TOMS RIVER, NJ – Ocean County Freeholders Gerry P. Little and Gary Quinn have a huge problem to face this coming January. That problem is what to do with Jackson Township Mayor Michael Reina. Reina, who serves as the superintendent of bridges for the Ocean County Road Department has employee harassment suits piling up against him at the county. So far, we have uncovered three as many more current and former employees are coming forward day by day to talk about their problems with the mayor.
Reina was given the job by the board of freeholders under the advisement of former Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore. Now, with Gilmore out, Reina has cozied up with new political boss Frank Holman and members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders are saying Reina falls under the protection of Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines and Holman.
On Wednesday, after the regular meeting of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders was held, a special meeting that including some very powerful and influential political insiders around Ocean County was held at the Toms River administration building and the topic of discussion was Reina, according to one source within the meeting.
If three employee harassment suits were not enough of a problem for Little and Quinn, who are up for re-election in 2020, Reina is also facing multiple employee harassment suits in Jackson Township where he serves as mayor. Reina is also being sued by U.S. Attorney General William Barr for civil rights violations against the Orthodox Jewish community and has two other religious discrimination suits filed against him at the federal level in civil court. Reina is also facing several lawsuits by builders for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
A recent case in Jackson filed against Reina by a former township Police Officer Thomas Hratko has recently been settled. According to a now sealed court case, Reina discriminated against Hratko, keeping the officer from receiving a promotion after the officer ticketed and impounded Reina’s son’s vehicle after a traffic stop revealed he had no registration. In the end, the town was forced to pay all of Hratko’s legal fees ($90,000), provide Hratko $90,000 in damages and he received his retroactive promotion prior to his retirement in 2018 after 23 years of service to the township. Hratko was a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield where he served as an infantry squad leader with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. After switching to the Navy Reserves, Hratko served with the Navy NCIS.
Two other cases pending against Reina include a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Township Engineer Daniel Burke, a retired USMC Infantry Officer and another wrongful termination suit filed by DPW Director Fred Rasiewicz. Rasiewicz is a U.S. Army veteran.
Over at his job with the county, Reina is facing a lawsuit filed by former bridge worker Ellen Ganapoulos, who claims Reina harassed her during a 4:45 am bridge visit that caused her to go to the hospital. Another lawsuit by a county worker claims Reina violated the rights of a disabled bridge worker. We spoke this week to the Atlantic County Superior Court Law Division regarding the case that was to be heard at the end of September, but were told all of September’s trials will most likely be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Reina’s hearing.
A third county claim against Reina was brought to light this week after Reina told a bridge worker that he inspected a ladder and that was hazardous. The claim states that Reina gave the green light for a worker to climb the ladder and that worker subsequently fell, breaking his hip. Reina claimed that the worker had a broken hip prior to climbing the ladder.
The cases also allege substance abuse by Reina. Ocean County Freeholders urged Reina to take a test to dispel the claim, but according to internal documents within the county made available to Shore News Network, Reina refused to take the test, claiming his innocence.
If all this isn’t bad enough for Little and Quinn, powerful forces with Ocean County have aligned against Reina, which prompted Wednesday afternoon’s meeting at the Ocean County administration building. Details of that meeting have not been released yet by county officials. It is rumored that many elected Republicans in higher office are also calling for Reina’s contract with the county to not be renewed. Reina makes $100,000 per year as a county employee, plus $28,000 as a part time Mayor in Jackson. Reina forfeited his county health care benefits in order to receive a similar benefits package through his lesser paying job as Mayor of Jackson Township because the monthly out of pocket expense is based on salary.
Law enforcement officials also said this week that Reina’s administration was suspected of committing FEMA fraud after Hurricane Sandy. We reached out to the FBI Field Office in Red Bank that handled the case, but officials there declined to comment on the matter.