Murphy Steps Down Amid Controversy

August 13, 2015
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Art Murphy

Art Murphy.

Former Councilwoman Sharon Lee expected to fill vacancy.

By John Burton

RED BANK – “It’s time. I’ve had enough,” said veteran Borough Council President Arthur V. Murphy III, who has been embroiled in controversy surrounding a video showing him using obscenities, about his decision to resign from the council effective Aug. 12.

Murphy, a Democrat, who was seeking his fifth term, submitted his letter of resignation to the borough clerk and administrator on Aug. 10 and the council was expected to accept it at its meeting this Wednesday, after press time.

Murphy, 56, a lifelong borough resident, whose term would be up on Jan. 1, has expressed some frustration, and fatigue having served on the governing body for 12 years. He also voiced a little pique acknowledging, “I’m just tired of the he said, she said, pointing fingers and everything else,” that has become so much a part of serving on the council and in local politics.
The video was released to YouTube last week, showing Murphy at what appears to be a party in a private home and seemingly unaware he was being recorded using a series of (expletive) about the now defunct West Front Street business Lucky Break Billiards and its patrons. In the less than a minute long video, Murphy is heard claiming the business patrons were “too – expletive – cheap” and

Friday, Aug. 7 authorities recovered the body of Andros Vega-Pena, a 25-yearold Red Bank man, who apparently drowned while swimming off of Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook on Aug 5. Authorities said Vega-Pena had been swimming of f of an area of the federal park that doesn’t have lifeguard coverage and it was in the early evening after quitting time for the park’s guards.

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This Tuesday, Kevin C. Searfoss, 18, Rockaway, died at Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, after having been pulled from the unwilling to pay for parking and that’s what led to the business’s demise.

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James Hertler, co-owner of the business, responded this week alleging that Murphy and Mayor Pasquale Menna contributed to his business’s downfall and it had nothing to do with parking. According to Hertler, police shut down Lucky Break Billiards one night two years ago because the establishment permitted customers to bring their own beer and wine (“BYOB”), in what authorities determined was a violation of liquor regulations. Hertler, however, said the borough zoning board of adjustment had approved his development application for the business and his request for BYOB (and apparently doesn’t have the authority to approve it). The closure’s impact and customers unable to bring beer and wine had an irreparable harm on Lucky

Breaks and the business closed shortly after, said Hertler, who had been communicating primarily with Menna and Murphy, who served as the council’s police commissioner.

That video, Murphy maintained, “Showed I’m passionate about the town. I care about the town,” dismissing any other assertions as “Anybody can read into it.”

“I have nothing to apologize for,” Murphy said. “I apologize to my family for the use of that language,” he added, “but other than that I have nothing else to apologize for.”

The video was posted by “A Republican.” “It was one person. Let’s just say that,” Murphy alleged, but noting to his knowledge that person is not active in local party politics.

Republican Municipal Chairman Sean Di Somma insisted neither he nor his organization had any involvement in the video or its dissemination.

Murphy accepted that but “You know what? I don’t care. It doesn’t matter.” Murphy insisted he had already planned on stepping down having become tired of the trivial diversions that accompany the position and Republicans were already aware of his decision to resign.

Murphy has been talking about stepping down from the council for about a year, he said, due to family responsibilities and those for his construction contracting business. However, Murphy had just continued, “to mosey along,” putting it of f for one reason or another, most recently because the mayor was recovering from hear t surgery. But the flap over the video and the prospect of another political campaign was enough for him to finally step away.

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Murphy alleged political opponents have been photographing him and his wife as they park in Red Bank, as well as their home. “It’s ridiculous what it takes to sit on the council,” he said, and “It’s taking a toll on me and my family.”

With his resignation submission, “I feel like a 20 pound weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” he said.

In the future Murphy said he might be willing “to serve on a board here and there.” Prior to his tenure on the council, he had been a member of the zoning board of adjustment.

He has been long rumored to be interested in running for mayor, should Menna not seek another term. When asked about that ambition, Murphy did not rule it out. “You never know,” he said.

The municipal committee and county committee have until early September to select another candidate to run in Murphy’s stead with incumbent Democratic Borough Councilman Michael DuPont who are being challenged by Republicans Mark Taylor and Michael Whelan.

The municipal Democratic committee met at the home of its chairman, Councilman Edward Zipprich on Monday to choose three possible replacements for Murphy’s unexpired term.

According to Murphy, one of the names is former Borough Councilwoman Sharon Lee, who will be selected by the Democratically-controlled council’s vote when it’s eventually presented and will serve the remainder of the year. Murphy couldn’t say if Lee would seek another full term.

Lee lost her re-election bid in Nov. 13, defeated by Republican Cindy Burnham.

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