TOMS RIVER, NJ – With the announcement of the retirement of Toms River Township in-house attorney Ken Fitzsimmons, Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill and the township council offered a replacement position for Fitzsimmons to pay to play lawyer Gregory P. McGuckin. Fitzsimmons regularly attended Toms River council meetings to provide the township council with legal advice. Fitzsimmons’ retirement freed up money to allow McGuckin, a political campaign donor. Instead of hiring McGuckin as an employee, Hill hired his former political campaign advisor to a public contract worth an estimated $500,000.
There’s just one problem, McGuckin hasn’t attended a single Toms River Township council meeting since taking the job, yet his bills keep piling up. This week the council voted to pay McGuckin’s latest $13,000 bill, though again, he was not in attendance. Instead, McGuckin was in Jackson Township where he also serves as chief legal counsel, at that town’s meeting.
“Mr. McGuckin has not been on the dais one time since his appointment,” Councilman Daniel Rodrick argued as the council approved McGuckin’s bill. “I don’t know why we’re paying him.”
Councilman Terrance Turnbach had to abstain when it came to voting for McGuckin’s bill because he says he has a personal or business conflict of interest with the lawyer.
Council President Maria Maruca was also absent from the meeting.
McGuckin who also serves as a state assemblyman representing Toms River in Trenton was the author of a bill that sought to penalize residents with $15,000 fines for violating New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. McGuckin also battled the IRS for nearly 10 years for unpaid taxes, leading to the federal agency to place a lien on his home. That home was later purchased by McGuckin’s law firm partner Jerry Dasti and sold back to McGuckin at a discount once McGuckin entered into a long-term payment plan with the IRS to pay his unpaid taxes.