JACKSON-Former Jackson Township Engineer Daniel Burke has filed an unfair public employment practice charge against Mayor Michael Reina. The charge was filed March 2nd, according to state records. Reina fired Burke, who earned $137,000 from his job as the township engineer and outsourced Burke’s job to one of the mayor’s political patronage firms, T&M associates for $165 per hour, nearly tripling the pay for the position by the hour.
Burke said Reina fired him because he unionized the town’s administrative labor workforce in 2016. Burke is a retired U.S Marine Corps infantry officer. He attained the rank of major between 1979 and 1999. Burke had worked with Jackson Township for 18 years before he was fired by the mayor, who also works for the Ocean County Road Department, a political patronage job which was brokered for him by former Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore, according to members of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders who wished to remain anonymous.
“Beginning in mid-2015, shortly after I filed a petition…to form a supervisor’s bargaining unit for Jackson Township’s municipal supervisors and continuing until August 31, 2019, when I was [fired], Mayor Michael Reina and his agents engaged in a series of unlawful and harassing actions against me solely due to my union activities,” Burke said in the complaint. “These actions included a demotion from the title of Director of Community Development and Enforcement along with a significant loss in wages, and then disciplining me for not continuing to do the work of that title.”
Burke said Reina filed additional false and unfounded disciplinary charges against Burke, cut his department budget and refusing to replace staff vacancies causing undue stress. He said the mayor refused to respond to numerous written communications sent to him by Burke and even yelled and screamed at the former Marine Corps officer. Reina never served in the armed forces.
According to the complaint, Reina refused to pay Burke his accrued leave benefits as agreed to in his employment agreement and filed false statements with the Civil Service Commission, resulting in his layoff and that of another staff member.
“He fired me without just cause during the lawful term of my employment as Municipal Engineer in conflict with NJSA 40A:9-140,” Burke claims.
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“This is solely in retaliation for my union activities,” Burke said.
Burke is suing Reina for lost wages, reinstatement and to restore his accrued time off and pension benefits. He is also seeking punitive damages.
This week Reina also fired Department of Public Works Director Fred Rasiewicz who also worked with Burke to create the union. Reina has also been at odds with another decorated Marine Corps veteran he works with, Councilman Ken Bressi. This year, Reina and Council President Barry Calogero exacted political revenge against Bressi, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, for testifying under oath in a lawsuit filed by Agudath Israel of America against Reina.
County officials also said a court case is pending against Reina at his county supervisor job with the bridge department. According to insiders, Reina showed up at the Beaver Dam bridge and startled a female employee who went into heart failure. That employee was later fired at Reina’s request according to county officials.
Reina is also facing another county employee grievance according to the county and is the defendant in no less than four civil rights and RLUIPA legal cases against the township.
Today, the New Jersey Public Employee Relations Commission acknowledged the receipt of Burke’s complaint and opened an investigation, led by Commission Staff Agent Marisa Koz. Reina must respond by May 1st with an executed copy of Burke’s employment agreement and provide justification as to why Reina chose to fire the former engineer. Reina has to show the state good cause and why his termination of the Marine Corps veteran officer would not constitute unfair business practices.