MORRISTOWN – Election law is liberally construed, but there are limits.
Just ask Donald Cresitello.
The former mayor can’t run for that office again this year, because he doesn’t live in Morristown.
That was the ruling this afternoon of Judge Stuart Minkowitz in state Superior Court, Morris County. Strip away the legal language and the judge basically said Cresitello’s claim he’s eligible to run because he spends a lot of time in Morristown was absurd.
If that standard was accepted, Minkowitz said it could theoretically lead to mayoral runs by employees working in town or “late night revelers” crashing at a friend’s home.
Cresitello said this afternoon he hadn’t read the opinion yet, but that he plans to appeal.
That would bring the case to the state Appellate Division, which would need to move with some haste with election day a bit more than three months away.
Cresitello, who was then a Democrat, lost a re-election bid in the 2009 primary to current mayor Tim Dougherty, who is now seeking his fourth term.
The former mayor filed to run as an independent for his old job in June. Cresitello acknowledges moving to Manasquan, but said he registered to vote again in Morristown last Nov 1, which was a year and a day prior to this year’s Nov. 2 election. Candidates must live in a town for at least a year before they can run.
And that was the problem. Registration aside, the judge said there is no evidence Cresitello has actually lived in Morristown for at least a year.
Cresitello through his lawyer argued at a hearing on Tuesday that he spent time staying with friends until securing permanent residency in May. His lawyer, Alan Zakin, even compared Cresitello’s situation to that of Richard Kreimer, a homeless man who sought political office in town decades ago claiming a park bench as his residence.
The judge in his ruling eschewed any reference to Kreimer. He said that while residency standards must be reviewed with flexibility, there still needs to be “some objective evidence” that candidates live where they’re running.
He didn’t find any such evidence in Cresitello’s case.
No Republican is running for mayor so unless Cresitello makes it to the ballot through the appeals court, Dougherty will be unopposed.