Democratic Red Bank chairman addresses municipal issues

By Ed Zipprich

In times of war, the aggressor’s first necessary strategic move is to dehumanize the enemy. The Germany of the Second World War, the Cold War and the post-September period. Nationalism clearly illustrates this behavior.

Once someone is considered “less than” or dehumanized, it is much easier to attack and destroy. Abusers present their actions as virtuous and righteous and argue that eliminating their “evil adversary” is for the public good.

At Red Bank, where I lived and served as a dedicated volunteer and then as an elected official for over 20 years, we seem to be at war for the future of our city.

On one side are the developers and their supporters, who are aggressively fighting to transform our historic, neighborhood-focused city into a city filled with apartments on the waterfront. They are actively fighting against those of us who are committed to preserving our historic neighborhoods and the charm of our small towns.

And in this battle between the development of big cities and the preservation of small towns, a new enemy has been created to confuse and afflict residents.

This “evil enemy”, apparently, is me.

In 2018, two young candidates, claiming to espouse the beliefs of the grassroots political movement “Our Revolution,” approached me in my role as chairman of the Red Bank Democrats to run for borough council.

I was very happy to welcome them and supported their nominations through our established process, and our team worked hard to see them elected. Shortly after their swearing in, however, many members of our party began to doubt their intentions.

While we did not know either of these two officials would face criminal charges, we knew as a party that we could not endorse their re-election. And because we as Democrats chose to oppose their highly unethical and unprofessional actions, the attacks on me escalated.

These elected members of our borough council united to destroy my name and my reputation.

Supported by our former corporate administrator, they embarked on an ongoing smear campaign, going so far as to falsely and very publicly accuse me of “bid rigging”.

When I protested against this accusation and demanded an investigation to prove my innocence, the majority of the time and the mayor Pasquale Menna made a wall.

The borough council voted to pay for an investigation into these charges. For a year we waited for a report, only to be informed by the mayor that his recommended attorney would not return his calls and in fact never opened an investigation.

If the majority of the board had gone against me, Red Bank might never have learned the truth. Fortunately, the last election changed the balance of power in our city. A new lawyer has been retained and we now have his full report.

I have been exonerated. I did not break any rules or regulations while researching the quote request completed by the former corporate director, but I was in fact exercising my legislative authority and control in ensuring that the quote reflected the needs of the borough.

The report also states that the documents that were leaked to the press were encrypted and released to the mayor, the borough attorney and the four (former) majority members of the borough council by the former corporate administrator.

These members of our government knew that I had done nothing wrong, yet for over a year they continued to allow this lie against me to flourish, hoping to do by rumor and insinuation what they did not seem succeed at the polls: undermine my leadership.

While I am greatly relieved to finally be able to prove the totally false and destructive nature of these accusations, I am deeply saddened that this had to happen.

This war of personal destruction must end. It rips Red Bank.

Voters should know that I have never lied to the public, I have never leaked inside information to the press, I have never called other board members “liars” or “toxic” on the ‘platform.

I never stole a penny from anyone, nor did I disparage the residents or anyone else with racial slurs.

I have never abdicated my legislative obligations for personal gain, nor have I supported anyone who did, once the transgression was discovered.

As the report clearly indicates, I exercised my authority as a duly elected member of this municipality.

This Atlantic Hub Your Turn guest opinion column was written by Ed Zipprich, who is a member of the Red Bank Borough Council and City Chairman of the Red Bank Democratic Party.

Melissa C. Keyes