‘I can have an opinion’: Morristown mayor testifies at trial alleging he blocked South Street development

Mayor Tim Dougherty is sworn in by Superior Court Judge Noah Franzblau, April 2, 2024. Dougherty is being sued by a developer. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


When the Silverman Group sued Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty and the town for allegedly killing a huge development project back in 2018, he responded with a fiery statement.

Dougherty painted himself as a hands-on leader whose top priority is protecting neighborhoods from “intrusive, overly intensive development.” He called Silverman a “bully,” and asserted the company’s “highly speculative” South Street proposal was so massive it would have eroded the street’s character.

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty testifies in civil trial, April 2, 2024. A developer, the Silverman Group, is suing him and the town, alleging interference in a proposed development. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I make no apologies for insisting that development, whatever it is, be appropriate for its location…These ideals are embodied in our zoning code, which it is my duty to enforce,” Dougherty declared in 2019.

But for nearly three hours Tuesday on the witness stand, the mayor gave a decidedly hands-off impression.

Most daily decisions were handed off to Administrator Jillian Barrick, he testified, because his full-time job kept him out of town hall.

Dougherty also insisted he had virtually no knowledge of Silverman’s proposal. Or, for that matter, of Big Four accounting firm Deloitte’s desire to move its New Jersey headquarters to Silverman’s South Street site, instead of to a Speedwell Avenue site he favored.

The four-term mayor’s testimony in the civil trial, coupled with statements by a key Deloitte official, offered a unique glimpse into how deals are done–and undone–in a town undergoing explosive development.


Silverman attorney Joseph Fiorenzo came out with verbal guns blazing, aggressively demanding yes or no answers. He hammered at discrepancies between Dougherty’s depositions and court testimony in a manner that seemed designed to trigger the mayor’s well known temper.

Artist's rendering of proposed Silverman Group development above shops on South Street in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Artist’s rendering of proposed Silverman Group development above shops on South Street in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Fiorenzo swiftly attacked Dougherty’s veracity, forcing the mayor to recant his sworn statement about texting with town Planner Phil Abramson only “once or twice” in a dozen years. Fiorenzo produced voluminous messages as evidence to the contrary.

Yet it was the interrogator who grew exasperated, as Dougherty calmly played rope-a-dope. Parrying with the lawyer, he alternated “I can’t remember” and “I- don’t-understand-the-question” answers with attempts to explain and elaborate.

Asked to verify a statement by his town administrator, Dougherty instead offered “to stipulate that she told you that.”

More than once, Fiorenzo complained about his “totally unresponsive” witness to Superior Court Judge Noah Franzblau. More than once, the judge directed Dougherty to provide direct answers.

Defense lawyer Ronald Israel chimed in, objecting to Fiorenzo’s shotgun queries. That prompted an admonition from the judge to narrow the questions for Dougherty’s benefit.


John Connolly, now retired like Dougherty, was Deloitte’s point person as the company searched in 2018 to relocate from Parsippany. Bizarre circumstances prevented Connolly’s appearance in court this week, so a stand-in read his deposition statements for jurors on Tuesday.

Connolly said he was blind-sided by Barrick and Dougherty at a July 2018 meeting.

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, who is being sued by the Silverman Group, is sworn in as a witness, April 2, 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

After months of due diligence, Connolly told them Deloitte liked Silverman’s plan. It called for 110,000 square feet of offices above existing storefronts at 54-74 South St., with rear parking, plus more parking at a Dumont Place deck anticipated by the Morristown Parking Authority.

Up to that point, Connolly felt Morristown officials were committed to finding creative solutions to bring Deloitte to town.

But things got heated, Connolly recounted, when the mayor informed him he could not support this plan. There was tension between a Deloitte representative from the realty firm Cushman & Wakefield and Dougherty, who raised his voice, Connolly stated in his deposition.

Dougherty cast doubt on Silverman’s ability to pull off such a large-scale project in a downtown setting, Connolly said. The mayor touted SJP Properties, which hoped to develop a Scotto Properties tract on Speedwell.

Deloitte at M Station in Morristown, Dec. 16, 2023. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

But parking was an even greater problem there. Dougherty and Barrick  unsuccessfully lobbied the owners of Headquarters Plaza to provide garage parking for the Speedwell site. Barrick also tried to coax the parking authority into allocating spaces at its Dalton garage.

Regardless, Deloitte deemed Speedwell less safe than South Street, and less convenient to the train station and restaurants. Connolly said he hit roadblocks when he attempted to deal directly with the parking authority.

“I was trying to cut through the clowning and the yada yada yada” as Deloitte’s Parsippany lease expiration crept closer, he said. Frustrated, company brass gave up on Morristown.

(Deloitte returned in 2022, to the M Station complex developed by SJP and Scotto at Spring and Morris streets.)


Until that July 2018 meeting, Dougherty testified, “I didn’t even know that (South Street) site was being considered….It wasn’t a viable site.”

Fiorenzo was incredulous.

Dougherty clarified: From a February 2018 introductory meeting, he knew Deloitte was comparing sites in Summit, Morris Township and Morristown. One of those sites was on South Street — the Morristown town hall, Dougherty said.

The Silverman Group says it presented this rendering to Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty in February 2018. The mayor testified on April 2, 2024, that he remembered little about the meeting. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Silverman had been pitching residential uses for his South Street properties, said the mayor, reiterating how he had been unaware the site was Deloitte’s top choice.

Even when Blake Silverman showed him a project rendering labeled “office” during a separate February 2018 meeting, Dougherty said he did not make the connection.

“I had no understanding that Deloitte was considering South Street as a viable site,” he testified.

Silverman seeks damages from Dougherty and Morristown.


By late June 2018, somebody in town hall made a fateful decision. A town planning consultant emailed Barrick, the town administrator, to say someone had better inform Deloitte “that they won’t be able to locate on South Street.”

Who made that decision? Fiorenzo inquired. Could anyone at town hall do this without the mayor’s authorization?

Dougherty denied knowing his employees were making such a decision, but added:

“Jillian had full authority to make decisions on everything in Morristown.”

“You’re telling the jury you had no knowledge that your subordinates were engaged in making such a big decision like this, regarding whether or not the Silverman site would be a permissible site for Deloitte to locate on, you knew nothing about it?” pressed Fiorenzo.

“I said I knew nothing about it, 10 times,” Dougherty retorted.

When pushed, he agreed mayors cannot usurp planning- and zoning boards to nix development applications. Still, he interjected:

“I can have an opinion.”

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  1. While something about this does seem sketchy, that development would have ruined the character of south street