TOMS RIVER-A campaign of mudslinging and personal assaults has been ongoing against Justin Lamb, a Lavallette police officer who is challenging Jersey Shore pizza magnate Maria Maruca for her seat on the Toms River Council this November. Those attacks were increased this week, just two weeks before the June 6th primary election.
Lamb, an independent Republican has been challenging what he calls the “status quo” in Toms River and the establishment Toms River GOP organization.
His campaign calls for the end of the status quo, nepotism, cronyism and patronage in Toms River and for a more conservative approach to governing the township, but local party Republicans aren’t happy about it. They have engaged in a smear campaign that is reminiscent of turn of the century Haelig style politics.
Through aggressive and negative campaign mailers, personal public information searches and direct personal attacks against Lamb, the Republicans are hoping they can squash Lamb’s growing momentum across the township to save their ward 1 seat on the council.
Last week, the Republicans slammed Lamb for the defeat of a lavish $14 million taxpayer funded fire headquarters in downtown Toms River. Lamb was publicly against the expensive endeavor, but in the end, the township residents voted overwhelmingly against the project. Lamb, and township voters were immediately branded “Anarchists” by GOP leaders. Councilman Brian Kubiel, who also serves as a Fire District No. 1 administrator backed the project, which he claimed would save tax dollars in the long run and could provide as a future home to paid firefighters. Many voters felt the $14 million price tag was too high and the station too large.
Then came a report out of the GOP headquarters in downtown Toms River that Lamb, a veteran police officer had a negative confrontation with a Toms River police officer who was responding to a noise complaint at a house party. Police recorded Lamb’s condescending remarks to an arriving officer. The two had a short spat, but it was quickly resolved and no charges or summonses were issued. The GOP said the report was found through an open public records (OPRA) search they conducted against Lamb.
This week, we obtained a copy of that OPRA request. It was submitted by Sherri Pollina, a resident of Jackson Township who has close and personal ties to Toms River Councilman Kevin Geohegan and former Jackson Township Police Officer Brian Geoghegan.
Pollina, according to our own records search is a relative of Brian Geoghegan, and Toms River Councilman Kevin Geoghegan. We attempted to contact Pollina to inquire about her interest in Toms River’s Ward 1 election campaign, but she has not yet responded to our request.
Pollina’s request had the markings of a witch hunt. In her public filing with the Township of Toms River, she requested, “All accident reports listing Justin Lamb as a driver or passenger; copies of all summons issued to Justin Lamb; Any report or incident in the police CAD system [database] with Justin Lamb as a victim, reporting person or in the narrative mentioned.”
Sources close to the department also said similar requests were filed in Berkeley Township and Lavallette.
Pollina amended her request to include Lamb’s Toms River address, “Any police response to 109 [Lamb’s Toms River Address] Avenue and the disposition can also be emailed to me,” she wrote.
Toms River Republicans have previously disputed Lamb’s official residence at Buerman Avenue, yet requested Lamb’s activities at that address.
Days after Pollina received Lamb’s police records from the Toms River Police Department, which contained no record of violations, summonses or arrests, the records were in the hands of the Toms River GOP who used them to launch another attack on their challenger.
This week, mailers were sent out across ward 1, paid for by “Continued Prosperity PAC” citing Lamb as a Fake candidate and a Democrat, warning voters to “use caution”. That PAC was traced back to the offices of Bellu Memoli in Toms River, an influential professional services firm that has received public contracts from many Ocean County municipalities over the years. The firm is the home of Toms River political power brokers Carmen Memoli and Juan Bellu. Bellu, the recently ousted Toms River GOP chairman also serves as the chairman of the Toms River MUA. His partner, Carmen Memoli serves as the MUA’s vice chairman.
Lamb, a veteran police officer, used to verbal abuse and unprovoked altercations, isn’t bothered by the personal attacks against him by his opponent, Maria Maruca.
“Here they go again,the GOP hit club, my opponent’s puppet master,” he joked about the relationship between GOP Chairman Robert DiBiase and Maruca. “My opponent’s 13 year legacy is high taxes, slow recovery, and neighborhoods in decline all while she sits silent and waits for the next photo-op. It’s time for someone to be elected by the people, not handpicked as she was in 2004.”
Lamb also used the opportunity to slam DiBiase’s attacks against him.
“To the GOP club puppet master: The voters tell me YOU are on life support, I strongly believe it,” he added.
Lamb then got back to the issues at hand.
“The voters want change. They demand representation that will boldly serve them, not just talk,” he said. “They do not want to be betrayed again by a firehouse tax increase disguised as a public safety necessity. I will never vote for or stay silent on any tax increase, because I believe in small government at all costs.”