The next leader of the Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority will be one of the township’s most prominent Republican party figures, Shorebeat has learned – and Democrats are raising concern that politics, rather than qualifications, helped him get the job.
Stephen C. Acropolis, a former Brick Township Republican mayor who serves as the current executive director of the TRMUA, is retiring. He will be replaced by Robert DiBiase, the immediate past President of the Toms River Republican Club. He was hired at the Sept. 5 meeting of the MUA’s Board of Commissioners, which consists of five Republican members. He will earn an annual salary of $120,000 as part of the post, plus benefits.
“Although Mr. DiBiase is a well-respected individual with many years of work experience, his qualifications do not align with the business of wastewater management,” said Toms River council members Laurie Huryk and Terrance Turnbach, both Democrats, in a joint statement to Shorebeat.
Huryk and Turnbach said the job posting for the executive director position stated that possession of a C-4 Wastewater Collections System Operator’s License is a preferred qualification, but DiBiase’s resume – a copy of which was obtained by Shorebeat – does not reference that he holds such a license.
Huryk and Turnbach opposed what they termed “patronage appointments” to the MUA board earlier this year when they took their seats on council after an upset victory at the polls last November. They said Democrats should have been part of the process of selecting new commissioners, who in turn hire the executive director. The fact that both Acropolis and DiBiase have been active in GOP political circles causes concern, they believe.
“When we ran for office, we promised to fight such patterns of partiality,” said Huryk.
“The residents of Toms River elected three Democrats to spotlight and challenge this exact appointment,” said Turnbach. “Councilwoman Huryk and I are keeping our word to the residents of Toms River to ensure transparency in our local government, and to demand that the most qualified candidate is hired for the job regardless of political affiliation.”
Huyrk and Turnbach are the sole Democrats on the township council following Councilman Daniel Rodrick’s switch to the Republican party this summer.
DiBiase had formerly been employed by the township as assistant director of Human Services, where he was paid $76,500 in 2017, according to a search of public records. His contract with the MUA is attached to this article.
Attempts to reach DiBiase at town hall for comment were unsuccessful.
Executive Director Contract, TRMUA: