Former Montco commissioner James Matthew enters probation program

Posted: July 18, 2012

Former Montgomery County Commissioners' Chairman James R. Matthews agreed Tuesday to enter a probationary program and pay $12,000, ending a criminal case that effectively ended his political career.

As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Matthews did not admit guilt on one misdemeanor count of false swearing but agreed to submit to a year of court supervision. He will also cover the cost of his prosecution and make a $12,000 donation to the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge, a nonprofit aimed at helping citizens gain a greater awareness of democratic principles, county prosecutors said.

"Mr. Matthews is delighted with the result and looking forward to his future," said his attorney Matthew Haverstick. "He's looking forward to moving on with his life."

Matthews, a 62-year-old Republican, was not immediately available for comment.

County detectives arrested Matthews in December after an 18-month grand jury investigation into allegations he misused campaign contributions, shepherded government contracts to friends and conducted county business in secret.

In a 69-page report, the panel concluded that while many of Matthews' actions during his years at the helm of county government had been unethical, they did not rise to the level of crimes.

He was charged, however, with lying during his grand jury testimony about a past relationship with a company that won county contracts and discussions he had with witnesses in the case against him.

In March, a judge threw out a felony perjury count against the former commissioner but held the misdemeanor false swearing count for trial.

Matthews has described the case against him as a political "witch hunt."

In addition to the charges against Matthews, the grand jury offered a number of recommendations to reform the way the county awards of contracts, hires of county workers and opens its operations to public view.

A new administration - led by Democratic Commissioners' Chairman Josh Shapiro - has instituted many of those reforms since taking office in January.

"Our primary goal in this investigation was to expose and eradicate government practices that served the interests of the elected officials and not those they served," Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said in a statement on Tuesday. "I am satisfied that we have accomplished this goal and the best interests of our community are served by concluding this matter today."


Contact staff writer Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, jroebuck@phillynews.com, or @jeremyrroebuck on Twitter.

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