The Montgomery County, Pennsylvania commissioners voted 2-1 to allow a convicted murderer to join the Prison Board of Inspectors in June 2022, but the man has now been arrested and charged with forgery, identity theft, and theft by deception, according to the Delaware Valley Journal.
The man, Vernon Steed, was reportedly unable to make bail in the latest charges brought against him. The motion to initially move Steed to the Board of Inspectors was initially opposed by only one of the three commissioners, Minority Republican Commissioner Joe Gale. The two that voted for Steed’s appointment were Commissioners Kenneth Lawrence Jr and Val Arkoosh.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Montgomery County prosecutors say Steed stole nearly $95,000 in Covid-19 public assistance funds by filing fraudulent paperwork using the names of his relatives and friends.
The report noted that Governor Josh Shapiro had promoted Arkoosh as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, but she apparently stepped down as the chair of the county commissioners earlier this year.
In September 1985, then-17-year-old Steed shot at a rival drug dealer in the streets of North Philadelphia and accidentally struck Serena Gibson, killing her.
Steed was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1988, and subsequently served 32 years of a life sentence before being released in 2018.
Arkoosh appeared to be a huge supporter of Steed’s appointment, saying in June 2022: “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.”
However, 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.”
It turns out that Gale was correct to be skeptical of appointing a murderer.
Gale, who, according to the report, is running for re-election to the board, released a statement, saying: “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.”
“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.”
The report said that Steed’s name had been washed from the Montgomery County website, with Steed resigning in late April from his post.
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