TOMS RIVER, NJ – Toms River Township officials say Shore News Network’s coverage of Mo Hill’s plan to radically change the community through political patronage and turning Downtown Toms River into a city that will rival that of neighboring Lakewood has been anti-Semitic.
In a brief filed by Councilwoman Maria Maruca, Councilman Kevin Geoghegan and Councilman Terrance Turnbach, through the township’s legal department, headed by pay to play attorney Gregory P. McGuckin, the township contends Shore News Network’s coverage of Mo Hill’s often suspicious behavior since winning his election one year ago is ant-semitic.
“[We] urge the Division of Civil Rights and the Attorney General to investigate and take appropriate legal action against [Shore News Network],” McGuckin’s letter to the state reads. “who are accomplices in an increasingly ugly and incendiary digital effort to exploit latent religious and racial [sic] for personal gain.”
“These efforts, usually disguised as or interspersed with seemingly legitimate reporting or commentary on public issues, exceed the boundaries of legitimate civil discourse under the First Amendment.”
“Even worse, the insidious messages Petitioners spread on a daily basis through the Internet and in print not only promote bigotry, but also fuel the divisiveness that recently has engulfed other parts of the country in violence and destruction,” said Terrance Turnbach, a Democrat lawyer who has aspirations to be judge in the state of New Jersey.
The complaint is signed by patronage state job holder, Maria Maruca who works for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, an appointed job by Governor Phil Murphy; Terrance Turnbach and Kevin Geoghegan.
“Since 2015, the Toms River has experienced a surge in growth of residents belonging to the Orthodox Jewish faith,” Councilman Kevin Geoghegan wrote. Geoghegan took particular issue with a Shore News Network story entitled, “Mo Hill Receives Support from Orthodox Synagogue Developer” after Hill accepted more than $5,200 in political campaign donations from Orthodox Jewish resident Scott Gartner. Months earlier, Gartner threatened to sue Toms River if the township did not allow him to build a synagogue.
“The apparent purpose of this trickery was to paint the Orthodox community as a threat,” Maruca said in the brief.
The complaint contends that Mayor Hill is committed to accommodating the Orthdox Jewish community’s growth in Jackson, but Shore News Network’s coverage sometimes interferes with his agenda.
“Mayor [Hill] and Council have been committed to working with the DOJ and religious groups to find an inclusive and constructive resolution to this matter,” Geoghegan said in the filing, adding that SNN’s coverage of campaign donations from Gartner and dozens of members of the Orthodox Jewish community was an ansti-semitic attack against Jews.
Mostly, Hill and the council are upset over Shore News Network’s coverage of their attempt to change a 10-acre religious house of worship zoning law to 2-acres, caught after a township employee leaked a copy of a resolution prepared by Hill and Huryk. After that document was released, Hill backed off his plan and said he had no idea who wrote the resolution. Huryk called hill a liar, saying he knows more than he’s admitting, according to the Asbury Park Press.
Hill is also upset after Shore News Network outed a bogus land auction where a member of the Lakewood Planning Board won the auction despite not being the highest bidder. That bidder later admitted that he was not even the purchaser, but allowed another entity to use his name and address to place the bid. Hill and the council later pulled that sale after Shore News Network covered the story.
This summer, when Haryk claimed Toms River Township was not a diverse enough community and that there were a disproportionate amount of white people, Shore News Network covered the story.
Since taking office, Mo Hill has a clear agenda for Toms River,” said Shore News Network editor Phil Stilton. “We don’t control what council people do and say, we report their actions. We don’t judge which direction Mo Hill, Turnbach, Huryk, Maruca and Geoghegan want to take their township in, but it is our obligation and right to report the things these elected officials say when the public isn’t looking.”
Stilton added, that he finds it bizarre that the council would find Shore News Network’s stories on the matter anti-Semitic, yet in the 2019 township council election, Mo Hill had asked Shore News Network to attack a Democrat, Karen Sage and write a story defaming her because she represented Orthodox Jewish plaintiffs against the Township of Jackson.
“When Mo Hill had his campaign manager ask me to defame Ms. Sage because her law firm has Jewish clients, I was actually appalled,” Stilton added. “Now that the Hill camp is pulling this nonsense just shows that he is trying to silence our first amendment rights to defame and intimidate a local business owner during this pandemic, hoping he can hit us in our pockets to get rid of us. Mr. Hill is on notice, we will be filing a lawsuit in January against Hill, McGuckin, Maruca, Turnbach and Geoghegan because this complaint is nothing more than an attempt to extort Shore News Network into not covering their questionable activities behind closed doors.”
“Shore News Network covers the news regardless of how unpleasant it is,” Stilton said. “Just because Mo Hill doesn’t want the people of Toms River to know what he is working on when they’re not watching, doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to know. We will not stop uncovering the lies and covering the truth when it comes to the crimes being committed by Mo Hill and the township council.”