The Montgomery County commissioners voted 2-1 to appoint a convicted murderer to the Prison Board of Inspectors last June.
Now that man, Vernon Steed, has been arrested again and is charged with forgery, identity theft, and theft by deception. Court records show he was unable to make bail and remains in custody.
Minority Republican Commissioner Joe Gale voted against Commissioners Val Arkoosh and Kenneth Lawrence Jr., opposing Steed’s appointment.
Gov. Josh Shapiro appointed Arkoosh as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. She stepped down as county commissioners chair earlier this year. Arkoosh declined to comment about Steed.
In 1988, Vernon Steed was convicted of first-degree murder and served 32 years of a life sentence before his release in 2018.
At the June 2, 2022, meeting, Arkoosh said, “I just want to comment that I do intend to support Mr. Steed’s appointment. That he will bring an individual to the Prison Board of Inspectors with lived experience. And I think that will be an extremely important perspective to have as part of our county Prison Board of Inspectors.”
Gale said, “I would just like to point out the lived experience that this individual brings is 32 years in state prison for murder. So, I can’t support this, and we will need a roll call vote.”
Now Gale is telling his Democratic colleagues, “I told you so.”
Gale, who is running for re-election to the board, said in a press release, “It is unacceptable and embarrassing that a member of the Montgomery County Prison Board of Inspectors has been arrested and is being held in detention. It was an absolute disgrace for the Democrat County Commissioners to appoint a convicted murderer to the Prison Board of Inspectors in the first place. Now, less than a year later, their decision to override my opposition has proven to be a grave error in judgment, which jeopardized the safety and welfare of many.
“For the protection of the general public and all county employees and workers, Mr. Steed must be removed from the Montgomery County Prison Board of Inspectors immediately,” said Gale. “I have long advocated that appointees to the Prison Board must 1) Document an unblemished history as a law-abiding member of the community; and 2) Offer positive experience as a correctional officer, law enforcement officer, or legal practitioner well-versed in the criminal justice system.
“I fully expect that my input will now be heard and a qualified, law-abiding applicant will be chosen to replace Vernon Steed,” said Gale.
Kelly Cofrancisco, county communications director, said, “While the commissioners are unable to comment on this specific case, the county continues to support applicants from all backgrounds to apply to serve on Montgomery County boards and commissions in a volunteer capacity. The county remains committed to appointing residents with lived experience and diverse perspectives to serve in these positions.”
The prison board is a citizen’s oversight board with members appointed by the county commissioners and the courts.
As of Monday, Steed’s name was scrubbed from the Montgomery County website. Steed resigned from the board on April 21, Cofrancisco said.
A notice on the website said applications for a new member are being sought.