TOMS RIVER, NJ – Mayor Thomas Kelaher wasn’t like by everyone in town, but he was admired and respected by most after his long career as a United States Marine Corps infantry officer, prosecutor and finally, mayor of one of New Jersey’s largest municipalities.
Kelaher made his name being a tough as nails prosecutor fighting political corruption. In fact, it was Kelaher who tried and convicted the Jackson Five, a group of Jackson Township politicians in the 1970’s who were taking political bribes in exchange for construction approvals.
Enter Mo Hill.
Hill, a long time councilman has for years believed it was his birthright to be somebody in the Republican Party, but he was always passed over for the job. He was denied running for Congress and last year, the Republican Party denied him to run for Mayor, so he quit the local party and went rogue. A three-way race paved the way for Hill to get the party line in the 2019 primary and in a town where Republicans win with huge margins, Hill just barely made it into office with a margin of a few hundred votes.
Hill wasn’t very well-liked before he was mayor and since taking office, his actions have further divided the community against him. Hill spent no time bringing patronage politics, pay-to-play and political favoritism back into the mayor’s office in Toms River, now at levels never seen before.
Now, one resident, James Roland is trying to get him out of office and has started an online petition to recall Hill. Hill cannot be legally or formally recalled until after nearly one year of service, according to the State of New Jersey, but Roland’s petition is, for now, a symbolic one.
“We the residents of Toms River call for the immediate resignation of Mayor Hill and a Censure of each member of the Town Council who knowingly broke the Pay to Play laws in our town by Voting for a no-bid $500,000 dollar contract to Assemblyman Greg McGuckin who is also a campaign contributor of the Mayor and the councilpersons that voted to approve this contract while knowing it was in clear violation of our towns pay to play laws. In light of this brazen violation of our laws, the Mayor has lost all credibility to lead out town should immediately resign and the contract be voided,” the petition reads.
Hill has been accused since taking office of putting business and development ahead of the people of Toms River. His plans to turn downtown Toms River into city, redeveloping CibaGeigy and support for out of control development in the town’s North Dover section has turned a lot of people off in his first six months in office.
Do you think Mo should be recalled or is Roland just making a mountain out a “Mo Hill”?