TOMS RIVER – Lacey Township Committeeman Mark Dykoff was hired to the position of Toms River Township Council Secretary, a move that Democrats are calling a political patronage job.
Dykoff’s previous experience includes being a manager with the Motor Vehicle Commission, an administrator with the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and the manager at Liberty Overhead Door. A Republican, he had been on the Township Committee in the past, but returned to fill a vacancy when Committeeman Gary Quinn was tapped to run for Ocean County Freeholder.
A statement by Laurie Huryk and Terrance Turnbach, the only Democrats on the Toms River Township Council, stated that the item hiring him was added to the meeting agenda less than five hours before the meeting. They also argued that the job was not posted and no job description has been provided. No other individuals were interviewed for the position.
“All previous discussions indicated that this position was being considered for elimination in order to cut costs for the taxpayers of Toms River,” Huryk said in an emailed statement. “Suddenly we’re being asked to vote to give a secretarial position to an individual who is not qualified for secretarial work, at more than a 20 percent increase over the previous employee’s salary.”
“Our loyalties on the Township Council must be to the township residents we have been elected to represent and serve, not to county Republican leaders or club members,” Turnbach said in the same statement. “Respectfully, the Republican majority of the Township Council failed the township residents, pushing through a patronage appointment without any fair, honest and open hiring process.”
In an interview after the Democrats’ statement was released, Council President George Wittmann Jr. called their outrage fabricated. The appointment was discussed in executive session (when the council meets privately to discuss things like personnel).
He said he has seen Huryk and Turnbach congratulate local Democrats when they are appointed to a position. He said it was disingenuous to complain when a Republican is hired to a position and not when a Democrat is.
The job didn’t need to be posted because it is a confidential position, so by law these don’t get posted, he said.
“Unfortunately, we went back and looked, but there was no official job description,” he said.
Dykoff will be replacing Ann Updegrave. She was a Republican member of the Jackson Township Council until she chose not to run for re-election in 2018.
Updegrave’s salary was $57,680.71. Dykoff will receive an annual salary pro-rated for his first 90 days of $58,000. He has opted out of health benefits, business administrator Don Guardian said. For opting out, he will receive $5,000 annually. Based on this, and a successful review after 90 days, his base salary will be $63,000. All these things considered, the cost to the township would be about $21,000 less.
There used to be two part time employees in the Township Council’s office as well, but they are no longer there. Andrew Citkowicz used to earn a salary of $13 an hour and Shirley Broome used to earn a salary of $20.28 an hour.
An attempt to reach Dykoff was unsuccessful.