TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that Haddon Township Commissioner Paul Dougherty pleaded guilty today to a criminal charge that he unlawfully accepted a referral fee from a law firm in connection with a lawsuit against the township. He referred a township police officer to the firm for purposes of suing the township, despite the clear conflict of interest involving his position as commissioner.
Dougherty, 48, of Haddon Township, N.J., an attorney who serves as municipal prosecutor in several towns in Camden and Burlington counties, pleaded guilty today to an accusation charging him with third-degree conspiracy to confer an unlawful benefit on a public official before Superior Court Judge Edward J. McBride Jr. in Camden County.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Dougherty be sentenced to a term of probation.
As a result of the plea, Dougherty forfeited his position as a township commissioner and is permanently barred from public office and public employment in New Jersey. Dougherty has served on the elected three-member commission since 2007.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Uzdavinis prosecuted Dougherty and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Sentencing for Dougherty is scheduled for Dec. 14.
Dougherty was contacted in 2013 by a Haddon Township police officer who was having issues with her superiors and had just been suspended. The officer asked Dougherty for help with the suspension and Dougherty, despite the clear conflict of interest presented by his status as a township commissioner, told her that she had the basis for a lawsuit against the township.
He then referred her to a law firm which sued the township on her behalf, obtaining a $48,000 settlement for her in 2015. The law firm, which received approximately $21,000 in legal fees, subsequently paid Dougherty a referral fee of $7,106, which he accepted. Dougherty returned the fee to the law firm after he learned that he was under investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice.
The investigation was conducted by detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. It began with a referral from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.