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Update: Commissioner Matthews Arrested, Denies Any Wrongdoing

Matthews is being charged with perjury and false swearing and faces up to nine years in jail. He denies any wrongdoing.

As reported earlier, Montgomery County Commissioners' Chairman James Matthews was arrested at around 8 a.m. this morning in Springfield.

According to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, Matthews faces perjury and false swearing charges in connection with his Oct. 5 testimony to a grand jury conducting an 18-month long investigation into alleged wrongdoing in the commissioners' office. He faces up to seven years in jail for perjury and up to two years in jail for false swearing charges.

The grand jury investigation covered alleged misappropriation of campaign funds for personal expenses, violations of the Sunshine Laws by both Matthews and fellow commissioner Joe Hoeffel, awarding of no-bid contracts to campaign contributors and other conflicts of interest. While the grand jury could find no charges to bring stemming from the alleged misdeeds, they did find that Matthews had lied under oath about his business relationship with a company called Certified Abstract and his personal relationship with the owner of the company.

"Members of the grand jury were deeply disturbed by the manner in which our county government was operating," said Ferman. "They believed that many of these actions should have been criminal. Ultimately the grand jurors found that the law as it exists right now was not sufficient for them to recommend criminal charges. They made very strong recommendations about changes to the government process and to legislative changes."

Matthews was arraigned in district court just before noon today, and according to , denies any wrongdoing.

“Commissioner Matthews is really angry about [the charges] and certainly embarrassed to be in this situation." Matthews lawyer, Tom Egan, told The Herald. "With regard to the allegations, he adamantly denies any wrongdoing. Realistically, his terms ends at the early part of January. He’s going to serve out his term and he’ll be at the meeting tomorrow morning to discuss the budget.”

Patch will update this story as more information becomes available.

Read our original live coverage of this story below. You can find The Times Herald's coverage of the story on their website.

Update: Matthews is currently being arraigned by Montgomery County Magisterial District Justice Hunsicker.

Update: Ferman says Matthews faces up to seven years in jail for perjury and up to two years in jail for false swearing to the grand jury.

Update: Ferman: "We're not giving [Matthews] a free pass on lying."

Matthews is scheduled to be arraigned at 11:45 a.m.

Update: According to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, Matthews told the grand jury that he did not have a relationship with Certified Abstract, a company the county solicitor instructed employees to use for farmland preservation sales. Matthews's mortgage company allegedly did business with Certified Abstract.

Update: Montgomery County Commissioner James Matthews has been arrested on charges of perjury and false swearing, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman.

The charges were detailed in a presentment issued by an investigative grand jury on Nov. 16. It was not immediately clear when or where Matthews was arrested, or why officials waited almost three weeks to effect the arrest.

The district attorney's press conference continues. We'll update this story as more information becomes available.

Initial story below.

Montgomery County Commissioner James Matthews has been arrested on a perjury charge, according to a report in the Norristown Times-Herald.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman has called a press conference scheduled for 10:30am. The district attorney's office said in a statement that Ferman will be announcing the results of an 18-month grand jury investigation into the County Commissioners.

Matthews was scheduled to lead a public hearing tomorrow morning on the county's proposed 2012 budget, which slashes the county parks department, library funding, and other popular county services. That hearing, which is expected to be heavily attended, is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow in Courtroom A of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown.

Patch will update this story as more information becomes available.

Joe The Nerd Ferraro December 07, 2011 at 02:43 AM
I would say this is a conflict of interest given that Matthews and Ferman have run on the same ticket together. There is too much weirdness going on in Montco Government to have this as an internal investigation. I would also say to kick this up to the Attorney General's Office, but given how well they did with Sandusky - i guess that would not have worked either.... That leaves the Feds as the only ones who could really look into this one.
Dr Steven Greene December 07, 2011 at 12:38 PM
This reminds me of my My Dad - who was his own nightly version of 'Squawk Box'... who used to rant that "they" (big brother?) could arrest any politician at any time because they (the politicians) were all 'dirty' - in the same way that basically a cop and sit on the side of the turnpike and stop anyone for speeding because it's so common - and it was just a matter of who was in control of the situation and who would get caught. The Ins were in and the outs were just trying to get the ins out and get themselves in (did that make sense?). I wonder if he would find the timing of this curious given that recent election etc? His basic point I think was that --- Can you separate the legal system and court system 100% was more of his point. This Matthews case is reminiscent of the Fumo case in a way. Not saying they did the same thing... just the way that these things suddenly come out after all the time.
Bob Guzzardi December 07, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Innocent until proven guilty would be good to remember in this case. The report is on DA's web site and, in addition to Jim Matthews, there are a number of questionable practices related to NO BID contracts that need to be changed. Thanks for thoughtful post. I am not a friend of Jim's although I know him. The point is that, if this is politically fabricated, it is something that could happen to anyone of us who attacks the powerful. http://da.montcopa.org/da/CWP/View.asp?a=1625&q=83616 DA's press release with links to 69 page report
Jay Gelman December 07, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Come on Nerd.. you want the Feds in here? Risa is a public elected official. THIS IS HER JOB. She's not on trial here.. Matthews is. Amazing that anyone would question her integrity. Let her do her job .. finally someone has some guts to clean out the stench in government.
Mike Shortall Sr December 07, 2011 at 02:41 PM
The "conflict of interest" argument between Matthews and Ferman only makes sense if Matthews were to walk away with NO charges. With a two-party system how exactly does one ensure a DA and municipal official can't run on the same ticket? At least Ferman had the intestinal fortitude to pursue Matthews' alleged malfeasance. Even if this was political payback in a way, Matthews is an idiot for allowing this to happen and to be "out there" to be found.

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