During a heated discussion on a proposed Brick municipal government restructuring plan, Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis implied Councilman Dan Toth – a fellow Republican – was supporting the ordinance in order to oust Deputy Business Administrator Juan Bellu from his position in township government after he notified Acropolis of e-mails Toth had sent.
Bellu's job would be eliminated under the restructuring plan, which passed and is now expected to be vetoed by Acropolis.
Acropolis read from e-mails sent to Bellu from Toth, who was asking about the progress of permit approvals for two liquor stores, Tenali Wines and Joe Canals.
Toth is in the liquor business and often abstains from liquor license votes at council meetings, citing a potential conflict of interest.
In one e-mail from Bellu to Acropolis, which Acropolis read, Bellu said Toth had asked him to "expedite" a certificate of occupancy issuance to a liquor store because the owner had purchased inventory and would be required to pay his suppliers.
"I guess when you're in public you abstain, but in private, you call to help people you have a financial interest in," said Acropolis.
Toth said after the meeting that he has personally called township officials on behalf of both citizens and business owners including, recently, a woman from Herbertsville who spotted what turned out to be an overcharge on her property tax bill.
He said he also called township officials when permits for Nick Catone's Mixed Martial Arts academy were delayed.
"We are their conduit," said Toth, referring to business owners and township residents.
In the case of the owner of Tenali Wines, Toth said, the two had known each other "seven years before I even became a councilman" and the message sent to Bellu was simply acting on behalf of a friend and taxpayer who he had convinced to open up shop in Brick.
"I have long-standing relationships with these people," said Toth. "I actually told them to look at Toms River and Brick."
In the case of Joe Canal's, he said, state liquor laws require business owners to pay suppliers within 30 days, and the owner of the store could have been "up a creek" if he could not open his doors and start selling his wares by the time the bills were due.
"The mayor can say anything he wanted about me, he's entitled to that," Toth said."
"We help them solve problems, and I'm guilty of it," said Toth. "I'm guilty of helping people."