JACKSON – At a recent town council meeting, Sheldon Hoffstein, a Republican from Jackson, argued that the township’s law firm, Gilmore & Monahan, should be replaced with an outside firm with no conflicts of interest. Hoffstein alleged that firm principal George Gilmore’s outside political activity could be opening the door to potential conflicts of interest, citing the past appointment of Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, among other questionable hires, to township positions.
In his remarks made before the Jackson Township Council, Hoffstein gave a speech that was, as he described it, likely to “ruffle the feathers” of Jackson’s elected officials. The Jackson citizen spoke favorably of President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, and surmised it as a blow to the political establishments of both parties.
“President-elect Trump won by promising to make America great again by changing the status quo,” Hoffstein declared. “By winning the Republican primary he destroyed the Republican establishment. By winning the general election he destroyed the Democratic establishment.”
His statement then turned to a criticism of Ocean County’s own political establishment when Hoffstein reasoned that political debts owed to larger towns by Gilmore & Monahan principal George Gilmore, who is also the Ocean County GOP chairman, could result in the needs of such larger towns being placed above Jackson’s.
“In next year’s election for governor the Republican candidate will need an overwhelming turnout of voters in order to win,” Hoffstein said. “Remember that Governor Christie won because of the Ocean County vote, and a win gives this leader [Gilmore] a powerful role in state government.”
The Jackson resident also questioned to what extent Chairman Gilmore influences who is appointed to township jobs and what politically appointed professionals are hired by the township. Hoffstein also asked the mayor and council if they meet with Gilmore to discuss political appointments, a question they did not answer.
“You may have received money from county political leaders for your campaign, from professionals seeking favors. But this election proves that raising the most money does not mean you’re going to be elected. The national elections were won by a person who had a message and was the messenger,” he said.
Hoffstein’s message to the council was clear: he wants to see the Gilmore firm replaced.
“The change you should consider should be the appointment of a new township attorney from a different firm who has no conflicts of interest,” Hoffstein declared. “Not one who gave us the likes of Mark Seda Aneglo Stallone, Phil Del Turco and lastly Joey Torres.”
The last reference was to none other than former Jackson Township business administrator Jose “Joey” Torres, who was hired as the township’s business administrator in 2010 after Torres suffered an electoral defeat.
Despite Torres not having a college degree as the job description called for and questions about his performance as mayor of the Northern New Jersey city of Paterson, according to The Bergen Record, he still got the job as Jackson Township’s business administrator, which led many to question if the hire was influenced by Gilmore.
After Torres returned to office as Paterson’s mayor in 2014, the Gilmore firm coincidentally started receiving public contracts not unlike the ones received by the firm around Ocean County
According to reports in The Star-Ledger, this year Torres and his administration have faced a raid from the FBI at Paterson city hall amid an investigation into the alleged misuse of federal funds by city officials. The paper also reported that Torres was facing a probe by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office for using DPW employees to do jobs at his house.
Jackson Officials Benefit From Ocean County Patronage
One Jackson official who likely won’t be joining Hoffstein’s calls for new legal representation anytime soon is Jackson Mayor Michael Reina. Reina himself has become known as a beneficiary of Ocean County’s patronage hiring practices, with Reina first having been handed a job in the Christie administration’s New Jersey Department of Transportation as a confidential appointee in 2010 amid a hiring freeze instituted by the governor.
Before that job, Reina was employed as an armed security guard at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township, and previously operated a painting and home improvement business based out of Jackson, but despite a lack of a background involving bridges or engineering, the Ocean County freeholders first hired Reina in 2014 as the assistant superintendent of bridges, and later promoted him to the superintendent of bridges position that he currently occupies.
At the time of Reina’s hiring, county freeholders brushed off concerns related to the mayor’s qualifications for the job by giving the disclaimer that the superintendent of bridges position is administrative in nature, and that Reina’s lack of experience wouldn’t be a barrier to performing the job’s duties in their judgment.
See Reina’s resume: