Img_4630Councilman John Curley embraces Mayor Pasquale Menna after tonight’s council session.

With four months left to his term, firebrand Republican John Curley announced his resignation from the Red Bank Council tonight, creating the possibility that a party-chosen successor could get much needed facetime before voters in advance of November’s election, in which both GOP seats are at stake.

With his announcement that he was moving to the Shadow Lake development in Middletown, Curley stunned Mayor Pasquale Menna and all but one of his council colleagues: fellow Republican Grace Cangemi, who herself gained a foothold on the council following the resignation of Kaye Ernst early in 2007.

She alone among elected officials had been tipped off, Curley said later.

Curley is running for Monmouth County Freeholder along with incumbent Lillian Burry, and is not seeking re-election to the council. Cangemi, now in what would have been the last year of Ernst’s three-year term, is up for re-election, running with Leighton Avenue resident John Tyler. They’ll square off this fall against Democrats Ed Zipprich and Juanita Lewis.

Curley said council politics hadn’t entered into his decision, which he informed borough GOP chairman Jack Minton about Sunday night.

Reading from a resignation letter he said he had sent to Monmouth County Clerk M. Claire French, Curley said he was resigning effective 5p Tuesday in part because he could not simultaneously run for county freeholder and effectively serve the residents of Red Bank.

He also said he’s all but moved out of town.

Sounding uncharacteristically like a soft-sell commercial for a retirement community, Curley told reporters afterward that he was leaving Red Bank for the “wonderful amenities” at the gated Shadow Lake development, including a golf course and swimming pool, not to mention a larger home than he now has at Red Bank Manor, off Spring Street.

But he could not resist noting in banter with council colleagues that “I had an opportunity to buy a larger home with slightly lower taxes” than he’s now paying in Red Bank.

The announcement took the council and audience by surprise. Menna called it Red Bank’s “best kept secret,” while noting that he’d heard there was a moving van outside Curley’s unit. “I thought you were finally getting some new furniture,” he said.

Curley and Menna squared off for the mayoralty in November 2006. Since then, the tenor of debates at bimonthly council sessions has been far more civil than it was when Menna’s predecessor, Ed McKenna, was mayor. Bad blood between Curley and McKenna led to frequent shouting matches.

Curley credited Menna for the change. “I thank you for the graciousness you extended to me,” he said.

Cangemi praised Curley as “my political mentor and friend,” and Democrat Art Murphy, after telling Curley “it ‘s been a pleasure serving with you,” added, after a pause, “I’ll help you move,” causing the room to erupt in laughter.

Absent from the meeting was Curley’s more recent foil, Councilman (and McKenna law partner) Mike DuPont.

Among Curley’s final official acts were to criticize the council for relying on extraordinary state aid to balance its budget, and to vote no on an ordinance allowing Buona Sera restaurant to install awnings on two sides of its recent addition, but not additional outdoor seating. He cast his vote without comment.

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