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Despite Litigation, PA Counties Use Different Standards To Reject Mail-In Ballots

Senior Assistant Montgomery County solicitor John Marlett said some 474 Montgomery County primary voters returned ballots with the wrong date.

“The year was either missing or incorrect,” he said. The Board of Elections then voted 2-1 to accept ballots without a year or the incorrect year.  However, neighboring Delaware County adopted the opposite policy.

Marlett told the Montgomery County Board of Elections on Friday that the secretary of state’s guidance says a missing or incorrect year does not disqualify the ballot, leaving it up to county boards of election. The state issued that advice despite the fact that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found wrong dates disqualified the ballots.

Montgomery County Board of Elections Chair Neil Makhija, a Democrat, said the policy of accepting incorrectly dated ballots was implemented during the North Penn special election and “the year [on the ballot] doesn’t provide any sort of security or validation.”

He moved to accept ballots dated between when they were distributed and when the election would be counted. Vice Chair Jamila Winder, also a Democrat, seconded it.

Republican Tom DiBello opposed the move, saying, “My opinion hasn’t changed.”

He noted that Act 77, the law allowing mail-in ballots, has not changed. “There’s been no change to the law. I didn’t support it then, I don’t support it now, and I won’t support it moving forward.”

Makhija said, “We shouldn’t allow something immaterial to disqualify or discount their vote… I think it’s really important for this board to protect the right to vote for all residents.”

The motion passed 2-1.

DiBello said, “Obviously, in Montgomery County, we interpret Act 77 the way we want.” He noted there were “significant issues” in the primary election process and suggested the election board meet monthly leading up to the general election to ensure a smooth process.”

In Delaware County, the Board of Elections took the opposite position from Montgomery County.

“The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the dates can be required by state law, overruling the federal Circuit Court ruling,” said James P. Allen, elections director for Delaware County. “Therefore, Delaware County did not process any ballots from envelopes that were completely missing a date or that were dated incorrectly.”

Linda Kerns, a Philadelphia election lawyer, said because of the guidance from the secretary of state, counties are making different decisions about which mail-in ballots to count.

“So, yet again, we have counties interpreting the issue quite differently which means, as usual, in Pennsylvania, ballots are being treated differently based on the county where you vote,” said Kerns. “Generally, counties with Republican election offices are interpreting date to mean month, day, year that you filled out the ballot. Democrat-led offices are taking a much more broad and liberal approach. That is not exclusive, though, as some Democrat counties are not counting. So it is, as usual, a disgrace.”

Kerns added, “Each court is interpreting a poorly written law very differently. We should have uniformity as to how these ballots are treated.  That is what is fair and democratic. We do not have that.”

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Montco Recorder of Deeds: Sign up for Property Alerts

(From a press release.)

March is International Fraud Prevention Month and Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds Jeanne Sorg is encouraging homeowners to register for FraudSleuth, a free property alert service from her office.

So far, more than 3,100 homeowners have taken advantage of the program provided by the Recorder of Deeds office.

“My team has been working hard to get the word out and help sign up our constituents for this great service – increasing the number of homeowners signed up by 67 percent in just one year,” said Sorg. “But our job is not done until all homeowners in Montgomery County are registered and protected through our free FraudSleuth program.”

While FraudSleuth does not prevent fraud, it is an early warning system, so if fraudulent activity does happen, homeowners can take immediate action. The rate of this type of crime is low in Montgomery County. But Sorg recommends FraudSleuth as a piece of mind tool for homeowners.

“Property is the biggest investment we make,” said Sorg. “My office wants to help you protect that investment.”

Montgomery County property owners should register using their Parcel ID, which is the unique identifier for their property, and they will receive e-mail alerts if a document is recorded at our office against the information included in their profile.

According to Zipdo there was $1.9 billion lost to mortgage and rental fraud in 2020. The average victim lost $4573 per real estate fraud cases.

Homeowners can sign up for FraudSleuth right from the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds website, or join them at one of their upcoming mobile sign up events.

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Montco to Spend $1.2 Million for Farmland Preservation

Montgomery County plans to spend almost $1.2 million in taxpayer money this year for farmland preservation efforts.

The county commissioners approved the spending last week after Planning Manager Anne Leavitt-Gruberger said the Pennsylvania government would match, and possibly exceed, the county’s contribution.

“In 2023, we certified $1.3 million, which then leveraged $2.8 million additional dollars for this program,” she said. The state funding comes from cigarette taxes, the Environmental Stewardship Fund, and what county documents call “other sources.”

The state requires counties to certify the farm preservation funds by January 31 each year.

The cash was initially approved last year during the budgeting process. Four thousand dollars will be used by the Montgomery County Conservation Districts to help with “required annual inspections” of preserved farms. The rest will be used to buy agricultural preservation easements.

Farm preservation is a major part of the “Montco 2040: A Shared Vision” comprehensive plan for the county. Officials hope to preserve a total of 15,400 farm acres by 2040. The county encouraged landowners to make “a long-term commitment to agriculture” through land use security and financial incentives. That included cash for development rights to prevent any sort of non-agricultural buildings.

Leavitt-Gruberger praised the farmland preservation program for saving 186 farms covering about 10,500 acres since its inception in 1990. She said that by buying the development rights on the farms, the county can keep the agricultural landscape of the region forever.

“[Development is] restricted by these easement purchases to be farms,” Leavitt-Gruberger told the commissioners. “We’re helping people preserve not just their family’s properties and their histories on these farms but also a rural way of life in a lot of these communities.”

Program requirements vary – specifically between large and small farms. Small farms have to be at least 10 acres and not next to “an existing agricultural conservation easement,” according to Montco Farmland Preservation Program documents. County-funded easement purchases are only available for those land parcels.

State money is used for farms of at least 500 acres. Program documents say other eligibility conditions include being located between two different local governmental units in the county, and/or between Montco and another county. At least 500 acres of that land have to be in Montco, though. Half of the soil on the farm must be “available for agricultural production” or horse activity and have at least 10 acres of “harvested cropland, pasture, or grazing land.”

Most of the preserved farms are on the northwestern edge of the county. Other farms have been preserved in Hanover, Upper Frederick, Lower Frederick, and Upper Salford.

“I’ve taken some time to get to know this program, you’ve walked me through it,” said Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Jamila Winder. “It’s super impressive. The work that you and the team are doing to partner with our area farmers to preserve farmland.”

Landowners have until February 1 to turn in applications for the Farmland Preservation Program. They’ll have to include crop production and income information for the last three years. A livestock report will also have to be submitted to the county.

From there, Montco will perform farm evaluations and rankings, appraisals, and farm tours before the Farmland Preservation Board votes on whether to make an offer. If the landowner accepts the offer, it will then be sent to the Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board for another vote.

The entire process takes up to two years.

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Montco Girl Scouts Camp Laughing Waters To Be Preserved

Permanent preservation plans are in place for 458 acres of vulnerable open space in Montgomery County.

The Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania and the non-profit Natural Lands conservation group recently announced an agreement on Camp Laughing Waters.

The camp, which the Girl Scouts have run since the 1950s, is part of the Swamp Creek Conservation Landscape – a more than 9,300-acre area of Montgomery County. But Natural Lands noted the camp wasn’t considered protected land.

“The property’s permanent preservation has been a priority for decades,” said Kate Raman, conservation project manager with Natural Lands. “We are beyond thrilled to be able to celebrate this conservation success. It’s a win for future generations of Girl Scouts, for wildlife, and for everyone living in this region who will continue to benefit from the fresh air, clean water, climate mitigation, and other ecological services this land provides.”

It’s’ the latest partnership with private land owners in the Delaware Valley for Natural Lands. The Delaware County-based organization has conservation easements covering more than 26,000 acres. Those agreements include annual monitoring and maintaining good relations with hundreds of landowners.

They also include taxpayer funding. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Montgomery County, New Hanover Township, and Upper Frederick Township all provided what was called “substantial support” for Natural Lands.

DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn called the permanent preservation plans “tremendous news” for the region. She’s especially happy that there will be “expanded public access” to trails within the Swamp Creek Conservation Landscape.

Camp Laughing Waters will remain a Girl Scouts camp. Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania CEO Kim E. Fraites-Dow said the deal makes a lot of sense because the land deserved protection. “Camp activities are dependent on the continued existence of open space…” she said. “This will benefit not just the Girl Scouts but also the flora and fauna that call these lands home, the public who will enjoy the recreational trails, and residents downstream whose property and water supplies will be permanently protected. We are teaching our Girl Scouts by example the importance of protecting land for future generations.”

Montgomery County politicians praised the deal.

“This is great news for advancing and preserving our open space, which will create more opportunities for folks to connect with nature on walking trails or for educational lessons for kids on plants and wildlife,” said state Rep. Donna Scheuren (R-Gilbertsville). “This is also an economic win, as open space attracts tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, helps to generate revenue for local businesses and communities, and delivers higher property values for homes near parks and green spaces as well.”

“New Hanover Township is proud to be a partner in the permanent preservation of 458 acres, ensuring that this vast expanse of land remains protected for future generations,” said Jamie Gwynn, New Hanover Township manager. “The acquisition of the easement not only reflects the Board of Supervisors’ dedication to environmental stewardship but also highlights its unwavering commitment to safeguarding natural resources and fostering sustainable development.”

The Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation and the Redekop Family Foundation at Everence also contribute funds to Natural Lands.

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Montgomery County Commissioners, Row Officers Take Oath of Office

(From a press release)

On January 3, Montgomery County hosted a public swearing-in ceremony for Commissioners Jamila H. Winder, Neil Makhija, and Thomas DiBello, as well as nine row officers, in the Montgomery County Community College’s Health Science Center Main Gym.

“Montgomery County has a population that is diverse in experiences and backgrounds,” said Winder, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “Our community deserves to have leadership that reflects those lived experiences. This new Board of Commissioners, with our dedication to service and diverse perspectives, ensures that everyone who lives, works, visits, or invests in Montgomery County has a voice that speaks for them.”

“It’s an honor to serve alongside Commissioners Winder and DiBello to support the people of Montgomery County. And that is what we are here to do—to serve,” said Makhija. “I am looking forward to the critical work of protecting our elections in 2024, addressing housing affordability and homelessness, leading on the climate crisis, and many more issues we face as a county.”

DiBello said, “I believe we’re going to do a lot of good for the residents of Montgomery County. Together with my fellow Commissioners, we are committed to making advancements for this great county. I look forward to meeting more of the people who live and work here, as well as speaking with and learning from the 2,800-plus county employees who diligently serve our community every day.”

Over 1,000 people registered to attend this significant moment in Montgomery County’s history. Residents, community partners, representatives of federal and state elected officials, and other partners joined together to celebrate the new leaders of the county, with several historic firsts.

With the support of her fellow Commissioners, Jamila H. Winder became the first African American woman to hold the position of Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

“This honor of being the first is not lost on me. I am filled with gratitude that other little Black girls and boys can now see themselves in a position of power and can aspire for greatness in their own way,” said Winder. “While this moment is historic, I maintain the same commitment that I have had since I joined the Board of Commissioners last year: creating sustainable solutions that benefit all residents and look out for the most vulnerable.”

Makhija, who made history as the first person of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent elected to a Board of Commissioners in Pennsylvania, also was named the Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

“As Chair of the Board of Elections for the next four years, I assure you that in Montgomery County, no matter who you support, no matter what outside pressures come upon us, we will protect every single vote,” said Makhija. “County government is the bedrock of democracy; it’s where we safeguard our fundamental right to vote which protects all other rights; where every citizen has a chance to shape our shared future.”

The ceremony also honored nine elected officials who head various departments within the County. Those include Clerk of Courts Lori Schrieber, Controller Karen Sanchez, Coroner Dr. Janine Darby, District Attorney Kevin Steele, Prothonotary Noah Marlier, Recorder of Deeds Jeanne Sorg, Register of Wills Tina Lawson, Esq., Sheriff Sean Kilkenny, and Treasurer Jason Salus.

Dr. Janine Darby and Tina Lawson made history as the first Black women to hold the offices of Coroner and Register of Wills in Montgomery County, respectively. Schrieber, Sanchez, Steele, Marlier, Sorg, Kikenny, and Salus continue their service to Montgomery County in their respective offices.

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PODCAST: Republican Liz Ferry Wants to Bring Fiscal Responsibility to Montco County Board of Commissioners

From enlisting as a Torpedoman’s Mate in the United States Naval Reserves to serving as a township commissioner in Upper Dublin, Liz Ferry believes she has the right stuff for the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. She talks to DVJournal’s Linda Stein about her views on the best way to reduce taxes, protect open space, and find innovative ways to promote economic development.

Hosted by Michael Graham of InsideSources.com.

Don’t Believe The Ads: Carluccio Says She Will Follow Law, Keep Abortion Legal

Montgomery County President Judge Carolyn Carluccio has been in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, some more than once, as she campaigns for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It is part of her strategy to outwork her opponent in the upcoming election.

And, she told DVJournal as she traveled to Pittsburgh, it comes with an added benefit.

“It’s such a beautiful state,” said Carluccio. “All the undeveloped land, the mountains, the valleys.”

Carluccio is running against Superior Court Judge Daniel Caffery (D) for the seat previously held by Justice Max Baer, who died last September. And while the Pennsylvania scenery is pretty, the politics isn’t.

Carluccio is being attacked by the Planned Parenthood Votes political action committee, which runs television ads claiming she would do away with abortion in the state.

“It’s fascinating to me when I say I will follow the law. It has made my opponents a little bit crazy,” said Carluccio. “I’ve been very consistent about that. The law in Pennsylvania is that abortion is legal up until 24 weeks. I will apply (that law)  because that’s my job. I’m not going to change anything. But for some reason, they are insistent on saying things that are not true. The reality is abortion is not even relevant to this race. It will never get before us because in order for abortion to get before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it needs to get through a pro-life legislature and a pro-choice governor. That would be very challenging. So I don’t ever see it coming before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”

“It’s really simple,” she said. “I am a judge who understands her role is to follow the law and to uphold our constitution. And that’s as simple as it gets.”

Carluccio is a Montgomery County native.

“I was born in Norristown and grew up right outside Norristown, in West Norriton,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to work with people and help people. And I found the law was an avenue for that.”

“I also had an uncle (Judge Joseph Smyth) who was a big influence on my life and was a lawyer,” she said. “He was my mom’s (Dorothy) younger brother. He was a football player for Notre Dame. He would babysit for my sister and me, and we thought he was pretty cool. And he became a very young district attorney in Montgomery County.”

Gov. Dick Thornburgh appointed Smyth to the court “at a very young age.”

“And the cool part is he is still on the Montgomery County bench with me. He’s in his last year as a senior judge. It’s been wonderful. He’s so smart and kind, and he’s been a great role model for me.”

Before she was elected to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in 2009, Carluccio was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, prosecuting drug dealers, bank robbers, and money launderers. She was Montgomery County’s first woman chief public defender and its first woman chief deputy solicitor.

She has served in the family, criminal, and civil divisions on the court. Last year, all the judges on the court unanimously voted for her to be the president judge. She is the first woman to hold that position.

“I’ve done public service my entire career,” said Carluccio. “It’s what I love.”

She was elected president of the Montgomery Bar Association in her second year on the bench.

Following in her uncle’s footsteps, she “was thrilled to be president judge in Montgomery County. That was really the ultimate goal I had set for myself. But then people came to me and said, ‘You’re the perfect person for this (to serve on the state Supreme Court).’”

She declined at first but was asked again. So, she talked to her husband and uncle, and they “right away said, ‘This is an opportunity you need to take. You’d be perfect for this. And not everybody gets this opportunity.’”

Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas said of Carluccio, “She is unbelievable. She’s been all over the state. This is a person who was elected president judge unanimously by her fellow judges, most of whom are Democrats. The vilification of her by people on the Left is so misplaced.”

Liz Preate Havey, a lawyer and the secretary of the state GOP, said, “Judge Carluccio is extremely well regarded in the legal community across the state and recognized as such by the Pennsylvania Bar Association when it highly recommended her for Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania State Trial Judges when it recently elected her as its president. The campaign attacks on her by Democrats are patently false and really an attack on the judiciary itself. It’s proof that Judge Carluccio is the best candidate for the Supreme Court.”

“I have a lot of empathy,” Carluccio said. “I’m a very good listener. And those qualities have certainly helped me at this level. But the one quality I think is most remarkable, and the one that is most important is the fact that I follow the law, even when I don’t like it. And even when I don’t agree with it because that’s my job. I will not be an activist judge.”

If elected, she would be the only justice from the suburbs. There are four from cities: one from Philadelphia and three from Pittsburgh. Two are from rural counties.

Also, it would be the first time in state history that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would be majority female, she said. The court now has two Republicans and four Democrats, so Carluccio’s election would not change the court majority.

“And there has not been an Italian American up there in 20 years,” she said.

When she’s not working, Carluccio loves to read and belongs to two book clubs.

“I probably listen to five books a month,” she said. She also enjoys exercising and attends a 6:15 a.m. boot camp all year.

“Those women are my rocks,” Carluccio said. “Girlfriends and family—not in that order—are very important to me.”

Carluccio went to Marshall Street Elementary in Norristown, then to Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, before earning her B.A. from Dickinson College and her J.D. from Widener University.

Carluccio and her husband, Tom, live in Blue Bell and have three grown children: Andrew, Charlie, and Joseph.

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How Did a Convicted Murderer Get Appointed to Montco Board? Nobody’s Talking.

A convicted killer becomes an advisor to a prison system. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.

But it’s no laughing matter in Montgomery County.

In 1985, Vernon Steed shot and killed Serena Gibson, an innocent bystander who was with her family nearby when he fired at a fellow criminal in a drug dispute.

In 2022, Montgomery County Commissioners made Steed a member of the Prison Board of Inspectors, a citizen oversight committee.

Now Steed, 55, is back behind bars, accused of stealing some $95,000 in public-assistance funds by filing phony paperwork using the names of his friends and relatives.

Concerned citizens are asking why elected county officials would appoint a criminal like Steed to a county board. But nobody is willing to say just how he came to the position in the first place, even after his arrest last month.

Joseph Gale, the lone Republican on the county Board of Commissioners, strongly opposed Steed’s appointment. When asked how Steed ended up on the board in the first place—whether he sought out the position or was actively recruited by the county’s Democratic commissioners—Gale said he didn’t know.

“You would have to ask the commissioners who voted for him if they encouraged him to apply,” he told DVJournal. “I certainly didn’t ask him to seek the position; I voted against his appointment.”

County commissioner and board chair Kenneth E. Lawrence, Jr. did not respond to questions about the circumstances surrounding Steed’s appointment. Nor did former commissioner Valerie Arkoosh, who was on the county board at the time of Steed’s appointment and who is now the acting secretary of the state human services department.

At the time, Arkoosh made her support of Steed’s appointment clear.

“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.”

Today?

“DHS has no comment,” spokeswoman Ali Fogarty told DVJournal.

Asked about Steed’s appointment, county spokeswoman Kelly Cofrancisco said the system worked as designed. “The commissioners review all applicants for volunteer board positions and make appointments through official action during their board meetings,” she said.

She previously told DVJournal last month 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,” she added.

The county invites interested applicants to apply for the prison inspector board on its website.

The board is “unique in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” the county says, calling it “a citizens’ oversight board for the humane treatment of Montgomery County incarcerated individuals” and one that “maintains oversight of Prison operations.”

Board inspections “provide a sounding board for incarcerated individuals,” the county’s website says, while board members “are there to notice any particular patterns or needs such as upgrading the telephone system or implementing tablets with access to the internet.”

Board members also perform “administrative duties, oversight of personnel, expenditures, and other budgetary items.”

Steed’s criminal history at the time of his appointment last year had been touted as a bona fide supporting his candidacy. He was expected to bring “lived experience” to the board, Arkoosh said during deliberations. She called it “an extremely important perspective to have as part of our county Prison Board of Inspectors.”

Gale retorted, “The lived experience that this individual brings is 32 years in state prison for murder.” Following Steed’s recent arrest, he called the scandal “unacceptable and embarrassing.”

“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,” he said.

“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,” Gale added.

Steed is accused of stealing nearly $100,000 in COVID-19 emergency funds by using other people’s names to apply for the money.

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Montgomery County Commissioners Raise Their Salaries, Slated to Increase Taxes

Montgomery County commissioners’ vote to raise taxes and give themselves a pay hike was a “gut punch” for taxpayers, a fiscal watchdog group said. But local Democrats dismiss the complaints as political theater.

During a special meeting last week, commissioners approved hefty pay raises for themselves and most row officers, even as taxpayers face an eight percent property tax hike. It is expected to result in $32 million more in property taxes paid by residents. It was the third consecutive year of property tax rate increases.

The board’s two Democrats, Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh and vice chairman Kenneth Lawrence Jr., voted for the pay increase while the lone Republican, Joe Gale, opposed it.

Gale chastised colleagues for recklessly spending public money, saying they should be trying to provide relief for property owners.

Likening it to the “infamous midnight pay raise” state legislators gave themselves in 2005, Gale claimed the county was jamming the salary increases through “under the cloak of darkness.” But the county solicitor pushed back, saying the measure was required by law to be considered at a separate evening meeting between 6 and 9 p.m. when more residents would have a chance to share their opinions on it.

“I think it’s a bunch of bulls**t, and I think it’s absolutely wrong. And it is insulting to the general public,” Gale said. “The optics of this are terrible.”

Boards of Commissioners are empowered to set salaries for all elected officials except the district attorney.

Montgomery County’s chief financial officer Dean Dortone defended the salary increases, saying they were the first pay hikes for commissioners in 14 years and bring the county in line with what elected officials are paid in nearby counties.

On January 1, 2024, when the pay raises take effect, commissioners’ salaries will jump up from $87,600 to $98,200. The board chair’s salary will go from $90,900 to $101,800.

In each subsequent year, those salaries will increase by a percent less than the raises provided to “non-represented” employees, Dortone said.

Bucks and Chester Counties anticipate paying commissioners $103,900 and $97,500 in 2024 while their chairs also make slightly more.

Montgomery County row officers will make nearly $10,000 more in 2024, up to $88,700, while the register of wills gets $91,400, officials said at the meeting.

The Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank, condemned the commissioners’ actions.

“Montgomery County families need a break,” Nathan Benefield, senior vice president of the group told DVJournal. “Saddling families and small businesses already struggling with higher gas prices, higher electric bills, higher grocery costs, higher interest rates, and higher costs for services with higher property taxes is just another punch in the gut. Commissioners should instead focus on ways to reduce out-of-control government spending to protect working families from the burden of a massive tax hike.”

Gale, who ran an unsuccessful bid for governor earlier this year, vowed he would not accept any raise if he is still in office when it goes into effect, promising to donate any excess salary to a pro-life group. He also proposed tabling the measure, but his motion failed.

Gale’s fellow commissioner Lawrence mocked those complaints, claiming the Republican commissioner knew well in advance the board was voting on the salary increases and told him to “stop with the dramatics.”

“The Oscar goes to Commissioner Gale for self-righteous indignation,” Lawrence said.

Gale thundered back he was “shocked” by his colleagues’ actions and told them they should be ashamed of themselves.

“Use your indoor voice,” Lawrence taunted Gale.

The county will vote at the Dec. 15 meeting on the proposed 8 percent property tax increase for the fiscal year 2023 budget.

Projected general-fund revenues for the year are $512.1 million – with more than half of that amount being raised through property taxes – compared with more than $530 in anticipated expenditures, according to budget documents.

Those living in single-family homes with a market value of $430,000 can expect to pay $722 in property taxes when factoring in a $53 increase to account for the tax bump.

Dortone said at a previous meeting the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida teamed up to produce the “perfect storm” of financial woes for the county, which faces its most challenging fiscal situation over the last half-decade.

Ida resulted in $24 million in “unanticipated” costs for cleanup and recovery, according to budget documents.

However, the county received more than $161 million in American Recovery Plan Act funds alone, in addition to millions in additional federal and state COVID-19 aid.

Some residents who spoke during public comment rallied to Gale’s defense, saying he seemed to be the lone public official “fighting for us” amid proposed tax increases.

“How are we supposed to put food on the table? How are we supposed to pay our bills?” one woman said. “You’re supposed to be working for us, not the other way around. I’m at a loss for words.”

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Montgomery County Judge Carluccio Launches Bid for PA Supreme Court

It’s not every day that a Montgomery County judge decides to run for the state’s top court.

President Judge Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio announced her candidacy for Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week.

Carluccio, who was elected to the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in 2009, has served on the family, criminal, and civil court benches. Last year she was unanimously chosen by her peers to serve as the Court’s first female President Judge in county history. She served as president of the 2000-member Montgomery Bar Association in her second year on the bench.

An opening on the court occurred due to the September death of Justice Max Baer.

“Pennsylvanians want their judges to read and apply the law,” said Carluccio, Republican candidate for Supreme Court, “They also want jurists who will bring experience, temperament, and impartiality to our Commonwealth’s highest court.”

“For over a decade, I have had the privilege of presiding over criminal, family, civil and juvenile cases. This diverse court experience can be an asset to Pennsylvanians seeking experienced judges for our highest court,” she said.

Carluccio began her legal career as an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting large-scale drug dealers, bank robbers, and money launderers. Her work earned her recognition from the United States Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

“Drug dealers are lawbreakers: plain and simple,” continued Judge Carluccio, “I have experience putting dangerous criminals behind bars.  I know what prosecutors need from judges to keep our streets safe.”

Carluccio served as the first-ever female chief public defender for Montgomery County, where she managed a team of 35 staff and attorneys. She was also the chief deputy solicitor for the county and served as the acting director of human resources.

“I was proud to be the first-ever female Chief Public Defender in my county’s history. The position also instilled in me a passion for ensuring those with a diminished voice in our criminal justice system are heard,” she said.

Liz Preate Havey, chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee, said, “Judge Carluccio is an outstanding and highly regarded judge with well-rounded legal experience and the appropriate temperament to sit on the Supreme Court. Her election as the first female President Judge in Montgomery County and as the next President of the PA Trial Judges Association is a testament to her character and how respected she is by her peers.  I am thrilled she has decided to run for Supreme Court after much encouragement from many attorneys and friends, including me.”

Carluccio earned her B.A. from Dickinson College and her J.D. degree from Delaware Law School. Carluccio’s court admissions include Pennsylvania, Delaware, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, District of Delaware, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.

Throughout her career, Carluccio has received many professional awards and commendations for her work, including honors from the Montgomery Bar Association, the Department of the Treasury, the Secret Service, and the DEA.

A life-long resident of Montgomery County, Carluccio is married to lawyer Tom Carluccio.  The couple has three adult children: Andrew, Charlie, and Joseph.

So far, Superior Court Judges Deborah Kunselman of Beaver County and Daniel McCaffery of Philadelphia, both Democrats, have also announced that they are running for the seat.

 

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