ROXBURY, NJ – (Updated 10 p.m. Feb. 13) Roxbury Director of Public Works Richard Blood’s decision to cut-and-paste to his personal Facebook page a controversial post about President Donald Trump and illegal immigrants will not impact his job with the township, said Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd.
However, Blood’s action - which led to his Monday night resignation from the Mendham Township Council – is prompting Roxbury officials to revisit the township’s personnel policies relating to social media activity by employees, Shepherd said. “Our personnel manual is outdated,” he acknowledged. “It doesn’t address social media at all.”
Blood, a Republican who was serving as Mendham’s deputy mayor, resigned after a throng of people showed up at Monday’s Mendham Township Council Meeting asserting that he was a racist. Their ire was related to Blood’s cutting and pasting to his Facebook page a controversial post.
The post asserted that one of the reasons an “ass” like Donald Trump was elected is because he appeared to be willing to tackle illegal immigration. It suggested electing Trump – for people concerned about illegal immigrants - was like hiring a flawed but determined exterminator to rid a basement of an infestation of “rabid raccoons.” Although Blood did not write the diatribe, he failed to clearly point that out on his page.
Out For Blood
The post prompted about 100 people to show up at the Mendham meeting where many stood to denounce Blood and call for his resignation. Blood, a Mendham resident for 27 years and Robury's DPW director since 2002, said he went to the meeting aware the crowd was coming. He apologized repeatedly, according to reports.
“I read a statement that said I was not intending to resign,” he said. “Then the public had its piece for an hour and a half. We went into executive session and I could tell this was going to be a distraction to the Mendham governing body. They didn’t need that. This was my doing and I was the one who had to fix it, so I figured it (resigning) was the best thing to do.”
Blood, who is being hounded by interview requests from reporters, insists he's not at all racist. "We've had people (in the Roxbury DPW) from all nationalities," Blood said. "I hired them and I promoted them. I am not what the press is laying out here."
Shepherd noted he is not a Facebook user. He said first heard of the brouhaha on Sunday. "We started taking a look first thing Monday," he said. "I wanted to see how it did impact us, even though it was done on someone's private time."
The manager said he discussed the matter with Roxbury Township Attorney Anthony Bucco. He said his decision to not take action against Blood "doesn't mean we can have absolutely free speech on anything." If, for example, a department head went on social media and said he or she would never hire an African American, that would not be tolerated, Shepherd said.
But Shepherd said he sees no sign of racism in Blood and said that - while the matter is drawing widespread bad press - it has nothing to do with Blood's performance as DPW chief, a job that resulted in Blood winning an award last year.
"I've never had any reason to believe that, based on his words or actions, hs is racist" Shepherd said. "We have a multi-cultural work force. He respects them. He hired them. He's recommended them for promotion. I don't believe he acts in a way that would lead you to believe he is a racist as he's been called by people."
Fear of Living in Roxbury
Blood's situation came up at Tuesday night's Roxbury Mayor and Council meeting during the public session. One of the people who spoke was Succasunna resident Renata Mauriz, who said she is an immigrant who has lived in Roxbury for 11 years and attended Roxbury schools prior to Brown University.
Visibly upset while speaking. Mauriz said that Blood, “instead of being an example for the community ... instilled hate" through his Facebook post. "Never, as an immigrant, have I felt more afraid of living in Morris County," she said. "We need this dialogue and you [the council] cannot stay silent about it. Make policies in our community that mirror our values.”
Another resident who spoke was Anne Mauro of Succasunna. "The people of Roxbury deserve better than what Mr. Shepherd has given them," she said. "There is a Boy Scout troop here to learn about citizenship and we should set an example for the young men here today."
Shepherd said nobody should feel afraid to live in Roxbury. “You should feel welcomed," he commented. "You should feel safe. Our police are dedicated to keeping you safe. In Roxbury, we hire the best people for the jobs regardless of ethnicity.”
Defending Blood was Landing resident Shawn Potillo, a council meeting regular who serves on the township's Landing Gateway Committee.
“I personally know Blood, and he never seemed like a racist to me," Potillo said. "Sharing other people’s words does not make him a racist. I can’t defend him, but I sit here often and listen to him speak about how he wants to help all the people of Roxbury. I have never felt threatened in Roxbury. Our community is extremely safe. Have faith in our community. You have no reason to be scared here.”
Potillo and Mauriz became engaged in a heated argument after the meeting, a dispute that centered on Mauriz's claim about being fearful. She accused Potillo of “speaking on account of all local minorities instead of his own experiences.”
Roxbury Councilman Dan Kline, the panel's only Democrat, stressed that Roxbury is "a stigma-free town" and said that, as such, it needs to "live up to" that label. "We need to use this incident ot move forward, to create required sensitivity training" for town employees, he said.
Blood was appointed to the Mendham council seat in December to fill a vacancy on the panel. He first ran for office in 2017 and lost to Amalia Duarte, a Democrat.
Duarte was one of those at the Mendham criticizing Blood, according to reports. Blood said Duarte "was very vocal about" the Facebook matter and "let everybody know when the meeting was."