E-mails between two ranking Haddon Twp. police officers indicate confusion as to whether Commissioner Paul Dougherty or his wife was behind the wheel of a car during a July 19 crash.
By Matt Skoufalos | August 24, 2018
Haddon Township Commissioner Paul Dougherty has been served a pair of traffic citations after allegedly leaving the scene of a two-car crash in his hometown and driving with an expired license.
But police records obtained by NJ Pen suggest that Dougherty may have issued conflicting statements to authorities in the wake of the incident.
According to the crash investigation report by Haddon Township Police Officer Wendy Schwartz, the incident was called in at 9:16 p.m. on Thursday, July 19.
A Barrington woman reported that she had been struck from behind while traveling east on Cuthbert Boulevard, waiting for the signal to change at Haddon Avenue.
She stayed in her car until police arrived, and directed her into the parking lot of the nearby Wawa.
The car that rear-ended her “was not on location at the time of my arrival,” Schwartz’s report notes, adding, “therefore the physical status of [its] operator…was unknown at the time of the crash.”
Twenty minutes later, Schwartz said she was told that the driver of the first car was at home, “asking for officers to respond so he could report the crash.”
The department’s duty log shows that Schwartz next responded to Dougherty’s Bradford Avenue residence 28 minutes after she was dispatched to the scene at Haddon and Cuthbert for “follow-up…re: above crash.”
Half an hour after that, the log shows that Schwartz visited the home of Haddon Township Police Captain Scott Bishop, “and received information as to appropriate reporting/notification requirements” for the incident.
According to her report, Dougherty told Schwartz that he rear-ended the other driver after he saw the light turn green, believing he was advancing with traffic. The commissioner “further advised that he pulled over into the Walgreens parking lot” to wait for the other driver, Schwartz’s report reads. When the other driver didn’t leave her car, Dougherty reportedly “went home and notified the authorities of the incident.”
But in a July 23 e-mail to Haddon Township Police Chief Mark Cavallo, Bishop said that the chief had ordered officers to Dougherty’s home on the night of the accident because he was told Dougherty’s wife was behind the wheel.
“It appears the circumstances reported to you are different than those reported to the two officers who responded to Commissioner Dougherty’s residence shortly after being directed there by you.”
—Haddon Township Police Captain Scott Bishop in an e-mail to Haddon Township Police Chief Mark Cavallo.
“You contacted the supervisor’s phone and directed officers to Commissioner Paul Dougherty’s residence… indicating that Commissioner Dougherty’s wife was involved in a motor vehicle crash in the area of Cuthbert Blvd. and Haddon Avenue, and returned to her residence after becoming nervous,” the captain wrote.
“It appears the circumstances reported to you are different than those reported to the two officers who responded to Commissioner Dougherty’s residence shortly after being directed there by you,” Bishop wrote.
From there, Bishop’s account of the incident squares with the version of events Dougherty gave Schwartz at his home. But it adds that Dougherty told officers that he’d called Cavallo to report the accident to him rather than remaining at the scene because he “did not trust [Haddon Twp. Police] Sgt. [Thomas] Whalen,” whom Bishop notes wasn’t on duty that day anyway.
(Whelan and Bishop are both parties in a 2017 tort claims notice that alleges misconduct in the department; in a previous term, Dougherty was once liaison to Haddon Township police as public safety commissioner.)
Bishop closes the e-mail by inviting Cavallo to review Schwartz’s account of events, and noting that Dougherty would be cited by mail for driving with an expired license and fleeing the scene of an accident.
The next morning, Cavallo issued a four-word response to Bishop: “Received. Thank you Captain.”
None of the Haddon Township commissioners has responded to multiple requests for comment on this incident.
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