Sadeghi.
The outbursts at the council meeting echoed a growing fracture within the township’s Republican establishment after a former councilwoman, Anne Updegrave was quoted in court testimony as describing Reina, Nixon and Barry Calogero as “Anti-Semitic”.
Bressi today said that he would not respond to comments made by the three men, but said that he was contacted by the organization, along with other prominent elected officials across Ocean County and answered questions that were more about the social issues of the two communities moving together peacefully and there were no questions about development, specific developments, land use or other questions that could compromise his position on the planning board.
Lakewood Neighbors also interview former Ocean County GOP Chairman Joseph Buckelew, Freeholders Virginia Haines and Jack Kelly, chiefs of police and many other high ranking community officials outside of Lakewood and saw no problem in his duty as an elected official communicating with the media representative that reached out to him.
Photo by Lakewood Scoop.