Ex-Newark Watershed Manager Gets 8 Years in Prison for Kickbacks

  • Donald Bernard admitted taking $956,948 from contractors
  • Former executive director to be sentenced later this year

A former manager for a nonprofit that oversaw Newark, New Jersey’s water supply was sentenced to eight years in prison for taking kickbacks uncovered by U.S. prosecutors investigating the bankrupt entity’s activities.

Donald Bernard Sr., 69, was a consultant and manager of special projects at the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. He admitted last year in federal court that he took $956,948 for himself and his boss in exchange for helping award work to contractors. He was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Newark.

Bernard and Linda Watkins Brashear, the former executive director who also pleaded guilty, solicited payments from contractors. At least four people have pleaded guilty to their role in the scandal. Watkins Brashear is scheduled to be sentenced later this year.

In her guilty plea, Watkins Brashear admitted that she took kickbacks from 2007 to 2013 from more than a dozen people who offered printing, marketing, cleaning, media, political and interior design services. A 2015 report by the state comptroller’s office said that from 2008 to 2011, the commission "recklessly and improperly spent millions of dollars of public funds with little or no oversight” by its board or the city.

The nonprofit, which got almost $10 million a year to manage the city’s 35,000-acre watershed, reservoirs and water-treatment plant, filed for bankruptcy in January 2015.

The case is U.S. v. Bernard, 14-cr-710, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

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