Two days before Teaneck municipal elections, Councilwoman Barbara Toffler, who is running for re-election, was accused of going up to a private home in Teaneck and taking down campaign signs promoting two of her opponents, Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, Teaneck’s first Muslim elected official whose close relationship with the Jewish community has been highlighted as an example of interfaith relations at its best, and Mark Schwartz, a member of the Teaneck Planning Board, president of Cong Shaare Tefillah, and treasurer of Yavneh Academy in Paramus, who is running for a first term as councilman.
According to the police report, Dr. Toffler, a self-described “professional ethicist,” took down the signs in order to put up her own sign on the property. The homeowner had given permission for all the signs in question to be erected on his property.
When a neighbor, Chaim Kiss, saw Dr. Toffler removing the signs of her opponents, he told her stop. According to the police report, filed by Officer Robert Gloria, Dr. Toffler argued that the signs were “not in the right place.”
In fact, according to the police report, the signs were in exactly the right place. It is not clear why Dr. Toffler took it upon herself to deal with the signs instead of calling the police, even if she thought there was a problem.
In any case, the one who called the police was Mr. Kiss.
When Officer Gloria went to Dr. Toffler’s home to complete his report, he was met not only by the councilwoman, but also, according to sources, by Teaneck Police Sgt Jerry Rosano, who, at the time, was off-duty. Sgt Rosano, who, according to sources, is a supporter and campaign operative for Dr. Toffler, is also Officer Gloria’s superior.
A neighbor snapped a photo of Dr. Toffler talking to Sgt Rosano on the walkway, while Officer Gloria first stands slightly away from them and then, in a second photograph, waits by the street while Dr. Toffler and Sgt Rosano talk to one another.
It is unclear if Sgt Rosano spoke to Officer Gloria at all.
Nevertheless, at Dr. Toffler’s home, Officer Gloria discovered that while Dr. Toffler admitted taking down her opponents’ signs, she said she had to do so in order to get her own sign moved to another spot. “She stated she was going to put back the two election signs [of her opponents], but never had a chance to,” said the police report.
In his report, Officer Gloria did not explain why she never had the chance. According to the police report, the signs for Messrs Hameeduddin and Schwartz were eventually replaced by Mr. Kiss.
Asked by email why she did not replace the signs herself, Dr. Toffler had no response. She similarly refused to answer whether or not Sgt Rosano had anything to do with the case.
Despite the police report’s statement that the election signs “were permitted in that location as per township ordinance,” Dr. Toffler insisted, “All signs were illegally placed and should have been removed.”
It was unclear if she believes her own sign, which she was trying to put up, was also illegal, or if she thought only the signs of her opponents were illegal.
Although she was not asked about her censure by the Teaneck Town Council last year, an action which was upheld in court when she tried to challenge it, she chose to bring up the subject in her email, saying the censure “violated the public’s trust” and was conducted “just to get back at Barbara Toffler.” She accused the Town Council of wasting taxpayers’ money and “possibly costing Teaneck its outside insurance,” when the members defended themselves against her suit.
Dr. Toffler, who, several years ago in the New York Times, implied that too many Orthodox Jews were moving into Teaneck, then accused The Jewish Voice and Opinion of attacking her “for the conservative form of Judaism I practice with a true heart.”
“You embarrass every good Jew by your abuse of our honest faith,” Dr. Toffler wrote in her email, even though the issue was her behavior towards her opponents’ campaign signs, not her religious practice.
When asked if Teaneck intended to pursue the matter of Dr. Toffler’s removing the campaign signs or Sgt. Rosano’s possible involvement in the case, Teaneck Police Chief Bobby Wilson said, “Not at the present time.”
Some Teaneck residents who heard about the incident said they might be inclined to contact the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate further.