By Brad Segall and Walt Hunter
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — The chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioners has been charged with perjury and false swearing stemming from an 18-month grand jury investigation into allegations of political corruption in county government.
The grand jury recommended the charges against commissioner James Matthews, saying he lied to them on numerous occasions about a relationship he had with a title company that did business with the county.
Their report is highly critical of how the county awards contracts, handles its open space program, and how campaign donations are used.
But none of it rose to a criminal level until, the grand jury says, Matthews lied under oath in October.
“The grand jury found that Commissioner Matthews’ lies were so prevalent throughout his testimony, so blatant, that they concluded he felt that it was right to do so as the chairman of the board of county commissioners,” Montgomery County district attorney Risa Ferman said today.
Ferman says the oath to tell the truth is the cornerstone of our system of justice, and if that’s lost then the system crumbles.
Matthews, a Republican, is free on $50,000 unsecured bail. His next court date is scheduled for a week from Friday.
Through his attorney, Thomas Egan, Matthews denies he lied to the grand jury and calls his arrest a witch hunt.
Matthews announced late this afternoon that in light of current circumstances, he is resigning as chairman of the county commissioners but intends to serve the remainder of his term as a commissioner.
Jim Matthews is the brother of political commentator Chris Matthews, host of “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”