TOMS RIVER, NJ – Toms River Township Councilman Daniel Rodrick has indicted fellow council members Maria Maruca, Terrance Turnbach, Josh Kopp, Kevin Geoghegan and Matthew Lotano in a pay-to-play scheme to award New Jersey Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin an extremely lucrative contract for legal services in the township. Rodrick contends the councilmembers broke township law by awarding a no-bid contract to a campaign donor. He also charged that Councilman Terrance Turnbach who routinely abstains from votes to pay McGuckin’s law firm also has a conflict of interest that should have barred him from approving the nearly $500,000 contract for services.
According to the charges filed with the Superior Court of New Jersey Law Division, Rodrick contends the appointment of McGuckin violates a township pay-to-play law adopted back in 2009. Under that law, the township elected to bar any person who donated money to political campaigns the ability to work for the township. This law sought to mitigate out-of-control pay-to-play corruption where campaign donors who donate to political campaigns expect a quid-pro-quo favor in return, typically in the appointment of a six-figure public contract.
According to New Jersey Election Commission reports, McGuckin donated $1,950 to Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill’s campaign, $1,650 to Councilman Kevin Geoghegan, $1,650 to Josh Kopp and $1,650 to Matt Lotano.
Those campaign contributions would have made McGuckin ineligible to receive the $500,000 no-bid contract awarded to him by the council and mayor last month.
Township attorney Ken Fitzsimmons acknowledged the township did not go out to bid for this job that was awarded to McGuckin. McGuckin has pushed his weight around in Ocean County. His firm was awarded several more public contracts this year to add to the dozens the firm already holds.
It is estimated that McGuckin’s firm now receives more than $2,000,000 annually in public contracts throughout Ocean County.
Rodrick alleges that Councilwoman Maria Maruca, Councilman Terrance Turnbach and Councilman Matthew Lotano have had relationships with McGuckin’s law firm that should have precluded them from the discussion and vote on McGuckin’s appointment, as evidenced by their repeated abstaining on bills and claims pertaining to McGuckin’s law firm.
Rodrick is seeking to void the appointment of McGuckin to the newly created position of Director of Public Law. Since being appointed to that position, McGuckin has not attended a single township council meeting as that meeting conflicts with the Jackson Township council meeting, which McGuckin also serves as the town’s chief legal counsel.