MORRIS COUNTY — Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced that an attorney was sentenced for her role in a scheme involving the illegal use of straw donors to conceal campaign contributions and secure lucrative government contracts for her law firm.
Elizabeth Valandingham, 49, of Morristown, was sentenced to three years’ probation and 324 hours of community service by Superior Court Judge Robert Hanna in Morris County. The state recommended that Valandingham be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail pursuant to the plea agreement, but the court did not impose that sentence. She pleaded guilty on April 13, 2021, to an accusation charging her with third-degree tampering with public records or information. Under the plea agreement, she forfeited her law license and was ordered to pay a $75,000 public corruption profiteering penalty. She also is debarred from any public contracts for a period of 10 years.
Deputy Attorneys General John A. Nicodemo, Eric Cohen, and Michelle McBrian represented the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) at the sentencing hearing. She was charged with an investigation by the OPIA Corruption Bureau.
In pleading guilty, Valandingham admitted that she submitted fraudulent proposals for government contracts for the law firm where she worked, O’Donnell McCord, P.C., in which she failed to disclose political contributions that were illegally made using straw donors. She further admitted that she submitted false reports to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) on behalf of the law firm in which she failed to report such illegal contributions. Valandingham was initially charged by complaint-summons on June 17, 2020.
“Those who engage in illegal schemes to evade our campaign finance and pay-to-play laws will be held accountable,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “We cannot tolerate any attempt to undermine fair and open elections and public contracts in New Jersey.”
“OPIA is working to enforce a culture of integrity in state and local government in New Jersey, and that includes safeguarding our election process and public contracting from criminal behavior,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher. “This case reflects our commitment to prosecute dishonest operators who seek to profit at the expense of good government.”
Valandingham was charged in connection with conduct that occurred between 2012 and 2017. One of her duties at the law firm was to prepare and submit annual proposals to municipalities for the law firm to garner public contracts for legal services.