By JOHN T. WARD
Angela Mirandi retained her seat on the Red Bank council after a judge rejected a motion calling for her temporary removal Tuesday.
In his decision, Superior Court Judge David Bauman wrote that the plaintiffs in a lawsuit – Kate Okeson and Councilwoman Kathy Horgan, suing as members of the Red Bank Democrats’ county committee – had not demonstrated a likelihood that they would prevail at trial in having Mirandi ousted.
In their February 22 complaint, Horgan and Okeson alleged they were unlawfully excluded from the party process of deciding nominees to succeed Erik Yngstrom, who quit in January.
They argued that because of improprieties in the selection process, Mirandi should be ousted and the seat left vacant through the end of the year.
Defendants in the suit are Mirandi, the borough government, the local Democratic organization and Councilman Ed Zipprich, in his capacity as party chairman.
But in a 10-page decision, Bauman wrote that the law is “not settled” on the remedy available to members of municipal committees who are denied an opportunity to participate in a political party’s nomination process.
Nor is it “a settled question of law that a ‘municipal committee’ must consist of all members of that committee, or cannot consist of non-elected members, as plaintiffs suggest,” Bauman wrote.
Here’s the decision: Bauman decision 041222
In a joint statement, Okeson and Horgan told redbankgreen:
We are deeply concerned that Judge Bauman’s decision appears to give the Municipal Chair the ability to bypass all 18 elected county committee members. We are evaluating our legal options.
This litigation started because Mr. Zipprich never called a Democratic Municipal Committee meeting to address Councilman Yngstrom’s vacancy, depriving its members (and those who elected the members) of a voice. 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.
Mirandi and her lawyer did not immediately respond.
Zipprich said he expected his attorney would have a statement.
By a 3-to-1 vote, with one abstention, the council approved Mirandi on February 9 to serve through the end of the year.
Attorney Dan O’Hern, who represented the borough, which was also named as a defendant, declined comment on the ruling.
The council is scheduled to hold its next session Wednesday night.
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