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Attorney Matthew O'Donnell, the state's cooperating witness in a public corruption sting operation.

More clients fleeing O’Donnell law firm

Hackensack, Middletown, Holmdel, Monmouth County pulling tax appeal work from state cooperating witness

By David Wildstein, December 30 2019 2:33 pm

A North Jersey law firm run by the state’s cooperating witness in a political corruption sting continues to lose clients.

Hackensack, Middletown, Holmdel, and Monmouth County will replace O’Donnell McCord as their tax appeal counsel after it was disclosed that attorney Matthew O’Donnell worked with the state attorney general’s office to ensnare five local politicians charged with bribery earlier this month.

The New Jersey Globe reported last week that the firm is also losing legal work in Bloomfield, Wall and Manalapan.

In Hackensack, where local officials received thousands in contributions from straw donors connected to O’Donnell, the city manager notified the law firm last week that they intended to break their contract.  The firm was told to wind down their work by the end of the year.

Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone confirmed that O’Donnell’s firm is out.

“We will not be reappointing Mr. O’Donnell’s firm,” Arnone said.  “Under the circumstances, we have no choice.”

Instead, Monmouth will move forward with a Request for Proposal (RFP) to find a new tax appeal counsel.

Monmouth County GOP Chairman Shaun Golden wants candidates who received contributions from the O’Donnell-connected straw donors to donate the funds to charities, Arnone said.

Arnone said he’s spoken to his treasurer and will make contributions to charities once the straw donors are identified.

Middletown Mayor Tony Perry said that O’Donnell’s firm will lose their work in his municipality.

“The O’Donnell McCord firm is not being reappointed,” Perry said.

East Hanover plans to reappoint O’Donnell as the township attorney, Mayor Joseph Pannullo told the Globe.

In West Caldwell, where O’Donnell is the tax appeal attorney, the Globe has learned that he will be retained.

The mayor of West Caldwell, Joseph Tempesta, has received thousands in contributions from straw donors directly linked to O’Donnell.  Tempesta is also the East Hanover Township Administrator.

Mount Arlington Mayor Michael Stanzilis said he has not decided whether O’Donnell would keep his post as municipal attorney.

One of the local officials charged with bribery was John Windish, a former Mount Arlington councilman who was accused of taking $7,000 in cash in an envelope from O’Donnell in exchange for supporting his reappointment.

O’Donnell’s law firm website went offline on Monday morning, replaced by a maintenance mode message.

The firm had a full website until 2018, when it was replaced by a single home page around the time a whistleblower contacted law enforcement about O’Donnell’s use of straw donors.

A request requests for information about the straw donors was referred to O’Donnell’s voice mail.

“I don’t really have a comment on that,” said Veronica Valandingham, who answered the telephone at the law firm this morning.

She is sister of O’Donnell McCord partner Elizabeth Valandingham.

Another sister, Vanessa Valandingham Brown, and her husband, Christopher, were huge donors to clients of the firm.

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