Murphy’s Law: Coronato Out, Billhimer In Oct. 8

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato (Photo courtesy Ocean County)

OCEAN COUNTY – He’s been looked up to by other state prosecutors and agency heads throughout the state for his recognized work against the opioid crisis plaguing New Jersey. Back in February, county and state organizations urged now-governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, to keep Chris Christie appointed Republican Joseph Coronato on the job as Ocean County Prosecutor.

But Coronato is out. Murphy’s choice, Bradley Billhimer, is in, as of Oct. 8.

Also leaving is his director of public affairs, Al Della Fave.

Della Fave had this message on his social media account Monday night, confirming his departure from the office.

Al Della Fave (Photo courtesy Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office)

“Bitter sweet feelings today filming what most likely will be the last public statement for OCPO, barring (God forbid) any unforeseen calamities, as we enter the final three weeks of Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato’s appointment. Been a great ride in terms of the outstanding enforcement accomplishments, initiatives and statewide firsts implemented over the last 5 years. OCPO has never been in better shape,” Della Fave wrote. “I was truly blessed to have been a part of it. Nothing better than going out on top. No mouthpiece fluff – just fact. I thank Prosecutor Coronato and all the great folks at OCPO for making going to work so fulfilling and fun.”

Coronato spoke to Jersey Shore Online back in February when it was first discussed that he might not be asked to stay on as prosecutor.

“It’s a privilege and honor to be the prosecutor. It’s really the best job,” Coronato said. “I’ve instituted programs—as hard as it is to believe five years have gone by as quickly as they have—and I’d like to finish out some of the programs I’ve instituted. It’s not that easy to get them started, and it would be great to be reappointed and have another five years to finish out a lot of the work that I’ve done. So, the answer is if given the opportunity, I’d like to continue to serve, but that’s a little bit out of my hands.”

Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, right, with First Attorney General Jennifer Davenport, describes the multi-department operation. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

Ocean County was the first county in the state to equip its officers with Narcan, a nasal naloxone spray for emergency treatment of suspected opioid overdose. Coronato’s office has many firsts to combat opioid use: the emergency room overdose recovery program; Blue HART program, used by seven county police departments to assist drug users for recovery; pawn shop registry database, which tracks known users to stop them from selling goods to feed their habit; K-9s in school to assure Drug Free School Zones; and training for school nurses in how to use Narcan.

No official announcement has come from Murphy’s office about Billhimer’s appointment, although he appears to be the heir apparent. He’s a Toms River lawyer and former Democrat candidate for State Assembly.