Morristown mayor's wife stripped of real estate license for her role in bribery scandal

MORRISTOWN — The wife of Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty has been banned from practicing real estate for at least a year after accepting illegal campaign funds during her 2018 run for county office.

The New Jersey Real Estate Commission revoked Mary Dougherty's license after finding her in violation of state law, in an order issued Jan. 31. Dougherty was one of five politicians and political hopefuls charged in a 2019 case that the state Attorney General called "old-school political corruption at its worst."

Mary Dougherty, who eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of falsifying campaign records, will be subject to a two-year probationary period if she obtains another license, and her employer must notify the commission within 72 hours if there is reason to believe she violated the act again.

What Mary Dougherty admitted to

Morristown resident Mary Dougherty
Morristown resident Mary Dougherty

Prosecutors accused Dougherty of accepting a coffee cup stuffed with a $10,000 cash contribution to her Morris County freeholder campaign in September 2018 from Matthew O'Donnell, then a lawyer at a Morristown-based firm. She discovered the cup contained money after O'Donnell left and told him via voicemail that she could not accept the cash but could accept checks, the order stated.

Dougherty later admitted she returned the donation in exchange for four $2,500 checks written by O'Donnell under different names and entities, according to the Attorney General's Office. Each check fell under the $2,600 state limit for reporting individual donations to a candidate.

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Guilty pleas in 'old-school corruption case'

O'Donnell pleaded guilty in October 2021 to operating an extensive pay-to-play scheme in an effort to obtain taxpayer-funded legal contracts. Dougherty said she was unaware of O'Donnell's "extensive illegal activities" when she accepted the checks, according to the Real Estate Commission.

She pleaded guilty in February 2021 to filing a false report to hide illegal campaign contributions, otherwise known as "false swearing," and prosecutors dismissed the cash bribe charge. She was sentenced to one year of probation a month later and was ordered to forfeit the campaign contribution.

Dougherty said she 'never intended to be dishonest'

According to testimony cited by the commission, Dougherty said that she knew the funds came from O'Donnell and not the individuals named on the checks. Still, she said she "never intended to be dishonest or malicious." The case has "cast a dark shadow" over her family and reputation and affected her physical health, she testified. The commission said she expressed remorse for her actions.

Mary and Tim Dougherty, along with Mary Dougherty's attorney, Matthew Beck, did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Why the state revoked Dougherty's license

The commission said Dougherty's actions require sanctions even though they didn't involve her real estate career, because the agency is responsible for ensuring licensees maintain the public's trust.

"The fact that Dougherty's deceitful conduct was done intentionally while seeking public office where integrity and honesty are demanded of public officials, makes Dougherty's actions more egregious," the order reads, "and demonstrates both a lack of good moral character and unworthiness for licensure."

Dougherty was working with Re/Max Select at the time of her meeting with O'Donnell and joined Compass Real Estate in March 2021, according to the order.

Kyle Morel is a local reporter covering Morris and Sussex counties.

Email:; Twitter: @KMorelNJH

This article originally appeared on New Jersey Herald: Wife of Morristown NJ mayor stripped of realtor license