A week after a grand jury indicted a Montgomery County commissioner for perjury, the three-man board will hold a series of meetings to discuss next year's budget as well as criticisms of local government raised in the grand jury report.
The hearings will be held this week and next on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m.
Commissioner Joseph Hoeffel, who replaced Commissioner James R. Matthews as chairman after Matthews was accused of lying to the grand jury, said the meetings would address the proposed 2012 budget and accusations of ethical lapses in county government, including reckless spending of taxpayer money and rewarding political cronies.
"The accusations in the report and the criticisms are so dramatic I think they need to be dealt with publicly," he said at a news conference in his office Monday.
The commissioners had just begun to wrestle with next year's budget - tossing around plans that would include no new taxes, a modest tax increase or a whopping 28 percent hike - when prosecutors swooped in to arrest Matthews on Dec. 6.
They allege that the three-term incumbent mischaracterized his relationship with a title insurance company that was awarded government contracts and failed to disclose discussions he had with witnesses in the case against him. The grand jury also accused the 62-year-old of various ethical violations, including using campaign contributions for personal expenses, awarding government contracts to friends and conducting secret meetings.
The report also recommended a list of reforms that the commissioners plan to consider, said Hoeffel. Hoeffel, the lone Democrat on the three-man board, did not escape the grand jury's critique. The grand jury said he joined Matthews in regular breakfast meetings to discuss county business in private before voting at public meetings.
Hoeffel said a review of the grand jury's report was "best conducted in public session where the commissioners can ask questions, gather information, evaluate programs and policies, and determine what, if any, changes are needed."
On Tuesday the commissioners will review the budget then will tackle issues relating to open space, procurement and human resources on Wednesday and Thursday.
They will not address "any matters of alleged illegality," he said.
Hoeffel said Matthews planned to attend.