Matthew O’Donnell is losing his job as tax appeal counsel in several New Jersey municipalities after local officials learned that he was the cooperating witness in the state attorney general’s sting operation that has already led to criminal charges against five local politicians.
Bloomfield, Wall and Manalapan will not reappoint O’Donnell’s firm, O’Donnell McCord, when they reorganize next week.
“Do I sound like I lost my mind?” said Wall Mayor Kevin Orender when asked about O’Donnell keeping his job. “We’ve been having discussions about not reappointing him. This just confirmed everything about his dealings.”
Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia said that O’Donnell’s reappointment had been approved by the council on December 16, but will be rescinded when they meet next month,
“It’s on the recommendation of our township attorney,” Venezia told the New Jersey Globe.
Manalapan Mayor Susan Cohen said also said that O’Donnell is out.
“We are going back out for an RFP (Request for Proposal),” Cohen said. “We will not be reappointing him.”
But not all of O’Donnell’s clients are bailing on him.
East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo told the Globe last week that he would reappoint O’Donnell as the municipal attorney.
O’Donnell will also keep his tax appeals work in West Caldwell, where he and straw donors connected to him are major donors to Mayor Joseph Tempesta.
Tempesta is also township administrator in East Hanover.
No decision has been made on O’Donnell’s status as the Mount Arlington municipal attorney.
One of the local officials charged with bribery was former Councilman John Windish, who was accused of taking $7,000 in cash in an envelope from O’Donnell in exchange for supporting his reappointment.
“We were shocked by what we’ve read,” Mount Arlington Mayor Michael Stanzilis said. “We’re just assessing what’s in the best interests of the borough.”
Stanzilis said he expects a decision by January 2, when the governing body meets for its annual reorganization.
Monmouth County is not expected to retain O’Donnell, sources told the Globe.
O’Donnell did not immediately respond to an 11:50 AM voice mail message left at his law office. O’Donnell has not returned multiple calls since last week. If he does respond, this story will be updated.