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RED BANK: ZIPPRICH LEADS ATTORNEY FIRING

red-bank-greg-cannon-113021-500x332-9668735Attorney Greg Cannon at borough hall last November. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-2130637It was another night of political fireworks, this time punctuated by Cannon fire, as the Red Bank council terminated borough attorney Greg Cannon without explanation Wednesday night.

The abrupt action created a vacancy Mayor Pasquale Menna angrily refused to fill when Councilman Ed Zipprich nominated a lawyer who recently “exonerated” him of impropriety.

Early on in the council’s monthly workshop meeting, Zipprich moved for a vote on two resolutions that were not on the agenda and had not previously been discussed in public: terminating Cannon, who has been the governing body’s attorney for five years, and replacing him with Scott Salmon, of the Jardim, Meisner & Susser firm.

Salmon wrote a report for the council in May that found Zipprich did not “interfere” in the award of a trash collection contract two years ago, as suggested in emails by former borough administrator Ziad Shehady that were leaked to redbankgreen. Zipprich said at the time that Salmon’s finding “exonerated” him of “smears.”

Menna said he had not received the resolutions until 5:30 p.m, just an hour before the start of the meeting.

“So much for transparency, at least by two so-called transparent advocates,” he said, apparently referring to Zipprich and his ally, Councilman Michael Ballard.

“As a matter of courtesy, as a matter of decency and legal efficacy, I would have expected… that some members of the council would have contacted me and said this is what we want to do,” Menna said.

“It is bad politics, it is bad legally,” Menna said, though he added, “you can do it.”

Zipprich offered no explanation for the termination, and did not respond to a redbankgreen inquiry as of Thursday morning.

Council members Kathy Horgan and Kate Triggiano voted no; Zipprich, Ballard, Jacqueline Sturdivant and Angela Mirandi voted yes.

Zipprich then asked that Salmon be named attorney, for $48,000 per year.

Salmon was chosen by the council in March to represent Mirandi after her appointment to the governing body to fill a vacancy was challenged in court by Horgan and activist Kate Okeson. Horgan and Okeson named Zipprich and the local Democratic organization he then headed as defendants.

Mirandi retained her seat after a Superior Court judge rejected Horgan and Okeson’s claim that her appointment was the result of a tainted nomination process. Mirandi is running for a full three-year term in the November election.

Menna, an attorney who specializes in municipal law, said New Jersey law gives him as mayor the power to appoint the attorney. He refused to do so.

“State law makes it clear that the nomination for borough attorney is the prerogative of the mayor,” Menna said. “Since nobody has spoken about it to me, nobody has whispered it to me, I am exercising my prerogative.”

When Zipprich objected that the borough would be left without representation, Menna replied: “You sound like the defendant at the bar who is charged with murder of a parent and tells the judge, ‘have mercy on me because I’m an orphan.'”

Menna said the council had 30 days to override his veto if it wished to do so.

“I am not making this appointment,” he said. “And don’t say I am leaving you in a difficult position when you schemed to put this on the table at the last minute.”

In response to a redbankgreen inquiry, Cannon declined comment.

“I will defer to Red Bank’s elected officials to speak for themselves and respectfully, I can’t tread near the line of revealing any client communications,” he said via email.

Cannon, who is also borough attorney in Fair Haven, has served since 2010 as a council member in Aberdeen, where he’s chairman of the Democratic organization.

Zipprich last week lost his seat as chairman of the local Democratic party to Triggiano, though he retains strong support on the all-Democratic council from Ballard, Sturdivant and Mirandi.

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