Morristown, NJ

Morristown’s Bribery Scandal

Morristown Minute

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Mary Dougherty, a former Morris Freeholder candidate, listens during a Superior Court hearing, Feb. 10, 2020.Photo by Kevin Coughlin, MorristownGreen.com

Mary Dougherty, a realtor and the wife of Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, was charged with accepting briberies during her unsuccessful 2018 campaign for Morris County Freeholder.

Mary Dougherty, a realtor and the wife of Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty, was charged with taking $10,000 dollars in bribes from Morristown Attorney Matt O’Donnell during her unsuccessful 2018 campaign for Morris County Freeholder.

In a sting operation, Matt O’Donnell, who was recruited by law enforcement after admitting wrongdoing, delivered bribes at first in the form of $100 in a take-out coffee cup to Dougherty between August and October of 2018. Later, Dougherty allegedly returned the money and asked for bribes in the form of four $2,600 campaign contributions. O’Donnell then used “straw donors,” people he paid to write checks, to send Dougherty a total of $10,000.

The sting operation involving O’Donnell led to charges against four people, former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro, former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windish, former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, and Mary Dougherty. The indictment against Jason O’Donnell was dismissed.

Matt O’Donnell pled guilty to the charges in October of this year and faces up to three years in prison and must repay $600,000 in municipal contracts and pay a $250,000 public corruption profiteering penalty.

O’Donnell also forfeited his law license and any future public employment. Furthermore, he was dropped as Morristown’s attorney, and his firm, responsible for identifying, remediating, and settling tax appeals for Morristown has been shut down.

Mayor Tim Dougherty defended his wife’s character saying he has “no doubt” that the investigation into the scandal will reveal her innocence. The charges against Mary Dougherty began as a second-degree offense that carried a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $150,000 fine upon indictment.

Mary Dougherty pled guilty to lesser charges of falsifying campaign finance reports after coming to a deal with the attorney general’s office. For her crimes, she received probation, which could last anywhere from 6 months to five years, and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. The lesser charges could have led to 18 months in prison, but deputy attorney general John Nicodemo did not request jail time.

Mary Dougherty will likely lose her realtor license and be banned from seeking public office or holding a government job.

The attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) has a toll-free Tipline at 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for reporting corruption in state government. The Anti-corruption reward program offers up to $25,000 for tips leading to the conviction of persons involved in public corruption. More information can be found at NJ.gov.

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