Rick Brandt during an interview in January. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
Already under suspension by the volunteer fire department for improper use of photos in his campaign, the Republican challenger for mayor in Little Silver is in another flap over photos, this time with the school district.
Rick Brandt, who’s up against incumbent Mayor Bob Neff in the GOP primary next month, has also drawn the ire of the organization that manages the town’s most historic property.
On Wednesday, schools Superintendent Carolyn Kossack called out Brandt — but not by name — for improper use of photos of eighth-graders who interviewed him Tuesday.
According to a letter (right; click to enlarge) Kossack sent to the school community Wednesday, the unnamed candidate “proceeded to post pictures on social media with children without the consent of the school” after the interview.
“This is a direct violation of school board policy, and the individual was asked to remove all posts immediately,” Kossack continued.
Kossack’s letter said the district “will not engage in any campaign propaganda. We act in loco parentis, or ‘in the place of a parent,’ when children are in our care.”
No photos from the interview could be found on Brandt’s campaign page on Facebook Wednesday afternoon. Brandt did not respond to redbankgreen‘s requests for comment on the matter.
The episode adds to a string of clashes the media-savvy borough native has had in recent months with local organizations.
Last November, the leaders of the town’s volunteer fire department found that Brandt, a member, had violated its bylaws by using images from fires, and pictures of a fire helmet and company property, in campaign literature without approval higher-ups.
According to a letter sent by the company to the borough council, 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to the correspondence, Brandt “chose to accept a 30-day suspension” for the month of December, but a week later rescinded his acceptance in a 15-page statement that alleged he was the victim of a “conspiracy” between unspecified members of the fire company and the community.
In March, department membership voted that the charges against Brandt were “warranted and valid,” according to another 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.
Brandt did not respond to redbankgreen requests for comment at the time.
Brandt has also rankled the folks at Parker Homestead-1665 , redbankgreen has learned. The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, which oversees the historic farm property on Rumson Road, “had to warn Rick not to represent himself as a trustee or spokesperson,” said Keith Wells, its president.
In addition, Brandt recorded much of his campaign video on homestead property, “in violation of our published policy,” Wells said. Another violation occurred this past Sunday, Wells said, when Brandt posted on his personal Facebook page a photo of himself holding a poster for the organization’s Two River Ramble music festival.
The image wrongly “implies he had something to do with organizing it,” Wells said.
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.
Until recently, Brandt was 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 food-and-clothing charity. Dubbed the Rivalry Series, the latest edition of the tournament raised $15,000 at Count Basie Fields in Red Bank.
Gwen Love, Lunch Break’s executive director, told redbankgreen Wednesday that Brandt has taken a leave of absence from the board “while he runs for mayor.”
Brandt, running solo, is up against Neff, who’s on a slate with incumbent council members Corrine Thygeson and Don Galante in the June 4 primary election.
In her letter, Kossack said the students’ planned interview with “the sitting mayor” would go ahead as scheduled this week.
“The children prepared questions to be asked of both candidates, and I do no want to deprive them of that learning opportunity,” she wrote.
“That said,” her letter concluded, “there will be no photos taken and no social media posts.”