Toms River MUA Members Appointed Amid Political Fight

Photo courtesy Maser Consulting

TOMS RIVER – The Township Council appointed two alternates to the Municipal Utilities Authority, but not without an argument about politics.

Ben Montenegro and Alfonso Manforti, a former councilman, were appointed. According to records from the township and the MUA, these were existing positions; they weren’t created for anyone. All commissioners, including alternates, are paid $2,000 per year and have the option to take health benefits. It is unclear how much these benefits would cost because it is unknown what kind of coverage, if any, the alternates would select.

In the 2017 election, three Democrats won seats on the Township Council for the first time in years. The Republicans still have the majority.

Council members said that Montenegro is a suggestion from the Democrat side and Manforti is from the Republican side.

“That is the type of bipartisanship we should see in town,” said Councilwoman Laurie Huryk, one of the new Democrat members of the council.

However, heated words were said over the matter.

Councilman Daniel Rodrick, one of the other new Democrats on the council, took issue with the Republican choice of Manforti. He said that the voters issued a “mandate” that they didn’t want him holding office (when he lost his re-election campaign last year). He didn’t think someone should have access to township health care just for attending a few meetings a month.

Councilman George Wittmann, a Republican, countered that Rodrick shouldn’t be taking health insurance from the town, either.

There was more arguing about the issue but ultimately, the appointments were made, with Rodrick being the only “no” vote.

In an email to after the meeting, Rodrick explained that he didn’t think any political allies should be appointed to the board just so they can get health insurance. He also thought that the MUA should be dissolved, leaving just the employees who “actually do the work.”