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Convicted Murderer Appointed to Montgomery County Prison Board of Inspectors by Democrats is Back in Jail

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.

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Shapiro Taps Montco’s Arkoosh for Human Services Secretary

Governor-elect Josh Shapiro nominated political ally Dr. Val Arkoosh to be the state’s secretary of human services.

Arkoosh, a Democrat who ran for the U.S. Senate last year, was first appointed a commissioner to fill a vacancy in 2015. She also made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2013.

Arkoosh said she was “extremely honored to accept the nomination.”

“As a physician and public health advocate, I spent my career fighting for health care access and affordability for families, and I am deeply honored to be able to continue this fight alongside my friend, Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro,” said Arkoosh. “Working together as Montgomery County commissioners, I saw Gov.-elect Shapiro’s commitment to enhancing the health and well-being of his constituents firsthand. I look forward to advancing the governor-elect’s agenda to ensure vulnerable populations across the commonwealth have the support they need and every Pennsylvanian has equitable, affordable access to health care in their community.”

She added, “I thank Gov.-elect Shapiro for his support and trust in me to continue my track record of delivering equitable, efficient, and data-driven programs and services to the people of Pennsylvania.”

“DHS provides services to care and support Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable individuals and families. As secretary, I will continue the department’s critical work to help Pennsylvanians lead safe, healthy, and productive lives through trauma-informed services. As a physician of more than two decades in Philadelphia teaching hospitals, an advocate for the Affordable Care Act, and the head of Pennsylvania’s third-largest county for nearly eight years, I am fully prepared to lead the commonwealth’s largest government agency.”

“My experience as both a physician and public health professional continues to inform my work. It was front and center as I shepherded Montgomery County’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic through a data and science-driven response, focusing on clear communication and transparency,” said Arkoosh.

Arkoosh leaves behind a big pay hike in commissioners’ salaries she helped push through late last year. In December, Arkoosh and Democrat Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence voted to increase county taxes by 8 percent while giving raises to themselves and other county row officers.

On January 1 commissioners’ salaries jumped from $87,600 to $98,200. The board chair’s salary went from $90,900 to $101,800.

Arkoosh’s handling of COVID wasn’t universally popular. Minority Republican Commissioner Joe Gale called her a hypocrite for criticizing him over handing out flags to put on veteran’s graves at a Conshohocken cemetery before Memorial Day in 2020. He accused her of “mask shaming.”

“You don’t need a mask to put American flags at a cemetery outdoors,” he said. “What you just said was ridiculous…I have been very clear. People should use their own judgment.”

Parent activist Megan Brock tweeted about the Arkoosh nomination, “I think there are few people in the country who worked harder to keep schools closed than Val Arkoosh. She demoralized parents and students. And now she’s going to be the secretary of human services. Many of us predicted this would happen.  Democrats fail up.”

Arkoosh has voted for five tax increases during her eight years as county commissioner. When she was appointed in 2015, the county millage rate was 3.152. It is now 4.627 (including the .39 millage rate for the community college, which was added under her leadership). Taxes have increased 46.8 percent since she took office.

Shapiro and Arkoosh voted to raise Montgomery County property taxes in 2015 and 2016 by 21 percent.

The court wasted no time in announcing the vacancy.

“President Judge Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio, having been formally advised that Commissioner Chair Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh has resigned her position as Montgomery County Commissioner effective January 17, 2023, hereby directs that anyone interested in filling said vacancy shall deliver a resume and cover letter, including contact information, to the following address on or before January 23, 2023: Michael R. Kehs, Esq., Court Administrator, P.O. Box 311, Courthouse, Norristown, PA [email protected].

Candidates will be expected to be available for interviews at a time to be designated by the court.”

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GALE: Entitlement and Greed Behind Montco Commissioners’ Vote To Raise Their Own Pay

While Santa Claus is saying ho, ho, ho Montgomery County’s Democrat commissioners are once again saying go, go, go to higher property taxes.

As a result, homeowners will see their 2023 county tax bill soar by eight percent. It will be the fifth rate increase in the last eight years.

Money grabs have become the new normal as Democrat Commission Chair Val Arkoosh has established a long history of raising taxes (see 2016, 2017, 2021, and 2022). But it wasn’t without help. For example, the 2016 tax hike was passed with “yes’’ votes from now Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro and my Republican predecessor on the Board of Commissioners, Bruce Castor.



Truth be told, I am the only Montgomery County Commissioner in over a decade to vote ‘no’ to a tax increase.

And I have done so consistently, as it is my moral and fiduciary duty to be a conservative watchdog for the silent majority who are sick and tired of being fleeced by wasteful and reckless spending.

Speaking of wasteful and reckless spending, I recently voted “no” to a 12 percent pay raise for elected officials and went on the record to refuse participation in the compensation package that the Democrat county commissioners voted to approve. That’s right, I am NOT taking the money.

It is stunning and appalling that my colleagues had the nerve to award themselves a taxpayer-funded salary increase during a time when so many people are out of work and struggling to make ends meet.

The sense of entitlement and greed is overwhelming. In fact, the excess is so rampant that it is nearly impossible to detail the county’s many layers of largesse. The most egregious of which involves the decadent renovation of the justice center in Norristown.

Thanks to spiraling construction costs and countless contract amendments, the price of this boondoggle has already surpassed $400 million. The final tab is anybody’s guess. But what’s for sure is Montgomery County taxpayers will be footing the enormous bill.

In addition to shining a spotlight on extravagant capital budget expenditures, I have also opposed millions of dollars in outrageous spending related to the county’s bloated operating budget – which includes, among other things, a multitude of mail-in voting contracts and woke Diversity, Equity & Inclusion training.

Now is not the time for more of the same. Facing the hurdles of runaway food and energy prices, empty store shelves, and shrinking 401(k)s, the last thing families, retirees and small businesses need is the burden of higher taxes thrown in their faces.

In these uncertain times, Montgomery County residents deserve a voice of sanity. And I will continue to be that voice in an effort to restore common sense and fiscal responsibility to the county courthouse.

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Montco’s Arkoosh Drops Out of Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate

Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, is suspending her campaign for Senate, saying her top priority is seeing a Democrat win the soon-to-be-open seat.

“We cannot let anything stand in the way of a Democrat being elected to the U.S. Senate,” Arkoosh said in a video statement released Friday. “The stakes are just too high. And it’s become clear to me that the best way I can ensure that happens is to suspend my campaign today and commit to doing whatever I can to help ensure we flip this Senate seat in November.

“My name may not be on the ballot, but make no mistake, I will still be fighting every day to help win this election,” Arkoosh added.

Two-term incumbent Republican Pat Toomey is not seeking re-election in November.

Previously, Arkoosh told the Delaware Valley Journal she was running for the Senate because she considered herself a “problem solver.”

“I hope to take that same problem-solving attitude to Washington,” Arkoosh said.

Now she will be keeping her problem-solving skills in Montgomery County, where she chairs the Board of Commissioners.

Jeff Jubelirer with Bellevue Communications Group said he was surprised Arkoosh had not gained more traction, given that it is a Democratic primary and she is the only woman in the campaign’s top tier.

Financial records show Arkoosh raised just $2.6 million for her campaign by the end of 2021, while competitor Lt. Gov. John Fetterman had $12 million.

Fetterman’s campaign also released a poll showing his support at 46 percent among Democratic voters, followed by Congressman Conor Lamb at 16, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta at 12, and Arkoosh at only 4 percent.

“I think the wild card for Montgomery County is Connor Lamb,” said Joe Foster, chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee. “The question is how successful has he been in establishing himself as a viable candidate among the voters here but also among the Democratic committee itself. I think Malcolm will do well among the committee and Fetterman will also do very well among the committee. We’ll have to see what Connor Lamb does.”

In her statement, Arkoosh expressed gratitude for the support she received.

“I want to thank my supporters and express my gratitude for all we accomplished. We helped make sure issues like abortion rights and climate change were part of the conversation around flipping this critical seat. We earned support in every corner of the Commonwealth, with more than 40 local endorsements behind this campaign. And importantly, we used each day of this campaign to hold Republicans, like Dr. Oz, to account – for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, undermining our democracy by denying the results of the 2020 election, and opposing policies that will help Pennsylvania families like the Child Tax Credit and bipartisan infrastructure law. That work remains so important. And it will continue today, tomorrow, and the next day.

“I will still be fighting every day to help win this election,” Arkoosh assured her fellow Democrats. “There’s too much at stake. I said from the beginning we would build a campaign about Pennsylvanians and for Pennsylvanians, and I will keep fighting for Pennsylvanians each and every day.”


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