🔵 The Toms River Township Council voted on an ordinance to shift police funding

🔵 No one spoke in favor of the ordinance before the vote

TOMS RIVER — The Township Council, during an unusual mid-afternoon meeting, adopted a contested ordinance that shifts funds from police salaries toward hiring eight new EMTs.

The meeting drew a large crowd to the municipal building, which only holds 250 people in the council chambers. The meeting was live-streamed but without a Zoom component that would allow public comment from viewers. The last meeting ended abruptly amid problems with Zoom and an anti-Semitic outburst from the public.

The meetings on the mayor's public safety agenda have inflamed the infighting among township Republicans, who control the municipal government.

It did not take long for Wednesday's meeting to descend into chaos after two opponents of the ordinance said they did not receive written notification of the meeting and called for an adjournment. The meeting continued, however, and council members agreed to limit public comment on the ordinance to 90 minutes.

Toms River Township Council during a special meeting on 2/14
Toms River Township Council during a special meeting on 2/14 (Toms River Township NJ via YouTube)

Barbs at the mayor

None of the speakers were in favor of the ordinance and were cheered after their respective comments.  Among the speakers were former police spokeswoman Jillian Messina who was recently laid off.  Her job was combined with the position of the municipal spokesman now filled by Phil Stilton.

"Take a look at the passion in this room.  Take a look at the people in this room and think about the solutions that have already been brought to you," Messina said, adding that she found 2,000 grants available for community policing in one internet search.

Her father, Joe Nardini, criticized Mayor Dan Rodrick for disparaging him and his running mates in the Board of Education election.

"In my opinion, this man is not of sound mind. He's a sociopath. A vindictive sociopath " Nardini said. "Don't be sheep. He's going to lead you to slaughter. He's going to hurt this town."

Nardini recounted that after winning, Rodrick told a group the first person he would fire once in office would be Messina.

Some of the comments chided the council for their verbal sparring and for seemingly having their mind made up before hearing from the public.

"I am totally opposed to this bashing of the prior administration during each meeting. I don't want to hear that. This is a new day, a new year, a new month and that is not helpful at all to hear that," a resident told the council.

Audience at the Toms River Township Council during a special meeting on 2/1424
Audience at the Toms River Township Council during a special meeting on 2/1424 (Toms River Township NJ via YouTube)

Meeting on Valentine's Day

The ordinance to fund the EMT positions by using the budgeted salary and benefits of two retiring police captains was adopted with a 5-2 vote after opponents sought to table the vote and allow police Chief Mitch Little to speak.

An ordinance to suspend adoption fees at the Toms River Animal Shelter was also adopted by the same vote.

The council was also voting on an ordinance to split the Department of Public Works under two offices. Several other ordinances relating to stop signs and speed limits were also up for vote.

Rodrick told the Asbury Park Press that the meeting was held early in the afternoon instead of in the evening because it was Valentine's Day.

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