Ocean County mayor accused of stolen valor, retaliation

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A New Jersey politician is accused of lying about his military service, and then retaliating against a resident who exposed the allegations. (WPVI)

A New Jersey politician is accused of lying about his military service, and then retaliating against a resident who exposed the allegations.

It's all happening in Stafford Township, Ocean County, where John Spodofora has been mayor since 2010.

Critics tell us Mayor Spodofora spoke of his survivor's guilt, and told tales of his time serving in Vietnam. But his military service records tell a different story, of a naval technician who was thousands of miles away, in Puerto Rico, Panama, and the Mediterranean with no documentation Spodofora ever served in the war zone.

When we confronted Mayor Spodofora about his military record, he said, "You don't have to put your boots on the ground to be a Vietnam vet."

And when we asked if he was anywhere near Vietnam during the war, his response was, "I can't say."

Spodofora has not always been so secretive about his military service. His 2011 election fliers and his township bio touted he was a Vietnam veteran and Vietnam War Medal of Valor recipient.

Earl Galloway tells us, "I knew the truth that he wasn't in Vietnam."

But it's that "truth" that Earl Galloway, a retired Navy Command Master Chief, said ultimately made him the target of a local, county, and federal criminal investigation.

Galloway says, "It's all been a vendetta against me. I exposed him for what he really is."

Public records show Spodafora enlisted in the Navy in 1966, and served as a technician performing maintenance on cryptologic machinery, or "CTM," across the Mediterranean and Atlantic, until he was honorably discharged in 1973.

His two medals included, "Good Conduct" and a "National Defense Service Medal." There was no record of a Navy "Medal of Valor" or any medals from serving in a combat zone.

In a 2012 city council meeting, Galloway asked the mayor to tell the public the truth, and Spodofora made a shocking admission.

"I was not in Vietnam and the "Medal of Valor" was a medal of valor as I explained, from a non-military medal. It was from Safari Club International," the mayor said.

But even after apologizing, according to Galloway the misrepresentations continued.

Galloway says, "There's nothing wrong with telling the truth. So I created a spoof Facebook page called 'John Spodo-phony.'"

The Facebook page, which has since been shut down, used a mock picture of the mayor, and according to Galloway, exposed the lies about his service.

Shortly after, Galloway says he was notified by his government employer that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service or NCIS, was contacted by local authorities. Galloway was being investigated both locally, and now federally, for identity theft.

So we asked Spodofora about the investigation, and the belief by some that he used his position as mayor to have somebody investigated who was questioning him.

The mayor replied by saying, "I had a crime investigated. If somebody violates my rights I have just as much of a right to report it to the police as anybody in this town."

A police report obtained by Actions News reads: "A detective and the police chief met with John Spodofora in the mayor's office." The mayor, it says, claimed he was the victim of "wrongful impersonation" and he "named Earl Galloway" as a possible suspect.

However, Spodafora told us he did not ask the police chief to investigate Galloway.

A four month long investigation ensued.

Joshua Bauchner represents Galloway, and tells us, "There are hundreds of hours, tens of thousands of dollars at least, that the mayor and the chief of police used in pursuing this investigation that was again, predicated on a total fiction, and wasting the tax payers dollars."

And Councilman Paul Krier also says he doesn't believe this was a legitimate use of township resources.

Krier says, "I was aware of Mr. Galloway's Facebook page and at no point in time did I think it was nothing other than a parody. And as such I don't know that it rose to the level where it should've been investigated."

The mayor's updated township biography now states he is a Vietnam era veteran, and not a Vietnam vet.

Investigators ultimately found there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges of wrongful impersonation.

Galloway has now filed a lawsuit saying his rights to privacy and free speech were violated, which the mayor, chief of police, and township have denied.
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