JACKSON-It hasn’t even been one year since Lacey resident Frank B. Holman, III, not to be confused with Frank B. Holman, Jr., took control of the Ocean County Republican party, but scars continue to run deep between factions aligned with former chairman George Gilmore and the new party elite who have seized power in the months since the election.
Those power brokers under Holman include New Jersey Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin, Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines and the man behind the green curtain, attorney Jerry Dasti, who is partners in the firm of Dasti, McGuckin with the assemblyman.
In the months after winning control of the party, Holman’s henchmen began a campaign to take over business previously given to Gilmore and his allies, further expanding the rift between the new gang and the old gang, but one mayor in Ocean County found a way to start healing those wounds.
Mayor Michael Reina of Jackson said the taking and giving of contracts on each side over the years has caused bad blood among the party elite, so he said in his town, everyone’s getting a piece of the pie.
“We can’t keep doing things the way we have in the past, business as usual where only one side or the other gets work,” Reina said. “I spoke to Frankie (Holman) and he agrees, everyone needs a piece of the pie and that’s what I’m doing in Jackson.”
Reina said in the past, leadership in Ocean County’s GOP doled out contracts for loyalty and good behavior, but that process created problems, which led to the current regime’s open public contract warfare that erupted after Holman took office. This year, the McGuckin law firm, which also serves as the legal firm for the Lakewood Zoning Board seized control of millions of dollars in public funding in Manchester, Jackson and Lacey. Mayors were pressured into hiring Holman’s preferred firm, in some cases, those who did not were ostracized by the party.
Reina saw the rift this gluttonous and blatant selfishness was causing and said it wouldn’t happen in his town.
Although Reina admitted, he wanted the Jackson based lawfirm of Gertner & Gertner to be awarded the position of general legal counsel, Reina too caved into the demands from above to hire the Lakewood zoning board firm.
Instead, Gertner was awarded a contract to replace McGuckin on the township planning board. McGuckin has been under severe financial pressure over the past few years after he was the target of an IRS tax evasion investigation. Criminal charges were never filed. McGuckin entered into an agreement with the IRS instead to pay off the six-figure lien imposed on him by the IRS.
In January, Reina made good on his plan to give his campaign donors each a piece of the sweet, warm, aromatic taxpayer pie in Jackson.
Dasti, Murphy and McGuckin gave Reina a $2,200 campaign donation. For that, they received the largest piece of the pie, the holy grail appointment of general legal counsel in Jackson. That contract could net as much as a quarter of a million dollars for McGuckin and Dasti.
Chairman Holman donated $3,900 to Reina’s campaign. In addition to his over $6,000,000 in public contracts annually, Holman’s firm receives $100,000 annually in return from the township.
Engineers Remington and Vernick doled out a whopping $7,800, just $100 under the pay to play threshold to Reina’s campaign for reelection. That firm receives over $230,000 annually from the township.
Rehabco, of Brick Township donated $800. The firm was appointed by Reina and the council as the township’s affordable housing agent.
The lawfirm of Citta, Zabarsky and Holzapfel ponied up $2,000 to Reina’s campaign. In return, the firm is paid $45,000 to serve as the municipal prosecutor.
Morgan Engineering, owned by Frank Sadeghi, a Reina ally and fundraiser also received a piece of the pie this year. Sadeghi who has been on the outs with the Holman regime after he challenged Holman in the 2018 chairman election donated $600 to the campaign. The firm was appointed by Reina to serve as the town’s new land surveyor and special projects architect.
Wall Township firm French Parrello Associates donated $2,200 to the reelection campaign and receives $45,000 in annual public contracts from Jackson.
T&M Associates made a $7,800 contribution to Reina, again $100 under New Jersey’s pay to play threshold. The company in turn receives $285,000 annually from the township’s public contract.
Maser Consulting donated $1,100 to the political campaign and receives around $25,000 in return annually.
Jackson based Gertner & Gertner donated $1,100 to the campaign and was named as planning board attorney, a job which rewards about $140,000 annually.
Ian Borden, an engineer who regularly represents builders before the Jackson Township zoning and planning board donated $1,000.
The lawfirm of Memoli, PC of Toms River donated $500 was appointed to be the accountant for the rent leveling board.
So the pie in Jackson has been divided more fairly amongst some of the top political donors in the state and county. Time will tell if that equal cutting of the pie will indeed heal political wounds and decades-old rifts between professionals who make millions from the public annually.
By January, nearly all of Mayor Michael Reina’s large ticket campaign donors have received public contracts from the township council, now it’s time to eat the pie.