Inside Ocean County Government

Ocean County

Bombshell: County Emails Reveal Sheriff’s “Profound Frustration,” Media Silence

Sheriff Mastronardy

Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy – after just one term in office – has blistering criticism for his fellow county officials. But for some reason the Sheriff’s disapproval mysteriously never made it to print, until now.

Sheriff Mastronardy

Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy

Sheriff Mastronardy took over as Ocean County’s top elected lawman after getting the nod to run from the county Republican organization, after the 2012 passing of his predecessor, William Polhemus, who held the elected position since 1985.

Mastronardy was best known as the longtime chief of the Toms River police department before retiring from the TRPD to run for sheriff.

Sheriff Mastronardy Has Clashed With Hooper Ave. Establishment

Despite working to bring his department up to modern standards, Sheriff Mastronardy’s first term in office has been somewhat of a rocky ride, as the new sheriff has butted heads with several county officials in the course of reforming and reorganizing the department, in contrast to his predecessor’s “business as usual” hands-off approach.

After being tipped off by employees of the sheriff’s department who were disgusted with interference from Jack Kelly and the Ocean County freeholders rearing its all too familiar head in their place of work, Ocean County Politics filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to obtain copies of the emails that show just how it all went down.

Why Wouldn’t Asbury Park Press Publish This Story?

Erik Larsen

Erik Larsen

Donna Flynn

Donna Flynn

Buried within over 100 pages of press releases, fluff pieces and stump speeches was a series of communiqués between Asbury Park Press reporter Erik Larsen and Ocean County’s director of public information, Donna Flynn. Mr. Larsen, according to his bio, has been a staff writer at the publication since 1996 and currently covers Ocean County and local government for the paper.

Larsen told Flynn that he was planning a Sunday feature story on the sheriff’s criticism, with a tentative deadline set for January 17th, 2016.

But nothing ever came of it.

For reasons the public will likely never know, either Larsen or his editors quickly put the brakes on their story, and it never saw the light of day. Larsen’s articles have frequently included quotes from Ocean County GOP chieftain George Gilmore, so one can only wonder if he twisted the APP reporter’s arm to drop the article.

Freeholder Kelly’s Mental Health Questioned

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly (Photo by Daniel Nee)

With Freeholder Kelly already having claimed a spot on our list of the “Top 10 Worst Public Officials” in Ocean County, we’d be hard pressed to find anything that makes him even less qualified for his nomination to the state parole board, which the state senate’s judiciary committee is expected to vote on Monday.

But there’s even more.

Sheriff Mastronardy, and other county officials have further questioned Kelly’s mental health, with Larsen writing:

Mastronardy has repeatedly questioned Freeholder Kelly’s mental health to me, telling me that most county officials understand he is “bi-polar.”

According to the veteran reporter’s email, Sheriff Mastronardy has had “…profound frustration in dealing with the county’s complex bureaucracy in trying to get anything at all done,” thanks in part to the constant meddling of “Director of Law & Public Safety” John P. “Jack” Kelly, whose previous antics have been well documented by this publication.


The new organizational flowchart at the OCSO?

Sheriff Mastronardy’s professional judgement is “constantly being usurped” by Kelly, according to the emails. Unlike Freeholder Kelly, who has no college degree, Sheriff Mastronardy holds a master’s degree and has decades of experience in law enforcement.

But that didn’t stop him from threatening to terminate the employees of the Ocean County Fire Marshall’s Office, which is a component of the Sheriff’s department. Freeholder Kelly got into a tiff with the sheriff, and doubled down on demanding control over the fire marshal’s office.

Kelly got backup from county administrator Carl Block, the former mayor of Stafford Township who resigned as county clerk to take the administrator position. Block, according to Larsen, called Mastronardy to “inform him that the fire marshals are under Kelly’s jurisdiction.”

Kelly Wanted To Be Sheriff

Before Freeholder Kelly received his plum nomination to the state parole board from Governor Chris Christie, Sheriff Mastronardy told Larsen that Freeholder Kelly’s primary motivation was getting Mastronardy’s job as county sheriff, again, despite the fact that Kelly’s only experience with the criminal justice system was driving his daughter – a convicted embezzler whole stole from Little Egg Harbor taxpayers – to parole appearances.

Carl Block Is A “Disorganized Leader,” Shows Up To Work Late

Carl Block

Carl Block

Sheriff Mastronardy also had harsh words for county administrator Carl Block. According to the emails, APP reporter Erik Larsen wrote:

The sheriff has told me that Ocean County Administrator Carl Block is a disorganized leader, often not getting into the office until 10 a.m., and inappropriately interfering in Mastronardy’s efforts to acquire military surplus equipment the sheriff has requisitioned for the good of the county.

In his email to Ms. Flynn, Larsen added that Block confirmed to him that he had “reservations” about one of the pieces of equipment the sheriff tried to obtain.

Both Mastronardy and Kelly are slated to be up for re-election in November, while Kelly’s appointment to the parole board has yet to be confirmed.

See the full email below:


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