Ruling is victory for municipal chairman Edward Zipprich
By Joey Fox, April 12 2022 5:25 pm
An internecine battle among Red Bank Democrats has been resolved in municipal chairman Edward Zipprich’s favor, with a Superior Court judge ruling that appointed Councilwoman Angela Mirandi can remain on the borough council over the objections of a competing Democratic faction.
In January, Councilman Erik Yngstrom – a member of the faction opposing Zipprich – resigned from the all-Democratic council, triggering a complex process that ultimately resulted in the appointment of Mirandi.
Councilwoman and Democratic municipal committeewoman Kathy Horgan and Democratic municipal committee secretary Kate Okeson quickly filed suit to undo Mirandi’s appointment. They argued that Zipprich, who is also a councilman, circumvented the proper process when he submitted three names, one of them Mirandi’s, to Mayor Pat Menna for consideration without first consulting the full Democratic municipal committee.
But Zipprich responded that the municipal committee had failed to submit a list of three candidates within 15 days of the vacancy, which he argued nullified the committee’s advisory role and allowed the council to appoint whichever Democrat it liked.
On March 21, Superior Court Judge David Bauman ruled that Mirandi could remain on the council until the matter was resolved. Bauman went further in his ruling today, writing that Okeson and Horgan had “not demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their claims” or shown how Mirandi’s service on the council would deal them irreparable harm.
“Balancing the irreparable harm if preliminary restraints are or are not granted tips in favor of the defendants [Zipprich and Mirandi],” Bauman wrote. “Not only do plaintiffs demand defendant Mirandi’s removal; they demand that the Borough Council keep that seat vacant until the general election in November.”
Today’s ruling means that Zipprich’s Democratic faction now controls an outright majority of the Red Bank council, with four of its six seats.
Last year, the different Democratic contingents went directly head-to-head in a primary for two seats on the council, with a split final result. Anti-Zipprich Councilwoman Kate Triggiano and pro-Zipprich challenger Jacqueline Sturdivant won the top two spots; Triggiano’s running mate Councilman Hazim Yassin and Sturdivant’s partner Bruce Maida fell short.
Okeson and Horgan issued a statement saying that they were “deeply concerned that Judge Bauman’s decision appears to give the Municipal Chair the ability to bypass all 18 elected county committee members.”
“This litigation started because Mr. Zipprich never called a Democratic Municipal Committee meeting to address Councilman Yngstrom’s vacancy, depriving its members of a voice,” the two said. “This litigation has helped demonstrate the abuses of power that are corrupting Red Bank and need to stop. Zipprich never followed the rules and now everyone knows it.”
Okeson and Horgan said they were evaluating their options to appeal.