Commissioner faces 2 counts

Posted: July 03, 2007

The attorney representing Haverford Township Commissioner Fred C. Moran dealt a blow yesterday to the state attorney general's public-corruption unit, persuading a Delaware County judge to drop two felony-theft charges stemming from a statewide grand jury investigation.

Moran was held for trial on one count of bribery tied to the development of the Haverford State Hospital site, and a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice.

"We're a little surprised," senior Deputy Attorney General John Flannery Jr. said of Magisterial District Judge Peter Tozer's ruling. "We respectfully disagree with that decision, and we'll have to explore our options."

In April, the grand jury accused Moran of using township money to pay for more than $8,500 in phone and Internet bills.

Haverford's finance director, George Rementer, told the grand jury that he approved Moran's bills – two cell phones, a home phone and DSL Internet service – out of fear that he would lose his job.

"I could be terminated," Rementer said yesterday at Moran's preliminary hearing. He also testified that the township has no firm guidelines for the reimbursement of commissioners' expenses.

"It seems pretty clear there is no theft by deception because there is no deception," said Moran's attorney, Thomas Bergstrom.

Tozer dropped the theft charges, saying prosecutors had failed to provide evidence that Moran had ever been told his expenses were inappropriate.

But Moran will have to the fight the bribery and obstruction-of-justice charges in Delaware County court. He is charged with attempting to extort $500,000 from Goldenberg/Pohlig, the developer of the Haverford State Hospital site, in exchange for zoning approval.

Moran hatched the scheme to close the township's budget gap, according to Andy Lewis, a rival Republican commissioner.

Lewis testified that Moran attempted to use his influence over the township's zoning hearing board to force Goldenberg/Pohlig to "prepay" property taxes on the 212-acre hospital site, which it did not own at the time.

During a three-way conference call in December 2005 with Goldenberg/Pohlig representative Michael Lawry, Moran told Lawry to fork over the cash, Lewis said.

"Mr. Moran said, 'Call it extortion, call it what you will. We need $500,000,' " Lewis said. He said Moran later recanted the proposal at a public meeting, claiming "he had dyslexia" and "didn't mean to say 'extortion.' "

Lawry confirmed Lewis' account of the call.

Moran declined to comment yesterday after the hearing. Bergstrom said his client's "pie-in-the-sky" proposition may have been "foolhardy" or even "dumb," but "the element of criminal intent simply isn't there."

"He's essentially trying to get money for a township," Bergstrom said.

Moran has been suspended without pay from his $54,000-a-year job in Delaware County's data processing department, pending the resolution of the case. *

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