State authorities busted a Morristown lawyer as part of a major political corruption case that has already produced charges against public officials and political candidates from Hudson and Morris counties.
Elizabeth Valandingham, 47, prepared and submitted proposals for the law firm where she worked to the township of Bloomfield for legal services between 2012 and 2016 in which she said the company hadn’t made any political contributions, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
She was lying, he said.
“Each year for which Valandingham indicated no reportable political contributions, the firm in fact made contributions,” Grewal said.
Valandingham and an unnamed co-conspirator “recruited friends and family members to act as straw donors,” the attorney general said.
These people made tens of thousands of dollars in contributions, then got reimbursed in cash, he explained.
Valandingham also lied on a proposal for legal services to the borough of Mount Arlington for 2017, Grewal said.
The firm got a contract worth more than $470,000 after straw donors paid Mount Arlington officials $7,500 in 2016, he said.
Already charged in the probe:
- former Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas;
- former State Assemblyman (and Bayonne mayoral candidate) Jason O’Donnell;
- former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro;
- former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windish:
- former Morris County freeholder candidate Mary Dougherty.
All “face pending charges of second-degree bribery in official and political matters for allegedly taking thousands of dollars in bribes from a cooperating witness in the form of campaign contributions,” Grewal said.
“In return,” he said, the defendants “promised the cooperating witness – who is a tax attorney – that they would vote or use their official authority or influence to hire or continue to hire his law firm for lucrative government legal work.”
Valandingham is charged with false representation for government contracts and misconduct by a corporate official “in connection with conduct that is not directly related to the bribery allegations against the other five defendants,” the attorney general emphasized.
Deputy Attorneys General John A. Nicodemo and Anthony Robinson of the New Jersey Office of Public Integrity and Accountability’s Corruption Bureau is prosecuting the case.
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