JACKSON TOWNSHIP-Gregory P. McGuckin, Esq of the lawfirm Dasti, Murphy, McGuckin, Ulaky, Koutsouris and Connors as the township general legal counsel has a checkered past, and now, the township attorney is being charged with political corruption charges in a no-bid public contract he accepted in neighboring Toms River.
The appointment of McGuckin by Mayor Michael Reina came in January as the law firm has been busy pushing its political clout across the county in towns such as Toms River, Manchester and Lacey who are also expected to make the highly controversial political appointment to appease the new leadership of the Ocean County Republican Party, led by Chairman Frank B. Holman, III.
The contract is estimated to be worth between $250,000 and $350,000 annually.
Charges against New Jersey Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin filed by Toms River Councilman Daniel Rodrick claims the assemblyman literally wrote himself a job estimated to be worth up to $500,000 per year, according to court documents on file with the Superior Court of New Jersey.
“In December 2009, the Township of Toms River properly adopted pursuant to State law a “Pay-to-Play” Ordinance providing certain limitations and restrictions upon campaign contributions to political party committees.candidates, or elected officials and limitations and/or prohibitions from the Township contracting or engaging with persons or entities making such contributions. That Ordinance is presently codified in the Township Code as Chapter 84, Sections 84-1 to 84-9,” the lawsuit claims, alleging Toms River Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill illegally hired McGuckin’s law firm.
The suit also provides evidence that McGuckin donated a total of $4,500 to the political campaigns of Hill, Matt Lotano, Josh Kopp and former Toms River Police Officer Kevin Geoghegan.
“On March 4, 2020, Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin sent a letter to Council President, Maria Maruca, on his company letterhead “Dasti, Murphy, McGuckin, Ulaky, Koutsouris,& Connors” with an enclosed draft ordinance that would “re-establish the township Department of Law” and further establish the position of “Director of the Department of Law”. A true and correct copy of this letter as found on file in the Township of Toms River,” Rodrick states in his charges against McGuckin. “On March 18 2020, Kim Wallace – Administrative Assistant to Gregory P. McGuckin and Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill engaged in an email exchange to correct spelling errors in the ordinance document drafted by Gregory McGuckin.”
Rodrick claims that McGuckin’s firm, before being hired wrote the ordinance that changed the law that allowed him to attain another public service contract for which he and his firm hold at least 21 countywide.
“The documents attached to the lawsuits clearly demonstrate that Gregory P. McGuckin wrote the ordinance establishing the “Director of Law” position. A contracted post McGuckin would come to fill,” Rodrick said.
Rodrick, in his ethics charge filed with the State of New Jersey claims Hill, McGuckin and the township council colluded to give McGuckin the job going as far back as March 4th, 2020, three months after Hill assumed office.
Township attorney Ken Fitzsimmons acknowledged at the May 12th meeting of the township council that McGuckin was awarded a no-bid contract that violated the town’s pay to play law, however, Fitzsimmons walked back his declaration stating that because McGuckin held other contracts with the town, the town was able to give him another contract to circumvent the pay to play law because he submitted an RFP to the town for the position of township zoning and planning board attorney, two jobs McGuckin held prior to writing himself in as Director of Public Law.
McGuckin who serves as New Jersey Assemblyman in the state’s 10th legislative district is a former municipal councilman in Toms River. In 2007, he ran for Mayor of Toms River, but suspended his campaign after it was made known that he was delinquent in paying his federal taxes and a $120,000 lein was placed on his home by the IRS.
Jackson Township’s previous attorney George Gilmore, of the lawfirm Gilmore and Monahan resigned earlier this year after being indicted and convicted in federal court on tax charges, according to the Asbury Park Press.
McGuckin eventually abandoned his campaign to be mayor in 2007. He currently serves as township planning board attorney. Mayor Michael Reina will announce his choice for McGuckin’s replacement on the township planning board.
“While I deeply appreciate the words of support and encouragement that I have received throughout Toms River, the fact is I have made a mistake with my personal finances,” McGuckin said in a press release at the time, announcing the termination of his political campaign.
The firm is also facing possible campaign ethics violations in Hamilton Township where the firm serves as the planning board attorney. According to sources in Hamilton, the firm will not be retained in 2020 because the township suspects the firm had violated New Jersey Election Campaign Pay to Play limits that would make it ineligible to receive a contract for work in that town. A letter issued by Jerry Dasti to the New Jersey Election Commission explains how the firm may have attempted to skirt New Jersey pay to play laws by exceeding the pay to play max contribution limit.
The firm is also jockeying for political appointments in Toms River, Lacey and Manchester where much political negotiating has been going on to secure the appointments which could bring as much as $1,000,000 annually in public funds to the firm. The firm currently receives $1.58 million in public funds through political appointments made possible in part by over $36,000 in political campaign contributions to political candidates in towns where the firm holds political patronage contracts.
Read More: McGuckin Pays off His Tax Leins.
In 2018, the latest year on file with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, the firm earned $58,000 from Jackson Township. The firm donated $2,200 in political contributions in 2018 to the Jackson Township Republican Party’s campaign of Mayor Michael Reina, Councilman Alex Sauickie and Councilman Andy Kern.
During his battle with the IRS, McGuckin sold his home to his business partner Jerry Dasti. After settling with the IRS on a payment plan, McGuckin eventually bought his home back from his partner for much less than he sold it a couple years earlier.
McGuckin also serves as Toms River Mayor-Elect Maurice Hill’s transition team leader and is expected to be awarded a lucrative contract from Mayor Hill on Thursday. The firm also holds a possible 3-2 vote in Lacey Township despite complaints of a possible conflict of interest between the firm and Lacey Township Mayor Steve Kennis. In Lacey McGuckin’s firm submitted a bid proposal for $150 per hour. Competing firm Rothstein, Mandell, Strohm, Halm and Cipriani submitted a proposal that was below that of the Dasti, McGuckin firm.
McGuckin accused in another scandal in Toms River.
Toms River Councilman Dan Rodrick called for an investigation into a possible corruption scandal involving 10th Legislative District Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin. McGuckin, has become a power broker in Ocean County politics since the departure of former GOP Chairman George Gilmore. According to his 2019 financial disclosure, McGuckin and his firm now holds 45 public municipal job appointments and his law firm recently picked up new contracts in Jackson, Manchester and Lacey – increasing his firm’s annual income to over an estimated $2 MILLION in just the past few months.
According to Rodrick, McGuckin may have been using tactics considered extortion under the law to gain control of the Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority. The MUA is an independent sewer authority whose board of commissioners are appointed by the Toms River council, but hiring decisions and contract negotiations are handled by the executive director.
According to the Asbury Park Press, Assemblyman McGuckin took one of the Toms River MUA Commoner’s out to breakfast on February 5th to speak to him about the commissioner’s health benefits package, and to ask him not to appoint a new Executive Director until he got word from the Assemblyman.
“The Assemblyman is not the township attorney and does not hold local office, so he has no legal authority to discuss who the MUA should hire, and given that the Assemblyman also discussed the commissioner’s health benefits package at that same meeting, I can’t help but wonder if the Assemblyman was pressuring – or even threatening the commissioners to gain control of the MUA” Rodrick said.
Former Republican Club President Robert DiBiase has served as the executive director of the MUA since 2018, but is widely expected to be retiring soon. Prior to that, the post was held by the former Republican Mayor of Brick, Stephen C. Acropolis. It doesn’t appear that DiBiase will cave into the will of the Hill-McGuckin political threats any time soon, which is why they both want DiBiase out of the picture, so McGuckin’s firm can be hired by their handpicked successor to replace DiBiase.
“I want to know why Assemblyman McGuckin is so interested in who is being hired to direct the MUA? Could it be because the MUA is a contract rich authority with millions in work every year?” Rodrick asked.
The Toms River MUA doles out millions in public contracts and legal work. It also has a huge workforce, employing numerous members of Ocean County’s political elite and their families. With such a large payroll and millions in public contracts, having influence over its executive director would increase McGuckin’s power base, and so would holding hostage the MUA’s Commoner’s Health Benefits. The health benefits business is a big business for the McGuckin-Hill syndicate, which enriches former GOP Chairman Joseph Buckalew’s firm, Connor Strong, Buckelew and Norcross. Yes, Norcross, the South Jersey Democrat power broker whose firm is already under its own political corruption investigation by the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey and Governor Phil Murphy.
In a recent Asbury Park Press interview, Assemblyman McGuckin did not deny his meeting or discussion with an MUA commissioner, but instead tried to turn it around on Councilman Rodrick, accusing him of leaking secrete information. Was outing potential corruption and extortion a leak, or is Councilman Rodrick a whistleblower? That’s something the residents of Toms River are going to have to decide. As McGuckin eluded in the Asbury Park Press story, Rodrick isn’t playing according to McGuckin’s Game of Thrones, which now makes him public enemy number one with the political elites of Toms River and Ocean County, and possibly even a target on his head, because we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars on the line in this legalized public mafia, headed by Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin.
Also last week, former Toms River Schools Superintendent Michael Ritacco was released from prison for his public bribery and corruption scandal. That scandal also involved a politically connected public health benefits company and a Toms River Mayor who was trying to push his weight around town hall. Both ended up in federal prison. The bribery scheme here is clear. McGuckin puts pressure on the MUA commissioners to hire his guy to replace DiBiase. In return, McGuckin will allow the board to continue taking a Cadillac public health benefits package that costs ratepayers $40,000 per year and the commissioners give McGuckin another six-figure public contract. If that’s not cut and dry enough for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, FBI or Attorney General, then what is?
At the last township council meeting in April, Rodrick said he is going to file ethics charges against McGuckin and Hill with the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs regarding the incident with McGuckin and the Toms River MUA.
A law in Trenton is being pushed through that would fine New Jersey residents up to $15,000 for violating Governor Phil Murphy’s executive orders and it’s not the Democrats who are pushing to increase the penalties, it’s your local Republican officials here at the Jersey Shore that are calling for it.
It was sponsored by Toms River Township Republican Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin and his partner in crime, John Catalano. Also signing on were Assemblymen Eric Houghtaling, Joan Downey, Sean Kean, Sam Thompson and Diane Gove.
Infractions that have transpired in Ocean County would be severely penalized and while the bill’s creators are seemingly trying to legislate violations in Lakewood Township, those fines would also be applied to the woman who was charged for taking pictures in Seaside Park or the guy playing guitar in a lifeguard stand at the beach.
Currently, violations of Murphy’s Law constitutes a disorderly persons offense carrying a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The Republicans at the Jersey Shore are now lining up behind Governor Phil Murphy and his unconstitutional series of laws that turn everyday citizens into criminals, as he released thousands of actual criminals into the streets of New Jersey.
In essence, many petty crimes will have less stiff penalties than a dad taking his little girl to the park to play catch on a warm spring day.
This is the new normal of New Jersey.
This bill would establish a monetary penalty, of not less than $5,000 and not more than $15,000, for any person who willfully or knowingly violates any provision of the “Emergency Health Powers Act,” P.L.2005, c.222 (C.26:13-1 et seq.), or any order issued pursuant to the act, that relates to a social mitigation strategy barring all indoor or outdoor social gatherings or, if still permitted, hosts or participates in any indoor or outdoor social gathering with a number of people that exceeds the number permitted to gather, which provision or order is intended to prevent the transmission or spread of an infectious disease, biological agent, toxic chemical from a chemical weapon, radioactive material from a nuclear or radiological device, or overlap agent or toxin, during a public health emergency declared by the Governor under the act. The penalty would be sued for and collected by the Commissioner of Health, along with all costs associated with the commissioner’s enforcement action, in a summary proceeding before the Superior Court or municipal court with territorial jurisdiction over the action pursuant to the “Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999,” P.L.1999, c.274 (C.2A:58-10 et seq.).