JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – After failing to convince the Ocean County GOP and Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders that he should be the next county freeholder, Ocean County GOP Chairman Frank B. Holman has announced this week that Jackson Mayor Michael Reina is next in line to be a New Jersey Assemblyman. Reina, who now serves as mayor of the 60,000 strong community is under federal civil and criminal investigation by the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against Reina earlier this year alleging that the township is violating the civil rights of the growing Orthodox Jewish community in the town. Two weeks ago, it was made known that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also looking into the actions of Reina. The FBI field office in Red Bank has been interviewing and questioning people within the community regarding the activities of Reina and other Ocean County officials. The actual focus of the investigation at this time is not yet clear, but appears to revolve around the ongoing Department of Justice civil claims and political corruption in Ocean County.
Reina is also facing multiple workplace harassment lawsuits as mayor of Jackson Township and at his politically appointed job with the County of Ocean where he serves as bridge supervisor in the Ocean County Bridge Department.
Two former township employees are suing Reina for wrongful terminations and three county employees have filed suits and grievances against Reina for workplace harassment.
The move by Holman to declare Reina the next in line to succeed an aging Sam Thompson. According to Holman, Thompson will be retiring soon and Assemblyman Ron Dancer will take his place. Reina will fill Dancer’s seat. Whether or not Ocean County and Holman have the political juice to convince Republican leaders in Burlington, Monmouth and Middlesex Counties that also encompass District 12 is yet to be seen.
Last week, political and community leaders held discussions with Ocean County freeholders and political leaders to remove Reina from his job at the county. Reina, one of the county’s double-dippers, is receiving two public salaries for holding two public jobs. Holman’s move to remove Reina from the Jackson mayor’s position into the legislature spot was intended to appease the Lakewood Orthodox Jewish leaders who want Reina out of office in Jackson.
The lead investigator on the FBI case is the same investigator that helped lead the case against former Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore. A law enforcement source within Ocean County said the FBI had previously investigated Reina’s role in a Superstorm Sandy fraud scheme. Reina was alleged to have orchestrated $50,000 in false federal emergency management claims. Eventually, the township returned the money to FEMA and no charges were filed.
According to Jackson GOP sources, Councilman Andy Kern is eyeing the mayor’s seat once Reina departs.
An unknown variable at this point is the upcoming state legislative redistricting. Sources within Trenton predict Jackson Township, currently in the 12th legislative district could be merged with District 30, which includes nearby Lakewood Township in 2021. In that event, Reina would have no chance at higher office in the New Jersey assembly.