LOWER SALFORD — Township supervisors have each gone on record in opposition to Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale's June 1 statement that has led to calls for Gale's resignation.
Gale has said his statement was in response to rioting and looting in Philadelphia and other places, not peaceful protests, in the wake of George Floyd's death.
"The perpetrators of this urban domestic terror are radical left-wing hate groups like Black Lives Matter. This organization, in particular, screams racism not to explore bigotry and injustice, but to justify the lawless destruction of our cities and surrounding communities," Gale said in the statement.
Floyd's death in Minneapolis came after a police officer kneeled on the handcuffed Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. The officer has been fired and charged with murder.
At the July 1 Lower Salford Township Board of Supervisors meeting, board member Kevin Shelly said he was offended by Gale's statement.
Shelly also read aloud a letter to the editor he had written that was published in The Reporter.
In the letter, Shelly addressed Gale, saying, “You have no connection to the daily reality of many of the county's residents, people you promised to serve. As representatives of the people, we are responsible to listen to all sides of an issue; to educate ourselves about the people we serve and the things that are important to them, and to represent them fairly, even when their opinions and values differ from our own, or that of our party.”
Shelly, who said he hopes Gale's statement will make voters recognize Gale's racism, said he displayed a “BLACK LIVES MATTER” sign alongside a “We Support Our Local Police” sign on his lawn.
The Black Lives Matter website “makes it clear that they are a peaceful organization whose most important mission is to bring awareness to the continued inequity in America,” Shelly said.
“My hope is that your seemingly insatiable craving for attention will motivate more people to go to the polls to vote against you and other ignorant and entitled leaders at the earliest opportunity,” Shelly said to Gale in the letter to the editor.
Board Chairman Doug Gifford was the next to give his opinion.
“There was discussion about the township issuing a position on this and I don't think it appropriate for the township to do so, but I think that it's more than appropriate for individuals to express their individual views on it,” he said.
“I would second what you said, Kevin, and I would go on to say that I think it's nothing more than a malicious statement by an ignorant individual who unfortunately holds public office,” he said.
“Frankly, I hope never to see another public statement by Commissioner Gale because he's proven that he can't handle that responsibility,” Gifford said, “but those are my personal opinions.”
Board member Doug Johnson said he agreed with Shelly and that Gale's statement was, “unfortunately one of the most atrocious of an elected politician that I've seen in my lifetime -- not the worst, I will say, but one of the worst.”
The hope now is that if Gale does not resign, he will be voted out of office, Johnson said.
Board member Chris Canavan said he supports what had already been said and that local elected officials should seek a path of respect and dignity for the people they serve.
“Nothing in that statement had anything that would even come close to respect and dignity and it's offensive to be in the same party with someone who would speak that way,” Canavan said.
Gifford, Johnson, Canavan and board member Keith Bergman, who said he agreed with his fellow board members, are Republicans. Shelly is a Democrat.
Gale, who is currently in his second term as a commissioner, is a Republican whose election campaigns have relied on grassroots support, not party support.
The Lower Salford board members comments came at the conclusion of a meeting held in the township meeting room with social distancing. Recent meetings were by teleconferencing because of the coronavirus pandemic. Although held in the township building and open to attendance by members of the public, the meeting was also made available as a teleconference.
“Thank you all and welcome back,” Gifford said following the Pledge of Allegiance.