By JOHN T. WARD
A Republican candidate for mayor in Little Silver is in hot water with the volunteer fire department in which he’s a member.
Rick Brandt, who’s challenging incumbent Mayor Bob Neff in the GOP primary, is under suspension by the department for improper use of imagery, redbankgreen has learned.
According to a December 7 letter from the department to the mayor and council, LSFD leadership found on November 30 that Brandt had violated the fire company’s bylaws by “reposting/ again making public an emergency scene photograph; use of borough equipment (i.e. fire helmet); and use of the house and grounds in a photo and/or video (collectively defined instant technology)” without approval from the chief, president and trustees.
The details of the allegations were not specified. According to the letter, signed by then-Chief Nick Hubbard, current Chief Mike Welsh and two other officials, the violation was the second of its kind by Brandt, after a verbal warning over the first.
The officials ordered Brandt not to participate in any department “events, fundraisers, calls, drills, work details” or to “be on the LSVFC property at any time pending a formal judicial process.”
According to the correspondence, Brandt “chose to accept a 30-day suspension” for the month of December, but a week later rescinded his acceptance in a 15-page statement that alleged he was the victim of a “conspiracy” between unspecified members of the fire company and the community.
Brandt did not respond Wednesday to redbankgreen‘s requests for the statement and for comment.
Last week, department membership voted that the charges against Brandt “were/are warranted and valid,” according to a letter sent to the mayor and council by Dan Kelly, president of the fire company. Additionally, members voted to extend Brandt’s suspension by six months, through September 5, the letter said.
No reason was given in the letter for the extension. On Wednesday, Kelly told redbankgreen that the issue “has been addressed within the company” and declined comment.
A lifelong borough resident, Brandt, 30, has established a high profile in town as a volunteer, leading efforts to boost recreation programs and in support of local businesses with community events such as A Taste of Little Silver.
Brandt is also a member of the board of trustees for Lunch Break in Red Bank, and originated an annual flag-football tournament that now raises funds for the organization. Dubbed the Rivalry Series, the latest edition of the tournament raised $15,000 at Count Basie Fields in Red Bank.
Two weeks after the initial department action, Brandt was featured in a Journal Publications article headlined “Little Silver’s Superman” showing him in his fire department dress blues and giving a thumbs-up. Two weeks after that, Brandt hosted a party at Sickles Market for “a couple of hundred” guests at which he announced his candidacy for mayor, he told redbankgreen in January.
Brandt said he mounted his intra-party challenge — a rarity in town — against Neff “not because of anything he’s done or hasn’t done. I’m running because I know there’s another level we can get to.”
Neff, however, won the endorsement of the local GOP committee in February, and plans to be on a ticket with incumbent council members Corrine Thygeson and Don Galante in November, he told redbankgreen recently.
Brandt subsequently told redbankgreen that he would pursue a primary challenge for the party slot on the November ballot.
The local Democrats have not yet announced a slate.