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West Caldwell Mayor Joseph Tempesta. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

Tempesta plans to keep O’Donnell as West Caldwell tax counsel

Longtime mayor took thousands in campaign contributions from cooperating witness

By David Wildstein, December 21 2019 6:56 pm

The New Jersey Globe has learned that cooperating witness Matthew O’Donnell is expected to be reappointed as tax appeals counsel for West Caldwell and East Hanover next month, despite questions regarding events that led to his wearing a wire in a two-year corruption investigation.

The Republican mayor of West Caldwell, Joseph Tempesta, is also the business administrator for East Hanover.

Tempesta received over $8,000 in campaign contributions from straw donors tied to O’Donnell, who has been described as a close personal friend of the mayor.

Tempesta was re-elected to his sixth term as mayor without opposition in 2018.  He has served in local office for the last 35 years.

There have not been any allegations made against Tempesta.

Jason Cherchia, an associate at O’Donnell’s law firm, also serves as the West Caldwell municipal prosecutor.

East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo, a Democrat, said that he was “in shock” to learn that O’Donnell was working with the state attorney general as part of a undercover sting operation that led to bribery charges against five local politicians in Morris and Hudson counties on Thursday.

“Matt has done a great job for East Hanover.  I’ve never had a problem with him, and I’ve known him for twelve years.

Pannullo said he had no intention of firing O’Donnell.

“You’re innocent until proven guilty, Pannullo told the Globe.  “Until I find out he’s guilty, this is still America.”

Prior to becoming East Hanover administrator, he was the borough administrator in Mountain Lakes, where O’Donnell had also been the tax appeals counsel.

Tempesta did not immediately return calls a 5:52 PM call on Friday and a 4:28 PM call today seeking comment.

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