Montgomery County Pennsylvania Seal

Montgomery County Commissioners Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh called fellow Commissioner Joseph Gale a racist Thursday after Gale compared violence in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to riots in 2020.

"I have consistently been a voice for law and order and spoken out against protests that devolve into riots, violence and destruction," Gale said during the commissioners meeting, which was held virtually.

He said outrage over pro-Trump protesters who broke into the Capitol reflects a "double standard" in politics and the media.

"You are a racist and you were censured by this board of commissioners because you used county letterhead to publish racist statements," Arkoosh said.

Last year, she and Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence voted to censure Gale after he referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a hate group. Arkoosh and Lawrence are Democrats. Gale is the only Republican on the three-person board.

"I do want the public to understand clearly that it was your use of county letterhead to publish racist statements that led to your censure," she said to Gale.

Gale thanked her "for clarifying," then said he used his own commissioner letterhead, not that of the full board. Arkoosh then said it was his use of the county seal that prompted the censure.

Gale stated he is not racist, but said he speaks the truth. The exchange was restrained and commissioners dispensed with the actual business of the meeting in about 20 minutes.

Lawrence said restaurants and other food service businesses that have a physical location in Montgomery County can still apply for grants of as much as $10,000 to help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline to apply is Friday at noon. Information is available on the county website.

In other business, the commissioners approved a plan to pay for isolation and shelter for homeless people who test positive for COVID-19 or who are at risk of contracting the illness.

Arkoosh, a physician, said 1,043 Montgomery County residents have died of COVID-19. She asked residents to continue to maintain common-sense measures such as wearing masks and social distancing to cut down on the spread of the coronavirus.

After the board's regular meeting, the salary board met and approved a $15 minimum wage for county employees. Gale objected and said the move was a political stunt, "using taxpayer dollars to push for a cause of ultimately having a higher minimum wage."

The Montgomery County commissioners next meeting will be Jan. 21. The agenda and information on how to watch will be posted on montcopa.org.

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