The Chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioners, Jim Matthews, says he and Vice Chairman Joe Hoeffel did not violate the state Open Meetings Law, or Sunshine Law, with breakfast meetings they held over a period of more than two years at two East Norriton restaurants. County Solicitor Barry Miller and Deputy Chief Operating Office Jim Maza also participated in the meetings, which observers have called the Breakfast Club, but Commissioner Bruce Castor was never invited. Matthews says he got a legal opinion before the first meeting and found that the law does not bar them.
“You can talk about everything. You can share your opinion, share information. You can say how you’re going to vote on things. It’s a fuzzy law, but it seems to say you can’t deliberate and you can’t vote. That leaves 99.9 percent totally legit, and here’s the crazy thing about it. You can deliberate and you can vote if you do the same thing in public the same day.”
Matthews says he thinks District Attorney Risa Ferman is a little bit embarrassed that her office subpoenaed engagement calendars from him and Hoeffel and promised a grand jury investigation. He says she can’t back down now because the system doesn’t work that way, but the probe will drag on for a long time before the grand jury comes up empty-handed.
“We’ll have to wait for the end of the grand jury that hasn’t even been seated yet because they just got a new judge. That will be six months from now before the grand jury will start and finish their business, and we’ll never be called because there’s nothing to call us on.”
He says the grand jury investigation is a joke.
“Now come on. How hysterical is that? I had a professor of law at Temple University who said to me, ‘What the Hell is Risa giving in to this for, this pressure from her former boss?’ (Castor) I said I don’t think it is, but other people seem to think it is, and then he said ‘How do you take a summary offense that’s not in the criminal code and take it before a grand jury?’ It’s not a crime. It’s not in the criminal code.”
He says the political fallout, including the grand jury investigation, resulted from overreaction to a story in the Times-Herald newspaper.