Two Montgomery County administrators cited for "incompetence" in a scathing grand jury report that led to the arrest of Commissioner James R. Matthews were among at least six officials told Wednesday that they would lose their jobs at the end of the year.
The decision to sack Human Resources head Eleanor Schneider and F. Thomas Snyder, head of the purchasing department, was part of a scheduled transition of elected officials next year rather than a response to the criticism in the 69-page grand jury report, Commissioner Bruce L. Castor said. Both are expected to serve out the rest of the year.
"These are positions that a new government would want to bring in their own people," said Castor. "I think it was beneficial to the employees to be told now rather than when they show up for work Jan. 3."
Also told Wednesday that they would not be part of the new administration were the county's chief operating officer, Robert W. Graf; chief financial officer, Randall Schiable; the head of the public property department, Fred J. Shaughnessy; and Kenneth B. Hughes, director of the Planning Commission.
Castor said all six had been notified by Commissioners Chairman Joseph M. Hoeffel 3d on behalf of incoming Commissioners Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, both Democrats.
Shapiro declined to discuss personnel matters. Hoeffel said only: "This administration didn't fire anyone."
Shapiro, a state representative, and Richards, a Whitemarsh Township supervisor, were elected last month, giving the county its first Democratic majority among commissioners in more than 13 decades. Castor, a Republican, was reelected to a second term.
It is not unusual for elected officials to bring their own advisers into key administrative positions. But some county department heads had more reason to worry than others, said Castor. Several had strong personal ties to Matthews and were brought in as part of his four-year term as chairman, a position he resigned last week after his arrest on perjury charges.
Prosecutors say Matthews lied about his prior relationship with a title insurance firm later given a contract for government work. The commissioner has denied all charges.
In a highly critical report, grand jurors also criticized several elements of the Matthews-led government, saying it recklessly spent taxpayer money, operated without set policies, and put cronies in key positions.
Among employees singled out by the grand jury was Schneider, Matthews' former secretary, who was installed as human resources director in 2009 with an annual salary of $95,000 despite having no experience in the field.
County officials describe Snyder as less a political animal, and Hoeffel has defended him from the grand jury's criticism. The panel took issue with his purported failure to fully examine county vendors for their potential connections to elected commissioners.
"I think anyone associated with Matthews is in danger," Castor said. "The new board - which I am obviously a part of - will want no part of the taint of Jim Matthews."
The dismissals came the same day that the commissioners halted plans for a hearing on several recommendations in the grand jury's report. Hoeffel had previously called for the county's department heads to review the document and report back today on its findings.