ROXBURY, NJ – A Morristown lawyer lied about making campaign contributions to Mount Arlington officials in 2016, a year before her firm was awarded a “lucrative contract” with the borough, according to law enforcement officials.
The lawyer, Elizabeth Valandingham, 47, of Morristown, now faces up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $150,000 if convicted, said the state Attorney General’s Office on Friday.
It said Valandingham was charged June 17 with second-degree false representation for government contracts and second-degree misconduct by a corporate official. The state accused the lawyer of conducting similar behavior in Bloomfield.
Valandingham, who could not be reached for comment, was a partner with lawyer Matt O'Donnell at the defunct O'Donnell McCord law firm in Morristown. She also was a member of the Jerzey Derbie Brigade roller blade team, going by the name "Lawless Lizzie."
Without naming the firm for which she worked, the state said Valandingham, in 2016, submitted a proposal for legal services to Mount Arlington. One of Valandingham’s duties at the law firm “was to prepare and submit annual proposals to various municipalities in order for the firm to garner public contracts for legal services,” according to the state.
It said Mount Arlington required that Valandingham certify her law firm “made no reportable political contributions in the year preceding the award of the contract.” Valandingham made that certification and the borough subsequently “awarded the firm a lucrative contract, earning the firm in excess of $470,000,” said the state.
The charges allege Valandingham actually donated $7,500 to Mount Arlington officials in 2016 and used “straw donors” to do so surreptitiously.
Friends and Family
It contends Valandingham, and a co-conspirator, “recruited friends and family members to act as straw donors— people who made political contributions and would subsequently be reimbursed in cash by the firm for those contributions” in an attempt to shield the payments.
“It is alleged that, in total, during the time that Valandingham indicated that the firm made no contributions, the firm made tens of thousands of dollars in straw contributions,” in Mount Arlington and Bloomfield, said the Attorney General’s Office.
The charges against Valandingham stem “from a major corruption probe by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) that previously led to five former public officials and political candidates in New Jersey being charged with taking bribes,” noted the Attorney General’s Office.
Among the defendants initially charged in the OPIA investigation are former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windash and former Morris County Freeholder Candidate Mary Dougherty, the wife of Morristown’s mayor.
Those people are facing 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,” said the state. “In return, the defendants allegedly 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.”
The Attorney General’s Office said Valandingham’s alleged conduct “is not directly related to the bribery allegations” against the other defendants.
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