JACKSON, NJ – The Jackson Township Council and Mayor Michael Reina have announced the hiring of Stephen Dnistrian, of Steve – Brand and Communications, a public relations consultant after settling their million-dollar lawsuit with residential developer Jackson Trails.
Dnistrian, a Monmouth County GOP political insider who serves on multiple Monmouth county-based governing bodies, according to a resolution passed by the township council will be hired to handle the township’s public image profile and offer strategic communications services to the township.
Jackson’s settlement brings public perception issues and political problems to the table for Reina and the township council.
The settlement agrees to pay $700,000 in legal fee reimbursement to the plaintiff, Jackson Trails, LLC. That settlement set off a public firestorm of disappointed residents who oppose the project. Jackson will also pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to its own attorneys including Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin and Brent Pohlman who represented the township in that matter.
Jackson Township is also facing multiple federal and state civil rights lawsuits, including cases filed by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice regarding other alleged civil rights violations against the township’s growing population of Orthodox Jewish families.
Those lawsuits claim Jackson Township officials intentionally created laws to block or deter Jewish families from buying homes in Jackson.
Mayor Michael Reina, in the lawsuits, has been accused of telling Jackson residents to “Stay Strong” and not to sell their homes through Jewish realtors.
On Tuesday, Township Business Administrator tried to turn the page and rebrand Jackson Township as an all-inclusive town that is welcome to Orthodox Jews, although Reina’s administration, including Wall, has led the charge against the Orthodox Jewish community through the passing of religious school bans, dormitory bans, and other township ordinances and code enforcement activities, according to each of the lawsuits, targeted members of the Orthodox Jewish community.
After filing an OPRA request to get the details of the contract to Brent Pohlman and running a story detailing Wall’s aggressions to the Orthodox Jewish community, Business Administrator Wall, a Monmouth County resident threatened to file a criminal harassment complaint against Shore News Network and myself.
Wall did not answer questions about the contract or the settlement.
With the settling of the case and a major election ahead for Reina, Councilman Alex Sauickie, and Andrew Kern, the township announced the no-bid contract through a ‘non-fair and open’ purchasing process.
According to a Jackson Township ordinance signed into law in 2016 by Mayor Reina, no-bid public contracts are capped at $40,000. A no-bid public contract means the township did not publicly announce a government contract with the intent to create a fair and open public bidding process.
In light of the webs of litigation Reina and the township find themselves in, the decision was made to hire a public relations firm ahead of next year’s election. A similar action was put into place in Toms River earlier this year when the township hired former Monmouth County blogger Art Gallagher, a long time foe and opponent to Wall, to an $89,000 annual job with benefits to manage the town’s Facebook page and take pictures of the mayor and council at public events and to repost community bulletins.
According to Brand’s website, he provides public relations services in the pharmaceutical industry with clients such as Johnson and Johnson.
“My job is to be your business partner, vested in your goals and objectives, immersed in your issues, solving your problems,” Brands website describes his services. “As a trained journalist with years of senior business experience, I know how to ask the right questions, and how to gather facts and data needed to analyze any situation. “
Jackson Township officials declined to comment on the contract awarded to Brand and did not disclose the contract’s value when pressed.
According to Monmouth County, Stephen Dnistrian also serves on the Monmouth County Tax Board. Dnistrian also serves on the Colts Neck zoning board of adjustment.
Shore News Network reached out to Dnistrian for comment but was unable to reach him at his business number and corporate email address. This story will be updated if needed.