Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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New Jersey Communal Zoom Meeting Brought to a Halt After Being Sabotaged by Antisemitic Commenter

The Toms River Township Council was forced to cut its Zoom meeting short Wednesday night when an anti-Semitic commenter took over the meeting during public comment on an ordinance.

The meeting, which was moved to Zoom for what Council President Craig Coleman said was for the safety of the participants and because the anticipated attendance was expected to exceed the capacity of the L. Manuel Hirschblond Meeting Room, was chaotic from the start and never addressed the most controversial ordinance to remove two captains’ positions from the police department roster.

The Zoom meeting, which had a capacity of 500 participants, was full minutes after the 7 p.m. start, and Councilman George Lobman was unable to get into the meeting to participate. It ended 35 minutes later after the commenter hijacked public comment on another ordinance, prompting a scramble to silence the man.

As the commenter was finally silenced, Councilman David Ciccozzi — who along with Councilman James Quinlisk opposed the Zoom meeting — remarked about how badly the meeting was going, and urged Council President Craig Coleman to hold the meeting in a larger space in person.

Coleman rejected the holding it in person, saying, “It’s not going to go well if we have people banging on tables.”

Quinlisk and Ciccozzi objected to the Zoom meeting multiple times because the capacity had been exceeded, saying it prevented members of the public from being able to voice their opinions.

“The Zoom is twice the size of our normal meeting room,” Mayor Daniel Rodrick said, and said anyone who was unable to get in via Zoom was able to watch it on YouTube.

The YouTube recording, reviewed after the Zoom meeting was halted, did not include the first 16 minutes, 38 seconds of the meeting, instead displaying the historic photos of Toms River that usually are shown during executive session or recesses in the meeting.

Rodrick asked Gregory McGuckin, the township attorney, to offer a legal opinion on the Zoom meeting, but McGuckin was muted and unable to reply. Anthony Merlino, the assistant township attorney, said there was no provision in the Open Public Meetings Act for moving a meeting because it was over capacity.

Quinlisk also asked Coleman to have Rodrick and Council Vice President Lynn O’Toole removed from participating in the meeting, because they had violations with the Local Government Finance Board over financial disclosure statements that were not filed ontime. Both were fined and had not paid the fines, he said.

Coleman refused to acknowledge Quinlisk, and the back-and-forth led to Rodrick demanding the IT department mute Quinlisk to stop him. O’Toole also yelled at Quinlisk, telling him to “desist.”

Rodrick, in a statement Thursday morning, said he has never been fined for not filing a financial disclosure form.

“Mine were filed last year and Lynn wasn’t fined either. She wasn’t on council last year. She hasn’t been on the zoning board either,” he said. “This year’s disclosure isn’t even due yet.”

“Councilman ‘Witless’ should research things before he speaks,” Rodrick added.

After introducing ordinances to change speed limits on four streets and one to eliminate the code enforcement division and move those duties under the planning and zoning division, the council permanently tabled an ordinance to create a division of public works under the administration department.

Coleman then opened public comment on an ordinance that would move the roads and sanitation division under the Administration Department and parks, buildings and grounds to the Recreation Department.

At that point, the commenter — whose identity was not known — hijacked the meeting, making repeated offensive antisemitic statements as Coleman, Rodrick and others clamored for the meeting to end.

There was no vote on that ordinance and no formal adjournment of the meeting.