Republican seeking Passaic sheriff job emerges from personal bankruptcy

The Republican candidate for Passaic County sheriff filed for bankruptcy in 2016 after incurring more than $850,000 in debt, including unpaid taxes.

Mason J. Maher III, a Paterson police detective lieutenant who is challenging four-warrant holder Richard Berdnik, owed money to 27 different creditors, including five mortgages and loans on two Cadillac Escalades, as well as $120,365 of credit card debt, according to court records.

He owed $9,618 in unpaid federal and state income taxes.

The debt comes despite him and his wife, Jennifer, reporting a combined annual income of more than $193,000. They listed their total monthly expenses at $10,557 and their assets at $658,825.

Maher’s personal financial problems stemmed from losses at a Hackensack nail salon owned by his wife.

“Like many families who own small businesses, he and his wife have been through tough times, but they pulled through and even paid off their debts sooner,” said Maher spokesman Chris Russell. “That kind of personal smear won’t stick.”

His creditors included the Paterson Police Federal Credit Union.

In 2017, Maher received a $250,000 settlement for injuries he sustained in a car accident. He was allowed to keep $23,675 of that amount, including $133,304 used to pay off his debts and $97,503 for his attorney and trustees in bankruptcy fees.

A settlement agreement was filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2018,

His wife filed a lawsuit against Northland Group, Inc. in 2017, alleging illegal debt collection practices related to one of his credit cards. She got a settlement of $230,000.

Maher leads an all-law enforcement GOP ticket that includes former Paterson Police Chief Troy Oswald and Paterson PBA Chairman Alex Cruz.

Republicans won a Passaic County commissioner seat in 2021 for the first time since 2009 and came close to electing two more county commissioners and an alternate.

This year’s race for sheriff and county commissioner — longtime incumbents Terry Duffy and Pat Lepore are seeking re-election — is potentially winnable for Republicans.

A Republican victory this year would position the GOP to contest for control of county government in 2023. Democrats have held a majority since 2001.

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