TOMS RIVER, NJ – It looks like embattled Toms River Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill could be facing his own recall after hundreds of residents in Toms River reported getting a robocall in the past seven days asking them if they would support a recall of Hill and his counterparts on the Toms River council.
It is unknown who initiated the call at this time and we have been unable to confirm which polling company performed the call, but we were able to obtain audio of the call from one of our readers.
The poll asked four questions of Hill’s performance as mayor.
“Mayor Mo Hill has agreed to reduce the acreage requirement for houses of worship. Based on this decision, would you support recalling Mayor Hill? Press 1 if you support recalling mayor Hill, press 2 if you do not support a recall,” the woman on the call asked in the first question.
Hill has been under fire for wanting to change the township’s house of worship zoning rules which he has been lobbied by his political ally Scott Gartner. Gartner threatened to sue the township if the ten-acre minimum zoning was not changed, but eventually dropped his threat and donated thousands of dollars to Hill’s 2019 election campaign. In the year since winning, Hill has worked feverishly to reduce the zoning to two-acres.
Hill has publicly denied his agenda to lower the zoning limit, but his fellow councilwoman, Democrat Laurie Huryk called him a liar in an Asbury Park Press story on the matter.
“Mayor Hill is approving 500 more apartments in Downtown Toms River. Based on this decision, would you support recalling mayor hill, press 1 if you support recalling Mayor Hill, press 2 if you do not support a recall,” was the second question of the robocall.
Hill has partnered with North Jersey development firm Capodaglia Properties to erect a massive 500-unit apartment building downtown near the Irons Street parking lot.
“Mayor Hill increased Toms River property taxes by the largest percentage in 13 years. Based on this decision, would you support recalling Mayor Hill? Press 1 if you support recalling mayor Hill, press 2 if you do not support a recall,” the third question asked.
Hill proposed an initial tax increase in 2020 of 7% but was later forced to reduce it to 6%, becoming the largest tax raise in the township in over a decade.
The final question polled residents about whether or not they would also recall township council members Matt Lotano, Kevin Geoghegan Josh Kopp and Maria Maruca.
“Councilman Lotano, Councilman Geoghegan, Councilman Kopp, and Councilwoman Maruca, voted to support Mayor Hill in each of these decisions. Would you support recalling members of the council who supported Mayor Hill’s policies? Press 1 if you support recalling these members of council, press 2 if you do not support a recall,” the caller asked.
The four Hill allies have essentially rubber-stamped Hill’s entire agenda since he took office in January of 2020, including sketchy land deals, questionable patronage hires and a botched auction in which Hill has been accused of rigging a public land auction in favor of a political ally on the Lakewood Township Planning Board.
It’s not sure how many residents received the phone call or how many responded. So far, according to the State’s election commission, no formal petitions to recall Hill or his council allies have been filed.
A petition to recall Hill could be very easy as during COVID-19 New Jersey is now allowing the collection of digital signatures for all political activities, including recalls. Toms River would need 15,000 signatures to successfully recall the mayor and he is now in an eligible period to be recalled, according to the law.
Recalling an unsatisfactory elected official is a right inherited to New Jersey residents by the state’s constitution.
“The people reserve unto themselves the power to recall, after at least one year of service, any elected official in this State or representing this State in the United States Congress. The Legislature shall enact laws to provide for such recall elections. Any such laws shall include a provision that a recall election shall be held upon petition of at least 25% of the registered voters in the electoral district of the official sought to be recalled,” the state constitution reads. “If legislation to implement this constitutional amendment is not enacted within one year of the adoption of the amendment, the Secretary of State shall, by regulation, implement the constitutional amendment, except that regulations adopted by the Secretary of State shall be superseded by any subsequent legislation consistent with this constitutional amendment governing recall elections. The sufficiency of any statement of reasons or grounds procedurally required shall be a political rather than a judicial question.”