Connect with us


Council Chaos: Vile Rant Brings Abrupt End to Remote Toms River Council Meeting

The Toms River council meeting video feed from Jan. 31, 2024. (Screenshot)

The Toms River council meeting video feed from Jan. 31, 2024. (Screenshot)

An attempt to remotely hold a meeting of the Toms River Township council on Wednesday night began with hundreds of participants missing 16 minutes of the meeting, followed by its abrupt end after 36 minutes following a vile, anti-Semitic rant by a member of the public whose microphone was enabled and could be heard by all viewing the stream.

The meeting was streamed on both Zoom and YouTube. The Zoom stream had reached its 500-person maximum by the time the meeting got underway, and about 700 were tuned into the YouTube stream. For those watching via YouTube, the first 16 minutes of the meeting were missed due to a technical glitch that replaced the meeting’s activities with a rotating view of historic photos of Toms River, a feed that normally plays before and after meetings, or if there is a brief adjournment. The YouTube version of the meeting has since been removed from the video streaming service, however Shorebeat preserved a copy for future publication and reference, if necessary.

Officials faced heavy criticism for holding the meeting online instead of in-person. Council President Craig Coleman said the meeting was held online to ensure public safety since there was intensive interest in a proposal to shed several positions within the police department in order to fund the hiring of eight EMTs. Rival stances on the ordinance from the unions representing police officers and EMTs, also known as Community Service Officers, or CSOs, were expected, as well as strong opinions from members of the public. Many had suggested simply holding the meeting in a larger venue, such as the auditorium of one of the township’s three high schools, but the idea was never implemented. There was no reason provided as to why that option was not considered.

Get Daily Toms River News Updates
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide

The ordinance would remove the positions of two captains from the roster of the Toms River Police Department and add eight CSOs. The CSOs would be assigned to various portions of the township, however it was expected that barrier island residents would gain permanent coverage on the east side of Barnegat Bay, a request for which residents there had lobbied the governing body in the past. Public sentiment over shedding the police positions, however, made the matter controversial, with a pro-police rally having been held outside town hall a day earlier.

Initially, Councilman George Lobman was unable to log into the Zoom meeting due to overcrowding, delaying the start. Once things got underway, an initial ordinance to reduce the speed limits on four township roads was introduced (Shorebeat will publish a separate story on the speed limits) as well as a measure that would eliminate Code Enforcement as a division of township government and place its responsibilities under the Planning and Zoning division. The council then tabled an ordinance that would also transition Public Works into a division of the Administration Department – essentially, the mayor’s office.

Under another restructuring ordinance, a public hearing was attempted to be held on a matter that would more deeply restructure Toms River’s municipal government. Under this restructuring ordinance, the Road and Sanitation divisions would also be moved under the auspices of the Administration Department and the Parks, Building and Grounds divisions would be operated by the Recreation Department, which is being led by former website owner and Democrat political consultant Jon Salonis, who was hired at the beginning of Mayor Dan Rodrick’s term (see separate story).

The meeting began sliding into dysfunction before an anti-Semitic rant would finally lead officials to cut the cord without a formal adjournment. Councilman James Quinlisk, who hails from a faction of Republicans different from the one led by Rodrick, asked to have the microphones of Rodrick and Lynn O’Toole muted since he claimed the pair did not file proper financial disclosure forms left over from 2023. The proposal was turned down by Coleman, a political ally of Rodrick and O’Toole.

In a statement issued Thursday, Rodrick acknowledged he submitted the disclosure form late, but said he was not fined as Quinlisk alleged. O’Toole would not have had to submit a disclosure form last year since she only took her seat on the governing body Jan. 1.

“I was not notified by the outgoing administration of the due date,” Rodrick said, adding that “order and decorum was not being enforced by our IT Department” through the meeting.

Finally, as the restructuring ordinance was being opened to public comment at about 34 minutes into the meeting, multiple voices from the public began to be heard. Among them, dominating the feed, was a man ranting about “Jews in the tunnels,” referring to news last week over the construction of an unpermitted tunnel under a Brooklyn synagogue. He continued the rant with immense offensive, anti-Semitic language that Shorebeat has chosen not to publish in this space.

At exactly 35 minutes, a voice said, “You have to cut the meeting. Cut it, cut it.”

“I feel like we’re not having the appropriate tech support right now,” said Rodrick. “We could always have the meeting another day, but we are supposed to have the proper tech support. Someone is supposed to be muting and unmuting people who have questions.”

A person then shouted, “I’m not obscene!” before the audio abruptly cut out. The audio was briefly turned on again, however the meeting ended as a whole about a minute later, while Councilman David Ciccozzi was attempting to address the council president.

The ordinance that would have cut the police captains and created the EMT positions was never considered. No new date or arrangements for a future meeting were announced.

“We are investigating how that occurred,” Rodrick said of the entire incident. “The governing body will not be held hostage by a small group of special interests and the meeting will be rescheduled. There is no date as of yet.”

He added: “Our residents cannot wait 30 minutes for an ambulance. We will not allow promotions to come before public safety and we will not be deterred.”

Click to comment

Follow Us