Mathes Jr.

JAMES R. MATHES JR. was a powerful figure in Camden politics during the 1980s and 1990s. A member of the cabal that ran the Regular Democrat Organization in the city, at various times he held positions of power and influence within the Baord of Education, the Housing Authority, and was the presdident of Camden's City Council during from 1990 to 1997.

Convicted on Federal corruption charges for conspiring to steer city business to Mafia dominated firms, Mathes died on February 16, 2004, days before he was to begin a twenty-seven month prison term.

Camden Courier-Post - July 9, 2003



A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a former Camden official and a mob associate of conspiring to steer city business to Mafia-backed firms.

Jurors deliberated for three hours before returning guilty verdicts against James Mathes, former president of Camden City Council, and Daniel Daidone.

They are to be sentenced Oct. 28 by U.S. District Judge Joseph Rodriguez.

The seven-week trial featured testimony by Ralph Natale, former head of the South Jersey-Philadelphia mob.

Natale, a government witness, said Daidone was his go-between for illicit deals with city officials from 1996 to 1998.

The mob boss, formerly of Pennsauken, described efforts to direct city contracts to mob-run firms that appeared to be owned by minorities.

Prosecutors said Mathes, a former affirmative action officer for the city school district, accepted a diamond ring for his girlfriend, valued at about $500, from Daidone.

Natale, who became an informant after a drug arrest in 1999, offered similar testimony at the 2000 trial of former Mayor Milton Milan, who was convicted of corruption charges. Milan is serving an 87-month sentence.

Prosecutors also presented hundreds of photographs and hours of surveillance video.

Attorneys for Mathes, 62, of Camden, and Daidone, 59, of Ventnor, presented no witnesses. The lawyers could not be reached Tuesday.

Camden Courier-Post - OPINION - July 10, 2003  

Former Camden Council president could have been a role model,
but became a failure and a felon.

With the conviction of former City Council president James Mathes on corruption charges, we hope Camden finally has closed the door on its worst days.

Pray we've seen the last of politicians who not only conduct business badly in public but also apparently betray public trust once they think no one is looking.

As sadly as Mathes' political life ended this week when a federal jury found him guilty, even the peak days of his power were not so good. During his tenure as council president, the council approved substantial pay raises for six municipal department heads and tried to fill 40 new and existing jobs - while simultaneously asking the state for $29 million in Municipal Revitalization Program aid.

It was a time of budget problems and tax problems and an economic revitalization that didn't quite take.

Then it turns out that, while he should have been focusing mightily on these issues, Mathes was accepting jewelry from a mob boss and trying to steer city business to Mafia-backed firms.

What positive spin could we put on this legacy? That he was ineffective, but made up for it by being corrupt?

It didn't have to be that way. Mathes was an inspiring story when he first gained office 30 years ago. He was a rising young educator who had grown up in North Camden with nine younger brothers and sisters. Despite his working class roots, he earned a bachelor of arts degree from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., and a master's degree in education from Rutgers University. In 1973, he won a seat on the school board as an independent and proceeded to master Camden government - also becoming the school district's affirmative action officer.

Politicians all make mistakes, of course. But you don't have to be perfect to be honest. In that most crucial way of all, Mathes fell short. His fall means the end of an era - we hope.

Department of Justice - United States Attorney's Office
Public Affairs Office, District of New Jersey
December 16, 2003

La Cosa Nostra Associate and Former Camden City Council President Sentenced to Federal Prison Terms

CAMDEN - Philadelphia organized crime family associate Daniel M. Daidone and former Camden City Council President James R. Mathes, Jr. were sentenced to federal prison terms today in connection with the influencing of corrupt Camden City officials, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie announced.

U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez, who presided over the seven-week trial, ordered Daidone, 60, of Ventnor City, to serve 33 months in prison and to pay $8,000 in fines. Mathes, 65, of Camden, was order to serve 27 months in prison and to pay $3,000 in fines. Judge Rodriguez also ordered both defendants to serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of their prison terms. Parole has been abolished in the federal system. Under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, defendants who are given custodial terms must serve nearly all of that time, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary A. Futcher.

Judge Rodriguez scheduled both men to surrender to correction officials on Feb. 16, 2004.

On July 8, 2003, after three hours of deliberations, a jury convicted Daidone and Mathes each of one count of conspiracy to defraud the public of honest services, two counts of using wire communications to defraud the public of honest services, and one count of conspiracy to travel and use interstate facilities to solicit and accept benefits from the Philadelphia LCN Family to influence a public servant.

During the trial, jurors heard more than 200 secretly recorded tapes of conversations in which, among other things, former-Boss Ralph Natale of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra organized crime family (LCN) discussed with LCN family associate Daidone, a conspiracy to corrupt Camden City officials in order to gain city contracts.

During the trial, Natale testified that he was the boss of the Philadelphia LCN from1994 to 1998, and that he had Daidone make payments to Mathes and former Camden City Mayor Milton Milan. Natale testified that he arranged for a Philadelphia jeweler to provide Mathes with a diamond ring for his girlfriend. Natale also testified that approximately two months after Milton Milan became president of Camden City Council, Natale, through Daidone, made his first payment to Milan. Natale testified that his payments, always carried by Daidone, continued until Natale's parole was revoked in June 1998.

Under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Judge Rodriguez determined the actual sentence based upon a formula that takes into account the severity and characteristics of the offense and the defendant's criminal history, if any.

Christie credited Special Agents of the FBI in Philadelphia, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Lampinski; and Investigators from the Camden County Prosecutors's Office, Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the Philadelphia Police Department with developing the investigation.

The Government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary Futcher and Jacqueline Carle of the U.S. Attorney's Criminal Division.

Camden Courier-Post - February 18, 2004  

James R. Mathes Jr. dies; led city council
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Courier-Post Staff

Former City Council President James R. Mathes Jr. died Sunday, two weeks before he was to begin a federal prison term for a corruption conviction. He was 64. 

Mathes was in declining health recently, giving a judge last week reason to delay his 27-month sentence until March 1. 

"I think he made up his mind that he was not going to jail," said Mangaliso Davis, a friend and chairman of the city's African American Advisory Commission.

Last summer, a federal jury found Mathes and mob associate Daniel Daidone guilty of conspiring to steer city business to Mafia-backed firms.

Their trial turned on the testimony of former mob boss Ralph Natale, who was a government witness. Prosecutors said Mathes accepted a diamond ring for his girlfriend from Daidone. Natale said Daidone was his go-between for illicit deals with city officials from 1996 to 1998.

Mathes served on city council from 1986 to 1997 and as its president from 1990 to 1997. Shortly after his indictment, he resigned from his job as affirmative-action officer for the city school district, which he held from 1985 to 2001.

Friends and colleagues said that post gave him stature throughout the city, which is more than one-half African-American and more than a third Latino.

"If you had a problem, Mr. Mathes would fix it," Davis said. "He'd make a phone call and you'd either have a job or a prospect of a job. He was Mr. Fix-it."

"He made sure everybody ate," said Councilman Ali Sloan El. "Everybody ain't eating now because of his loss."

Sloan El said Mathes was a role model for him and others.

"Politically and athletically, he was a mentor to us, and when it came to get involved politically, he taught us the process," Sloan El said.

In addition to leading city council, Mathes also held the top elected position on the Camden Board of Education, on which he served from 1973 to 1980, and the chairmanship of the city's housing authority.

Sloan El said Mathes' successes in politics came from hard work.

"He made sure Camden got its vote out," he said

Regarding the legacy of James Mathes, the quote in the above article perhaps was revealing of EVERYTHING wrong in Camden politics and government in the 1980s and 1990s.

"If you had a problem, Mr. Mathes would fix it," Davis said. "He'd make a phone call and you'd either have a job or a prospect of a job. He was Mr. Fix-it."

A fixer was exactly what this city never needed. Public servants are supposed to be just that. Those given the responsibility of safeguarding ALL the public’s interest, should NEVER abuse the power vested in them by the citizenry to FIX anything of the nature of public employment. The reason Civil Service is so necessary, is that despite its shortcomings and alleged shortcoming, it prevents many of the abuses that plagued government hiring before its adoption. One must remember that before Civil Service, public hiring and politics was referred to as “the Spoils System”

Perhaps James Mathes’ most noteworthy achievement, if one could call it that, during his years as affirmative action officer for the school board was to affirmatively activate 25 people related to school board members to school board  jobs, as well as seven members of then-superintendent Roy J. Dawson Jr.'s family, as revealed in a 1996 audit.

When one considers the track record of favoritism, nepotism, association with both the convicted and the discredited, culminating in sentencing to Federal prison time, one can only be concerned when the following is read:

 "Politically and athletically, he was a mentor to us, and when it came to get involved politically, he taught us the process," Sloan El said.  

While some may be tempted to defend Mathes by claiming he was the victim of a government conspiracy, and focusing on the testimony of informant Ralph Natale, conveniently forgotten are the hundreds of photographs and hours of surveillance video presented during the trial.

The idea that in any way this individual should be revered, admired, or emulated is at best frightening, and there are many less complimentary adjectives.