By Ed Zipprich
In war, the aggressor’s first necessary, strategic move is to dehumanize the enemy. World War II Germany, the Cold War, and post-Sept. 11 nationalism clearly exemplify this behavior.
Once someone is seen as “less than” or is dehumanized, it is much easier to attack and destroy. The aggressors represent their actions as virtuous and righteous and maintain that the elimination of their “evil opponent” is for the public’s good.
In Red Bank, where I have lived and served as a dedicated volunteer and then as an elected public servant for more than 20 years, we seem to be in a war for the future of our town.
On one side are the developers and their supporters, aggressively fighting to turn our historic, neighborhood-oriented town into an apartment-filled city on the shore. They are actively fighting against those of us who are committed to preserving our historic neighborhoods and smalltown charm.
And in this battle between big city development vs. smalltown preservation, a new enemy has been created to confuse and distress residents.
This “evil enemy,” apparently, is me.
In 2018, two young candidates, claiming to espouse the beliefs of the popular “Our Revolution” political movement, approached me in my role as chairman of the Red Bank Democrats to run for Borough Council.
I was very happy to welcome them and supported their nominations through our established process, and our team worked hard to see them elected. Shortly after they were sworn in, however, many in our party began to doubt their intentions.
While we did not know one of these two officials would face criminal charges, we knew as a party that we could not endorse their re-election. And because we as Democrats chose to stand up against their highly unethical and unprofessional actions, the attacks against me intensified.
These elected members of our Borough Council joined together to destroy my good name and reputation.
Supported by our former business administrator, they engaged in an ongoing smear campaign, going so far as to falsely and very publicly accuse me of “bid rigging.”
When I protested this charge and demanded an investigation to prove my innocence, the then-majority and Mayor Pasquale Menna stonewalled.
The Borough Council voted to pay for an investigation into these charges. For a year we waited for a report, only to be informed by the mayor that his recommended attorney would not return his calls and in fact had never opened an investigation.
Had the majority of the council remained skewed against me, Red Bank might never have learned the truth. Luckily, the last election changed the balance of power in our town. A new attorney was retained and we now have his full report.
I have been exonerated. I did not break any rules or regulations while researching the bid request complied by the former business administrator, but was in fact exercising my legislative authority and oversight by ensuring the bid reflected the borough’s needs.
The report also makes clear that the documents that were leaked to the press were encrypted and circulated to the mayor, the borough attorney and the four (former) majority members of the Borough Council by the former business administrator.
These members of our government knew I had done nothing wrong, yet for over a year they continued to let this lie against me flourish, hoping to do by rumor and innuendo what they could not seem to manage at the ballot box: undermine my leadership.
While I am greatly relieved to finally be able to prove the utterly false and destructive nature of these accusations, I am deeply saddened it had to happen at all.
This war of personal destruction needs to end. It is tearing Red Bank apart.
Voters should know I never lied to the public, I never leaked privileged information to the press, never called fellow council members “liars” or “toxic” on the dais.
I have never stolen a penny from anyone, nor have I denigrated residents or anyone else with racial slurs.
I never abdicated my legislative obligations for personal gain and I have not supported anyone who has, once the transgression was discovered.
As the report makes clear, I was exercising my authority as a duly elected member of this municipality.
This Atlantic Hub Your Turn guest opinion column was written by Ed Zipprich, who is a member of the Red Bank Borough Council and the municipal chairman of the Red Bank Democratic Party.