Another Red Bank Council meeting, another ugly blow-up. And last night’s was a Richter-scale doozie.
As usual, the main event was Mayor Ed McKenna v. Councilman John Curley, but two other council members and a borough resident got into the finger-pointing and shouting.
Through it all, Curley’s opponent in the race to succeed McKenna, Council President Pasquale Menna, stayed on the sidelines before restoring an air of calm to the proceedings.
Last’s night flashpoint, or at least the first of several, was the question of whether or not William Meyer of Tinton Falls has long been misrepresenting himself as a Red Bank resident for giving his address as 12 Monmouth Street when he speaks at public forums, as he did last night.
Meyer owns the building at that address and runs a law practice from an office there. McKenna, also an attorney, has previously contended, in a letter to the editor of the Hub, that Meyer is “a fraud” for failing to instead identify himself by his town of residence.
Last night, Meyer raised objections to the borough’s plan to pay $2.4 million for a two-acre parcel of property on the West Side for the creation of affordable housing project called Cedar Crossings. (An ordinance clearing the way for the land purchase passed after the brouhaha. See the Asbury Park Press today for details.) Meyer cited two examples of case law to bolster his argument.
Up next after Meyer was Tony Busch of West Front Street, who angrily demanded a investigation into whether Meyer is illegally using his office as a residence. That brought a sharp rebuke from Curley.
“Mr. Busch, I’m glad to see you’re an FBI agent. I’d like to see your credentials,” he shouted. Meyer, he said, “is a taxpayer, and he has the right to speak.” When Busch retorted that speakers are “supposed to” give their home addresses, Curley called Busch a “minion” of McKenna, and offered to get Busch a dicttionary when Busch said he didn’t understand the word.
McKenna jumped in, insisting that Curley allow Busch to speak, but the shouting continued. It was defused, or seemed to be, when Councilman Robert Bifani interjected that perhaps speakers in Meyer’s situation “give both addresses next time.”
The calm didn’t last. Curley, apparently reading from notes or a prepared statement, ran through a litany of reasons for his objection to the land purchase, including an appraisal of the land’s value that he questioned. But when he mentioned Bifani’s family, who own an adjacent property to the Cedar Crossings site, McKenna burst back in, shouting over Curley, who forged ahead.
“You lie,” McKenna shouted. “There’s another lie! You’ve just told five blatant lies!” McKenna called Curley a “used car salesman” who is “incapable of telling the truth.”
“Tell me what you have done in four year on the council toward affordable housing,” he shouted. “Absolutely zero.”
Republican Councilwoman Kaye Ernst, who regularly sides with Curley, intervened, but that brought a rebuke from Democrat Art Murphy, who angrily told Ernst he was “up to here” with what he said were her constant interruptions of other speakers.
Bifani succinctly and without shouting chastised Curley for bringing his family into the argument.
Councilwoman Sharon Lee didn’t say a word. Menna, too, chose to stay out of the line of fire until the combatants had spewed most of their venom. At that point, he calmly explained that he thought the legal analysis offered by Meyer was off the mark, and said he saw no reason to challenge the findings of a respected appraiser.
The borough’s purchase of the land, which is to be fully funded by the state, is a “sterling opportunity,” he said, to add to the borough’s affordable housing stock.