The Republican candidate for Passaic County Sheriff is in danger of being tossed from the ballot because he doesn’t meet the three-year residency requirement.
Troy Oswald, the former Paterson police chief, lived in Sussex and Morris counties before registering to vote from a multi-family house in Clifton on January 3, 2022, records show.
State law requires a county sheriff to “have been a citizen of the United States and a resident of the county for at least 3 years next preceding his election.”
Michael Cerone, an attorney representing the Passaic County Democratic Committee, has asked the county clerk to invalidate Oswald’s petitions.
Oswald was registered to vote in Montville in Morris County prior to August 2018 when he changed his residency to Sparta in Sussex. He changed his voter registration about 53 weeks later to a new residence in Kinnelon in Morris.
Property records show that Oswald purchased a home in Montville in 2001 and one in Sparta n 2016. When he sold the Montville home in July 2018, he certified that it had been his principal residence for tax purposes.
In March 2020, records show that Oswald bought a home in Kinnelon; three months later, when he sold his Sparta residence, he again certified that it was his principal residence.
“An online record search of the Morris County Clerk’s records does not reveal a deed selling the Kinnelon property or otherwise divesting Mr. Oswald’s interest in the property,” said Cerone in a letter to Passaic County Clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof, a Democrat.
Oswald did not dispute the facts of his residency.
“That’s true,” he said.
Oswald said he launched his campaign to take on four-term Democratic incumbent Richard Berdnik in January after Passaic County Republicans told him he would meet the residency requirement.
“That’s what I was told – one year,” said Oswald. “I’ll reach out the Republican Club and see what’s going on.”
Cerone said that since Oswald “does not qualify to be elected as Passaic County Sheriff since he has not resided in Passaic County for the three years next preceding the November 8, 2022 election… (the county clerk)must declare the petitions of Troy Oswald to be invalid.”
If Ireland-Imhof invalidates Oswald’s petitions, he could appear the ruling to a Superior Court Judge. That’s the same path Democrats would take if the county clerk sides with Oswald.
It’s also not clear if Republicans would be able to name a replacement candidate for Oswald. They might need to mount a write-in campaign to nominate someone on the June 7 primary.
His candidacy follows a Republican surge in Passaic County in 2021 that resulted in the election of a GOP county commissioner for the first time in twelve years. Gov. Phil Murphy, who had carried Passaic by 21,186 votes in 2017, won it by a narrower 4,261-vote plurality last year. Republicans nearly won two more county commissioner seat and the Surrogate’s office.
Passaic County GOP Chairman Peter Murphy had built his ticket around Oswald, a 31-year veteran of the Paterson Police Department who had been viewed as a homerun recruit. His late father, Edward T. Oswald, had been the police chief in Little Falls, and his brother is a Fairfield police sergeant.
Running for county commissioner this year are former Paterson PBA President Alex Cruz and former Ringwood Councilman William Marsala. Marsala had lost his bid for county commissioner in 2021 by 1,012 votes.