With Mayor Pasquale Menna in the background, Councilman Ed Zipprich attached a borough pin to the jacket worn by Angela Mirandi after her swearing-in as council member in February. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
In a prepared statement, Zipprich slammed Taylor for “ineptitude” as a council member and for purported failures of leadership at the Red Bank Borough Education Foundation.
Taylor, in turn, doubled down in his attack on Zipprich.
Then-council members Mark Taylor, left, and Mike Whelan in April, 2018. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Taylor’s initial broadside was contained in his September 13 announcement that he had replaced Christine Stout on the Republican ticket in the November 8 election, in which two council seats are at stake.
Taylor, a former one-term council member who recently concluded a stint as one of five elected members of the Charter Study Commission, is running with GOP chairman Jonathan Maciel Penney against Democratic incumbent Angela Mirandi and her running mate, John Jackson. Mirandi and Jackson are Zipprich allies.
In announcing Taylor’s entry into the race, he and Penney said their aim was “to stop the chaos in Red Bank and restore honor that has been lost in the ongoing destructive governance by Councilman Ed Zipprich and his allies.”
“I did not have any plan to run, but I felt compelled after hearing the outcry from Red Bank residents – including many Democrats – that are disgusted with the dysfunction that Ed Zipprich and his allies keep creating at Borough Hall,” Taylor said in the statement.
Zipprich, who lost the chairmanship of the Democratic party to Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, said Taylor had “abysmal records” as a council member, which he “didn’t try to defend… by standing for reelection” in 2018.
He also took aim at Taylor for his role in a matter that led to criminal charges against former Democratic councilman Hazim Yassin for the alleged theft of $7,650 from the Red Bank Borough Education Foundation.
As president of the foundation, Zipprich said, Taylor failed to act on pleas by Zipprich and another foundation trustee to engage an auditor, and, after suspected malfeasance was found, for waiting six months to report the alleged theft to law enforcement.
In early May, following Yassin’s arrest on the charges, both Taylor and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said the alleged theft had been revealed by an audit.
“This is another lie,” Zipprich wrote. “The RBBEF did not conduct an audit.”
See Zipprich’s full statement, and Taylor’s response, below.
Zipprich’s statement contained echoes of his response, in May, to what he called a a two-year “smear campaign” meant to “dehumanize” him with accusations of interference the 2020 award of a trash-hauling contract. Zipprich said an independent attorney had “exonerated” him.
In July, the charter study commission wrapped up its work with a unanimous recommendation that the municipal structure be revised to require council members to interact with department heads and other employees solely through an appointed administrator, rather than directly. The commission also recommended a switch to nonpartisan elections.
A referendum asking voters to approve the changes is also on the November 8 ballot. It has been endorsed by Portman as well as Taylor and Penney. Zipprich opposes both changes.
Here’s the complete Zipprich statement:
Over the past 14 years on Council, I’ve been praised and attacked. I’ve dedicated my time in office representing Red Bankers and focused on protecting the town we love to call home. I serve on many volunteer boards in town and helped found the Borough Education Foundation in 2008.
I served with Mark Taylor during his one term in office. While we didn’t share a vision of how to best serve our community, we didn’t attack each other. Attacking a fellow council member’s integrity was considered beneath the dignity of the office.
Yet today, six years after he abandoned his seat and didn’t try to defend his abysmal records by standing for reelection, Taylor says he wants back on Council to restore its “honor.”
Let me say plainly that Mark Taylor has no honor.
While I have made it my policy to turn the other cheek during political attacks, his demonization of me as a man “without honor” is indefensible. It is a lie. I will not let his bullying stand without rebuttal.
Mark says I left the town exposed without an attorney. This is a lie. It was Mayor Menna who refused to appoint an interim attorney after Council, with good cause, voted to dismiss the Borough Attorney. Mark wants to blame me for this because it fits his political narrative, but that doesn’t make it any less of a deliberate lie.
The same is true of Taylor’s leadership of the Red Bank Borough Education Foundation. His treasurer, Hazim Yassin, was arrested and charged with theft by unlawful taking of charitable funds. According to Mark the theft was uncovered during a “routine audit.” This is another lie.
The RBBEF did not conduct an audit. In fact, Taylor and his vice president ignored the pleas of two former officers to engage a private auditor to understand why the funds went missing. As a founding member, former officer and longest serving trustee, I and another member poured over bank statements. Once we presented our evidence to the board, they agreed to remove Yassin in a special executive session. At that juncture, Taylor and his executive board refused to go the authorities. We refused to be complicit and urged they go to the authorities before we did. It took Taylor roughly six months to report the alleged theft of funds.
In his 2015 campaign for council, Mark pledged fiscal responsibility yet committed to two million dollars in debt and raised parking rates. While on council his ineptitude during the parking garage fiasco resulted in the Borough facing legal action. He and Republican colleagues silenced residents by ignoring Roberts Rules of Order and instituted a five-minute gag rule for the public to engage the governing body. In his zeal to change our form of government, he pushed for an executive business administrator which eliminated the council’s oversight and put our Senior Center and its waterfront lands at risk of demolition and sale to developers.
It’s clear that Mark Taylor’s disdain for the truth, his contempt for accuracy and integrity in public statements, his ongoing inability to engage in civil conversations regarding local matters important to us all, proves he is without honor.
It saddens me that I am forced to push back against a former colleague and fellow resident, but as a senior elected official, who has served Red Bankers for 14 years without profit or fail, I will not let his outrageous lies stand.
I don’t believe the voters of Red Bank support the politics of personal destruction. I haven’t engaged in such behavior; I will continue to serve everyone with respect and dignity and will defend myself against baseless attacks. Mark, I am not running for election this year.
Here is Taylor’s response:
Sigh… It’s hard to know where to even begin with this nonsense. The divisiveness Ed Zipprich creates and his vitriol for anyone who would dare oppose him is obvious. It is hardly honorable conduct by any person, let alone a “senior elected official.” My running mate Jon Penney and I hold ourselves to a higher standard and will restore the honor that has been lost in Red Bank. We are unafraid to call out the misguided, petty and vindictive actions that Zipprich and his puppets have taken to settle political scores, undermine colleagues and make Red Bank one of the most dysfunctional municipalities in Monmouth County. The truth is, I don’t need to attack Ed for his conduct, members of his own party have finally woken up and seen through his charade:
“We have all witnessed the divisiveness, distrust and acrimony that have pervaded the work of the Council over the past several years. Progress has been stymied in Red Bank because of the lack of – or rather the misuse of – leadership. There has been a steady decline in the ethics and transparency of several Council members. Red Bank deserves better.”
– Councilwoman Kathy Horgan
In response to Ed’s smear attempt, I proudly stand by my record as a Councilman and my decision to not seek re-election in 2018 to spend time with my newborn son. I think any person, except a Zipprich puppet, would take my time on the Council over the current chaos.
The one item I will specifically address is the Red Bank Borough Education Foundation (RBBEF) because Ed’s lies directly impact our schoolchildren – including my own son who is now a student in the District.
Fun fact, it was Ed Zipprich who forced Hazim Yassin onto the RBBEF Board as Treasurer despite Hazim having no connections to Red Bank because he wanted him to run for Council. I was not even on the Board at this time. I was not invited to officially join the Board until February 2020 despite being an alumnus of the Red Bank Public Schools (’97). In my role as President, we overhauled our Bylaws, establishing better oversight and transparency. We established a finance committee and switched banks to partner with a local business rather than an international behemoth. All of this was done against the backdrop of the early days of the pandemic.
During an internal audit of our finances, we first learned of transactions we could not reconcile and issues with the newly opened bank account. The Board unanimously removed Hazim from his role with the Foundation. We tasked the finance committee to further review past transactions and presented those findings to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. The Foundation has no capacity to conduct a criminal investigation. We fully cooperated with the MCPO, providing information, statements and evidence as they conducted a thorough investigation.
To say that I or the Board was somehow complicit in these actions is defamatory. The irony is that Ed Zipprich brought Hazim into the orbit of the Foundation and the Red Bank Council. Hazim has since been arrested. The case is not yet resolved, but we are seeking restitution for every last dime that was stolen from our children.
Getting back to the campaign, our goals are simple. The ticket of Taylor and Penney fully support the good work of the Charter Study Commission and are committed to the Vote YES! effort on public question #1. Our second goal is to prevent an Ed Zipprich supermajority from further damaging this town as he watches his stranglehold on power go down the drain.
We fully expect Ed Zipprich to continue making spurious claims in an attempt to distort the record and create more chaos, but we know Red Bank knows better than that.
We believe in people over party and are willing to engage with anyone from any political ideology or background regarding what’s best for Red Bank. We welcome your support.
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