TOMS RIVER, NJ – An internal handwritten memo, possibly used to avoid a public records search, was hand-delivered by Ocean County Commissioner Virginia Haines to the four other county commissioners persuading them to hire a New Jersey State Trooper for the position of Assistant Administrator of the county.
That move is part of an orchestrated attempt to remove Ocean County Administrator Carl Block by Haines and Sheriff Mastronardy after Block stalled the construction of a new 60,000 square foot headquarters for the Sheriff’s Department on Mott Place. Block and the Sheriff have been at odds over a potential hundred million dollar expansion of the Sheriff’s Department and Ocean County Jail.
Under the Mastronardy-Haines plan, Block’s contract will not be renewed in June, and Assistant Administrator Michael Fiure would be promoted to Administrator and now recently retired State Trooper Collins would take Fiure’s spot as Assistant Administrator.
In March, Haines testified before the public that she did not know State Police Trooper Tristin Collins after he met with Freeholders about the job. It turns out she lied.
This week, after being confronted with a leaked memo penned in her own handwriting back in February, she changed her story.
Two weeks ago, when questioned by former GOP Chairman George Gilmore about Collins’ visit and alleged interview with Commissioners, Haines said Collins was not interviewed.
When asked at a public meeting on March 16th if Collins was being considered for the assistant administrator position, Haines started to say no, then said, “I know Tristan Collins; I do not know if he’s being considered, no. You must think he is.”
This week a memo marked “confidential” by Virginia Haines that was hand-delivered to the four other commissioners on February 17th was leaked to the press.
“Attached is the resume on individual I believe would make an excellent Assistant County Administrator when Mike [Fiure, Asst. Administrator] moves up to County Administrator after Carl’s retirement,” wrote. Thank you to Asbury Park Press reporter Erik Larsen for deciphering the barely legible memo.
On Wednesday, Haines admitted to sending the handwritten memo to her counterparts but said it was at the request of Sheriff Michael Mastronardy. Mastronardy is currently running for re-election while also running to be the next chairman of the Ocean County GOP.
It turns out the recommendation to hire Collins came at the request of Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy. Mastronardy has been at odds with Administrator Block. Block has put up roadblocks over the years with the sheriff who wants to expand the Sheriff’s Department to include a spacious new headquarters and expand his department’s role to include a countywide community police force that would patrol streets and issue tickets. It would be a third level of policing in Ocean County in addition to municipal and state police forces already deployed throughout the county.
Two weeks ago, Commissioner Quinn tried to say the report, originally published by Shore News Network, was not true.
“Tristan Collins visited this building a week or two ago,” Commissioner Gary Quinn, a Haines ally said at the March meeting. “Only to introduce himself to myself and Commissioner Kelly. It was made very clear a comment was made by Commissioner Kelly during the discussions that this is not an interview…and that’s as specific wording as you can make. It was not an interview. We talk to a lot of people throughout the county whether it’s local government, in the county, or outside people, but we have not even said Mike Fiure’s taking over in June. This board has not discussed anything. The newspapers have put out a lot.”
Former Chairman Gilmore said the job should be publicly posted and not given to a friend of the Sheriff in a backroom deal. Commissioner Jack Kelly said the job would probably not be publicly advertised and in fact, given to a political crony or county insider.
Haines and Mastronardy now have the political clout to push through any projects and hirings with a 3-2 alliance on the board that includes Haines, Bobbi Jo Crea and Gary Quinn against Jack Kelly and Joe Vicari. If Mastronardy wins the Ocean County GOP Chairman’s election, his political power would essentially be unchecked.
When you throw in the prize of a $100 million county expansion project that would reward political pay to play donors, their campaign coffers would be stocked full of cash from engineers, architects, lawyers, and accounts wanting a piece of the nine-figure pie.
Trooper Collins retired from the New Jersey State Police on April 1st.
Breaking News: A new report of a law enforcement subpoena for records at Ocean County has been reported to Shore News Network. We will have more on that as we continue to investigate.