Toms River councilman threatened after termination of politically connected township worker

Toms River Councilman Dan Rodrick (L) and Toms River Regular Republican Club Chairwoman Geri Ambrosio.

TOMS RIVER, NJ – Nepotism, and patronage jobs are nothing new in Toms River. For years, elected officials have openly admitted that many jobs in town hall are given to people who are political allies, friends, and even family members of elected and party officials.

The termination of one of those connected family members led Toms River Regular Republican Club (TRRRC) officials to threaten Toms River Councilman Dan Rodrick, his wife, and two senior citizen community leaders with ex-communication from the local Republican Club. Things nearly got physical too, as Rodrick was threatened to be forcibly removed from last week’s monthly meeting of the Toms River Republican Club.

According to witness accounts and audio of the engagement, Rodrick was threatened to be physically removed from the meeting held at the Clarion Hotel in Toms River.

Ambrosio, the chairwoman of the TRRRC, made it clear she was upset with Rodrick for not protecting the job of a club member who was allegedly in hot water for using racial slurs during work hours at his public job.

That employee’s name was not provided by Ambrosio.

According to club members, the former township employee is a close friend of Ambrosio’s nephew.

The worker was allegedly cited for using the “N-Word” and other racial epitaphs about African Americans while at work.

In the audio recording of the interaction, President Geraldine Ambrosio advised Rodrick that he is no longer a club member. 

Rodrick replied, “That’s interesting.”

“Interesting, you got this man fired?” replied Ambrosio’s sister, vice president Lisa Fiore, also a club member. 

“You need to go,” Ambrosio said to the elected official.  “If you don’t leave, they’ll take you outside!”  

She was advised that Rodrick was an elected official and should not be physically threateaned.

Rodrick said he was then followed outside and watched as he, his wife, and the presidents of both Holiday City retirement communities got into his car. 

Rodrick today said that Ambrosio’s actions were shocking, not only because of the threat of physical violence by two male club members in attendance but because it was over his refusal to violate state ethics laws to interfere in employee matters.

“These are tactics you would expect from a criminal enterprise, not a republican club,” Rodrick said of the incident.

Rodrick acknowledged that the town employee, a family friend of Ambrosio, reached out to him via text message for help. 

“I told him that I was not permitted to get involved in employee matters and advised him to reach out to his union representative.  That was the extent of my involvement,” Rodrick said,“ I did not get anyone fired.”

Township officials refused to comment on the matter. Attempts were made to reach out to Mayor Maurice Hill, his press secretary Art Gallagher and Business Administrator Louis Amoruso. All refused to comment on the matter.

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Council President Kevin Geoghegan told Shore News Network that as an elected official he has no jurisdiction in employee matters and referred the matter to the administration, which handles employee issues.

“I did hear rumors from other DPW workers that made complaints about racial comments as they have a lot of respect for a couple of fellow employees of color and not so much for this individual,” said Geoghegan. “They also told me he resigned and was not terminated.  I cannot confirm any of that however.” 

Under Toms River’s form of government, employee matters are handled by Human Resources and the Town Administrator.  Elected officials are not permitted to get involved in the day to day operations of the township.

According to Rodrick, he wasn’t given a hearing regarding the termination of his local club membership and there wasn’t a vote of the membership, which is necessary to remove anyone from the club.

“My allies and I were all removed from the club’s email list without notification.  That’s why we decided to tape the meeting.” 

Rodrick said he feels that the failure of President Ambrosio to provide him with a fair hearing on the matter is not in compliance with the club’s bylaws.  “It seems that Ms. Ambrosio doesn’t share our core Republican values of fairness and due process, and she should be removed by the chairman.”

Rodrick was referring to Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore.

When asked about the incident, Gilmore responded, “I was not in the room when it happened, so I do not know what happened.”

Gilmore noted that the facts regarding the employee’s eventual termination, whether he was fired or resigned was unknown to him.

Rodrick was the only elected Toms River official to remain a member of Regular Republican Club when it was decertified by the Ocean County Republican Committee.  The rest of the elected officials joined the new club that was setup by Mayor Hill and State Assemblyman Greg McGuckin.  

Rodrick said he has come out against a plan by newly elected Republican Chairman George Gilmore to reunify the two clubs in recent months.

“I will not join Mo Hill’s club or any other club. Frankly, These clubs are partly to blame for the mess Toms River finds itself in.  They are patronage pits where people get jobs based on who they know and not what they know.  As you can see, Ms. Ambrosio even believes that her family and their friends are all untouchable,” he added.

Neither Ambrosio nor the Toms River Regular Republican Club have issued a statement regarding the incident. Ambrosio is expected to be the club’s nominee for state assembly in the June Republican primary election, according to the New Jersey Globe.