Crooked NJ politician in hit-and-run also accepted a kickback
HADDON — One of the township's three commissioners, who also works as an attorney for several municipalities, is out of his political position after pleading guilty to taking a referral fee from a lawsuit filed against the township.
Former Commissioner Paul Dougherty agreed to give up his seat as part of pleading guilty to third-degree conspiracy to confer an unlawful benefit to a public official, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced on Wednesday. Dougherty received the fee for directing a township police officer planning on suing the township to a law firm, Grewal said.
In 2013 a suspended police officer was having issues with her superiors and had asked Dougherty for help, Grewal said. The attorney general said that "despite the clear conflict of interest" as a commissioner he told her she had the basis for a lawsuit. The woman received a $48,000 settlement from the township in 2015, with the law firm getting $21,000 in legal fees. The firm then gave Dougherty a referral fee of $7,106, which he returned after learning he was under investigation, Grewal said.
An NJ.com article from 2016 reported Denise Brodo received the settlement from the township after alleging she was retaliated against after reporting a possible error in another officer's pay. At the time, Brodo said when she reported that a sergeant was going to be paid twice for working a special detail at Haddon Township High School they "became enraged and started shouting expletives," the website reported. She said she was then suspended for five days without pay, according to the story.
In addition to his work as a private attorney and commissioner, Dougherty also works as a municipal prosecutor in several towns, including Cherry Hill, Clemonton and Medford.
His attorney Edward Crisonino said his client "made a mistake here and is suffering the consequences of that mistake," and that he "regrets his conduct."
As part of the plea agreement, Dougherty agreed to give up his seat on the commission, which he has held since 2007, and is also permanently barred from holding public office or public employment in the state. Crisonino said that also includes his role as prosecutor in the various towns.
Prosecutors will recommend that he be sentenced to probation.
Dougherty's seat on the board of commissioners was already in doubt before the plea agreement after not attending meetings for several months, according to NJ.com. After being charged with leaving the scene of a crash in July, Dougherty stopped attending meetings, the website reported. It was not until 20 minutes after the July 19 crash that Dougherty reported the incident from his home, according to the website.
After missing a meeting last month there were questions about whether Dougherty should resign, with Commissioner Randall Teague telling NJ.com that "if he can't perform the job I think he should."
Prior to the plea agreement being announced Dougherty submitted his resignation from the board of commissioners to the township, according to the Cherry Hill Courier-Post. In his resignation letter he called it a "pleasure to serve the Haddon Township community," and wished the remaining commissioners well, the website reported.
His resignation also came just hours before the commission was scheduled to meet. The township website still lists him as the director of revenue and finance on its website as of Wednesday night.