Beware of the Berniecrat: Toms River Councilman sued over fake news

Robyn Gedrich, the 25-year-old Brick Democratic Municipal vice chair, is suing Toms River Councilman Dan Rodrick over campaign finance reporting violations and false defamation.

A video posted on YouTube shows Rodrick being served with a defamation lawsuit during the Oct 9, 2018, Township Council meeting.

Gedrich, the Brick Democratic Municipal Vice Chair, is alleging that Rodrick owns various fake news sites, including the Ocean County Chronicle.

Documents in the case claim Rodrick owns at least two other websites, the Brick Beacon and the Toms River Weekly, as well as a series of Facebook pages — Jackson Watch, Brick Watch, Toms River Watch and Toms River Taxpayers — that direct people to his websites.

The lawsuit claims that Rodrick’s expenditures on his political Facebook page and websites, without disclosure of such expenditures in campaign finance reports, constitute clear violations of campaign finance laws.

It also says that he intentionally hid his control over the various websites and Facebook pages in order to create a veneer of credibility and non-partisan objectivity.

According to Facebook’s Ad Disclosure Archive, a group known as “Citizens for Transparent Government” paid between $202 and $1,198 for advertising to direct people to one of Rodrick’s websites.

Citizens for Transparent Government is owned, operated, and funded by Rodrick.

The lawsuit also asserts that Rodrick set up other fictitious committees to boost his Facebook pages, on which he has spent more than $5,000 for promotional ads.

Rodrick, a Republican councilman in Toms River Township, was served with the lawsuit while sitting on the dais, during the governing body’s October 9, 2018 meeting.

According to the lawsuit, the news sites frequently post articles that contain false and misleading facts to promote Rodrick’s interests and undermine his political adversaries.

Rodrick uses a variety of Facebook pages to direct unsuspecting people to his various websites and, through them, employs fictitious fundraising committees to boost his website articles and to lure viewers to his websites.

The lawsuit claims that Rodrick’s expenditures were made without disclosure on campaign finance reports, as required by state law.

What appears to have instigated this lawsuit is that, according to the lawsuit, Rodrick put up a posting on one of his websites about the plaintiff, Gedrich, under the headline “Job Given to Mayor Ducey’s New Democratic Party Underboss.”

The posting also contains reference to Gedrich “being hired at the Township of Brick,” other related claims, asserting that she obtained a public job because of her political involvement in the Democratic party.

Although Gedrich has been a rising star in Democratic politics since she emerged as a prominent volunteer working for Bernie Sanders’ presidential effort in 2016, her partisan activity is unrelated to her employment. She earned national attention in 2016 when Tinder, an Internet dating site, suspended her for using the platform to seek votes for Sanders.

Gedrich is a Brick Housing Authority Commissioner and was president of the Ocean County Young Democrats.

The lawsuit states that all of the claims are false. Gedrich she telephoned Rodrick the day of the first posting, informed him that the allegations were untrue, and that Rodrick has failed and refused to remove the malicious lie.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified amounts for compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees and costs.

Gedrich said that Rodrick’s statements were “in reckless disregard of the truth, or with knowledge of the falsity of the statements.”

Rodrick was elected as a Democrat last year, but switched parties in July, a month after he lost a race for Toms River Democratic Municipal Chairman that was conducted in his own home.

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