Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Ruthless' Jim Matthews waives white flag

Somebody must have knocked some sense into Jim Matthews.

Less than 24 hours after a prominent Montgomery County attorney and longtime Republican Party activist switched his voter registration from Republican to Democrat to protest what he called vindictive behavior on the part of the Montgomery County commissioner, Jim Matthews caved.

The dispute centers on a planned transfer of Marcy Toepel, Montgomery County Clerk of Courts first deputy, to a new post in the county Recorder of Deeds office.

Toepel lost the race for Clerk of Courts in November and was going to be out of a job once Ann Thornburg Weiss, the incoming Democrat who won the election, is sworn in.

Toepel was hoping to move into a new job in the Recorder of Deeds office, which is still controlled by Republicans.

But Matthews removed Toepel's name from a list of approved job transfers under review by the county salary board, which includes the three county commissioners.

Insiders said Matthews was pissed at Toepel because she would not support his bid for reelection to the Board of Commissioners.

That prompted Norristown lawyer John I. McMahon Jr., who is the solicitor for the Clerk of Courts office, to send a letter to Matthews calling his tactics "vindictive" and "ruthless."

It didn't hurt that the letter found its way into the hands of veteran Norristown courthouse reporter Margaret Gibbons, who wrote a story about the infighting within Montgomery County Republican circles.

Matthews and McMahon sat down Tuesday for a meeting and apparently resolved their differences. Matthews will not object to Toepel's transfer when the commissioners meet next week, according to Gibbons.

After talking with Matthews on Tuesday, McMahon said all is forgiven.

"He (Matthews) has indicated to me that Ms. Toepel's removal from the salary board list was an 'inadvertent mistake' on his part," McMahon said in a letter he sent to Gibbons. "Accordingly, to the extent that this statement is true, I believe my strong words directed to Commissioner Matthews may have been overly harsh."

Spoken like a true lawyer.

Although they've kissed and made up, McMahon said his decision to switch his party registration to Democrat will not change. Hmmm.

That does not bode well for Matthews or his handlers, Montgomery County Republican Chairman Ken Davis and moneyman Bob Asher, the de-facto party boss.

Davis and Asher have worked hard over the past four years to divide the Republican Party. As a result of their political bungling, five Democrats were elected to Montgomery County row offices on Nov. 6.

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