Paper bags and coffee cups: 5 NJ officials face corruption, bribery charges

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New Jersey's attorney general has charged five public officials and former candidates with political corruption.

The officials are charged with taking bribes in an investigation in Hudson and Morris counties, conducted by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.

Among those indicted was Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas, whom News 12 New Jersey interviewed just one day before the charges were made public. Thomas called for the resignation of a school board member who questioned if the attackers in the shooting at a Jewish market in Jersey City might have had a point.

Now school board members are calling for him to resign.

"The voters of Jersey City already did not vote for Mr. Thomas to rejoin the board, but I think it's in the best interest that he immediately resign for the remainder of his term,” says board member Mussab Ali.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says that Thomas is one of five defendants charged separately in criminal complaints with second-degree bribery in official and political matters.

Thomas denies the charges and says in a statement, “I am not guilty and will be vigorously fighting the charges, not just to prove my innocence, but the massive cover-up this AG's office has embarked on."

Also facing charges is former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Bayonne last year. He is accused of taking a $10,000 bribe in a paper bag.

John Cesaro, a former Morris County freeholder, is accused of soliciting illegal campaign contributions when running for mayor of Parsippany-Troy Hills.

Former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windish allegedly accepted a $7,000 cash bribe.

And Mary Dougherty, wife of Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty, is accused of taking $10,000 in illegal campaign contributions when running for Morris County freeholder. Officials say that her bribes were given to her stuffed into take-out coffee cups.

The investigation began last year. A cooperating witness – a tax attorney – paid the bribes to each of the charged officials, according to investigators. This was allegedly in exchange for the promise of government work.

"We intend to hold anyone accountable that betrays their office or monetize their office so we showed that today,” Grewal says.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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