The Toms River township council has confirmed the appointment of the president of one of two rival Republican clubs as the township’s new municipal court judge over the objection of one councilman who implied nepotism may have contributed to the hiring.
The council, in a 5-1 vote, confirmed the mayoral appointment of Anne Hammill-Pasqua as the township’s new municipal court judge. Hammill-Pasqua serves as president of the Republicans for Toms River club, one of two dueling GOP factions that supported Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill and the current council majority in the recent primary election. The primary resulted in a loss for Hill and his slate of incumbent council members who voted on the appointment Wednesday night.
It was also revealed that Hammill-Pasqua is the sister-in-law of Council President Matthew Lotano. Lotano abstained from voting on the matter.
Hammill-Pasqua’s resume, according to the website of law firm where she had been employed, named her specialties as workers’ compensation claims and litigation surrounding the Defense Base Act, a federal statute that governs compensation claims arising from incidents that occur on military bases. She also serves on the township’s planning board, and once presided over the board as its chairwoman. Her experience in municipal court matters was unclear.
“Her qualifications are in her resume,” said Hill. “She’s the only Toms River resident who applied, and since it’s a Toms River municipal court appointment, I felt it was appropriate.”
Hill said three candidates applied for the municipal judge position, which he argued should be taken by a Toms River resident. He also noted the gender of the new judge.
“There is only one other female on the municipal court system in the entirety of Ocean County – she would be the second woman,” said Hill.
“Did it help that she’s also president of the Republicans for Toms River?” asked Councilman Justin Lamb, rhetorically.
“It is based on the fact that she’s a Toms River resident,” Hill replied.
Township spokesman Art Gallagher said the new judge will earn between $50,200 and $80,000 depending upon how many sessions she presides over. Toms River’s ordinance provides a range of salaries for municipal court judges, ranging from $50,200 to $134,500.
Lamb represented the lone ‘no’ vote on the appointment. The remainder of council members voted in favor of the appointment. Councilman Dan Rodrick, the front-runner to become the township’s next mayor, was absent from the meeting.