ROXBURY TWP. — The township’s public works director, who was GOP Deputy Mayor in neighboring Mendham Township, resigned at Monday’s Mendham Township Committee meeting amid a firestorm of protest over an anti-immigrant Facebook page that he had posted over the weekend.

The official, Rick Blood, Roxbury’s public works director, also profusely apologized for the post.

Meanwhile, in Roxbury Township, Township Manager John Shepherd said he has discussed the matter with Blood, a long-time employee. “Rick and I did discuss this issue since it was brought to my attention. I believe Rick knows that as a high-ranking official of Roxbury Township, it is imperative that social media does not impact his ability to perform his duties in Roxbury, even when the social media posts are not sponsored or related to Roxbury Township,” Shepherd said Monday.

“However, as you know, Rick as well as our other employees enjoy a private life and have legal protections related to free speech. Regardless, I do not believe this type of situation will occur again.”

Blood told the crowd who gathered at Monday’s Mendham Township Committee meeting in protest. “I didn’t realize, until tonight, the lasting effect of the post. I don’t want to stand in the way of this good governing body moving Mendham forward.”

At the beginning of the Mendham Township meeting, Blood apologized for a “lapse in judgment” but said he would not resign his post.

“I am sorry about (the post),” in which he essentially compared undocumented immigrants to “rabid, messy raccoons” infesting basements, Blood said.

“It was insensitive and cruel at the worst. I am most sorry my actions caused this level of stress.”

The apology was not enough.Mendham Township Democratic Township Committeewoman Amalia Duarte, who defeated Blood in the November general election, said he should step down in the interest of the township.

“We welcome all people in Mendham Township,” Duarte said.

Township Committeeman Warren Gisser, a Republican, said Blood’s remarks created mistrust between the governing body and residents.

“I take the issue of trust seriously,” Gisser said. “I am shocked and appalled that the issues on the national level have come home to roost. We are welcoming people. I don’t take the comments lightly. There are 2,200 households in Mendham, about 120 people are here.

“I have my own strong feelings and I am not sure if it was a moment of incredible honesty or incredible stupidity. I am disappointed. ”

After the public comments in which many, some tearfully, called for Blood’s resignation, the Township Committee adjourned into an executive session for about 10 minutes. They emerged and Blood announced his resignation.

Around 125 residents and others were at the meeting and many demanded Blood to resign.

Blood lost in the November general election to Democrat Amalia Duarte. The Township Committee, however, appointed Blood in December to serve the remainder of the term after the resignation of Republican Committeeman Chris Baumann. Blood was later named deputy mayor by his colleagues. He would have served until Baumann’s three-year term expired on Dec. 31.

Blood’s Facebook posting read in part:

“You’ve been on vacation for two weeks,you come home and your basement is infested with raccoons. Hundreds of rabid, messy raccoons have overtaken your basement. You want them gone immediately. You call the city, four different exterminators but nobody can handle the job.

“But there is one guy and he guarantees you to get rid of them, so you hire him. You don’t care if the guy smells, you don’t care if the guy swears, you don’t care if he’s an alcoholic and you don’t care how many times he’s been married.

“Here’s why we want Trump. Yes, he’s a bit of an ass, yes, he’s an egomaniac but we don’t care. The country is in a mess because politicians suck, the Republicans and Democrats can be two-faced and gutless and illegals are everywhere. We want it fixed.

“We don’t care that Trump is crude, we don’t care that he insults people, we don’t care that he was once friendly with Hillary, we don’t care that he has changed positions, we don’t care that he has been married three times.

“This country is weak, bankrupt, our enemies are making fun of us, we are being invaded by illegals, we are becoming a nation of victims where every Tom, Ricardo and Hasid is a special group with special rights to a point where we don’t even recognize the country we were born and raised in AND WE JUST WANT IT FIXED and Trump is the only guy who seems to understand what the people want.”

“You are welcome to pass this on. I feel this is why thousands of people who haven’t voted in 25 years are getting involved. The raccoons have got to go.”

Blood said he saw the posting on Facebook on Saturday and copied and pasted it to his account. After receiving dozens of critical comments, Blood said he deleted the post on Sunday and wrote an “apology” on his Facebook page. Blood’s Facebook post reflected much of the verbiage from Trump supporter and New York businessman Carl Paladino.

“It was probably the stupidest thing I have ever done,” said Blood, referring to his post. “It was a total bonehead move.”

Community Reacts

“Your apology rings hollow,” said Kimberly Gavagan of Kennedy Road at the Mendham Township Committee meeting. “A lapse in judgment is going out on a rainy day without an umbrella.”

Adam Dubeck of Mendham Road West said Blood’s comments were “unbecoming of a committee member.”

“Your apology really wasn’t an apology. You weren’t elected by this constituency. It is a slap in the face to have a negative member not elected by this constituency. Unless you are Native American, you are an immigrant to this country,” Dubeck said.

Patrick Harris of Jane Terrace decried Blood’s “hateful words.”

“I was appalled. I have seen the worst of humanity and what hatred and intolerance due to people. That intolerance is not what the people of Mendham represent,” Harris said.

Anish Bhimani of Wainwright Road said he felt “betrayed” by Blood.

“You made an impassioned pitch for your campaign and I felt you would reach across the aisle and I spent the next three months defending you. No, you didn’t get elected but I felt you were a guy we could trust, who represents all of us. To (have) a perspective that normalizes hate speech, I asked you to resign,” said Bhimani, whose wife, Lisa, is a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate post in November.

Some of the most poignant comments took umbrage to Blood’s Facebook post which called undocumented immigrants “raccoons” and the need to remove them.

“I come from a Jewish heritage, and my parent’s would say don’t ever think that (a Holocaust) couldn’t ever happen here because it could,” said Fern Wolkin of Hanover Township. “We are lucky to be born here. People are born in war-torn countries or poor countries, we are just lucky to be here. Mr. Blood, how are you better than an immigrant? You are just lucky to be here. Immigrants live in fear. Do you think that people should live in fear? I just don’t believe you. For the sake of the community, you should step down.”

Emily Hovrihan of Corey Lane serves with Blood on the township’s parks and reaction committee. She spoke with tears in her eyes. “My grandparents would tell stories about how they escaped Poland from the Nazi’s,” Hovrihan said. “They escaped but all the people in their village were striped naked, shot and killed and put in a mass grave for being vermin. They were exterminated.”

Karol Y. Ruiz, an attorney and co-president of the Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center Morristown, said immigrants are important to the vitality of the township.

“Hateful, hurtful, dehumanizing and unbecoming of an appointed government official,” Ruiz said. “He compared undocumented immigrants to raccoons, a word eerily reminiscent of the racial slur ‘coon.’”

“Undocumented immigrants live and work in Mendham. They manicure lawns in Mendham. They clean homes in Mendham. They tend to the farms in Mendham. They care for the elderly in Mendham. They train horses in Mendham. Undocumented immigrants server meals to all your families at the restaurants here in Mendham. This community would not thrive as it currently does without the labor and the love of undocumented immigrants,” Ruiz said.

Long-time resident Patricia Zimmerman of West Main Street said “the respectful and honorable thing would be for Rick to step down.”

Mayor Rich Diegnan said the Facebook post did not reflect the view of the committee or the residents.

Democrat Tamara Harris of Montclair, an announced candidate for the 11th Congressional District post, said she was pleased with the community reaction.

“You change this behavior by education,” Harris said. “Mr. Blood was enlightened by listening. The (behavior) is like a cancer, if you don’t contain it, it will contaminate.”