Montgomery County Democratic Party committee members question vote to condemn fellow Democrats in Lower Gwynedd. Believe vote was really to please union and and attack township leader for not hiring preferred attorney

During February, published two articles titled “Montgomery County Democratic Committee accuses Lower Gwynedd Township of interfering in public works unionization effort” and “Read the letters Montgomery County Democrats claim constitute union election interference by Lower Gwynedd Township.”

The two articles detail a vote that was taken by Democratic Party committee members in Montgomery County over accusations of interfering in a vote to unionize that was held by the public works department in Lower Gwynedd Township. That vote to unionize failed, but two letters sent by the township to the employees prior to the vote led to some in party leadership to claim that the actions of the township violated the principles of the party when it comes to labor. When the unionization effort took place in 2023, Democrats held a 4-1 majority on the township’s board of supervisors. recently revisited the issue. What we found was that no complaint had been filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor in connection to the failed unionization effort and the letters sent by the township. The deadline to do so was five business days after the vote to unionize.

So now we had two new questions. Why would the Democratic Party condemn fellow Democrats when the supposed aggrieved parties, the union (International Union of Operating Engineers – Local 542) and the employees who voted to unionize, did not feel the need to file a complaint? And did the members of the party’s committee who voted to endorse the statement condemning Lower Gwynedd Township know that no complaint had been filed prior to their vote?

We emailed Matt Toomey, who is a business manager for the Operating Engineers, and a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee’s Executive Board. Toomey had ignored our earlier inquiries when writing the two previous articles, but called us right away when we asked via email why there hadn’t been a complaint.

He stated that for a complaint to be filed he would have had to get people to testify, etc. and decided against it. When asked if the members of the party’s committee knew that a complaint had not been filed, he stated that he did not know.

We asked the same questions of Jason Salus, the chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee. He first responded that the statement was clear as to why it was issued. When we pushed on whether the party committee members knew there was no complaint filed he responded with the following:

Let me make this clear, complaint or no complaint, the type of behavior that Lower Gwynedd engaged in is an affront to our core principles as Democrats. That is why the Committee took the action it did. The absence of a complaint doesn’t excuse their behavior. But, as an aside, based on the way Lower Gwynedd behaved I wonder if some of the employees were afraid to file a complaint for fear of retribution. They have no union protection as you know.”

Since Toomey claimed he didn’t know and Salus wouldn’t answer the question, we decided to contact all of the local committee members listed on the party’s website. Four members of the committee agreed to talk with us off the record, one emailed. What is interesting is that the five wanted to speak off the record due to the fear of retribution by Salus to themselves or their local committees.

All five shared that the committee members did not know there had not been a complaint filed and all believed that the outcome of the vote may have been different if that was known.

All five felt that the vote and statement was a favor to the union and an attack against fellow Democrat Danielle Duckett, the chair of the Lower Gwynedd Township Board of Supervisors. All believed that Salus has sought to attack Duckett due to her not pushing forward a party preferred solicitor when Democrats took control of the board in recent years.

As you may remember, The Philadelphia Inquirer published articles in 2023 surrounding accusations of a “pay to play culture” within the party and an appointment and candidates leading up to the election for Montgomery County Commissioner. According to one of the articles, Duckett had initially been a preferred candidate for the appointment and campaign, but then had been dumped.

From an Inquirer article titled, “Ashamed’: Montco Democrats are facing backlash over their county commissioner succession plan“:

Initially, the party told Danielle Duckett, policy director for State Rep. Chris Rabb, that she’d be appointed to replace Arkoosh, according to three people familiar with the matter. She was set to become the first Black woman to serve on the board.

Within days, however, the offer was rescinded, with party officials saying they were concerned about Duckett’s “background,” according to people familiar with her account. It’s unclear exactly what they meant, but the decision came after officials learned Duckett had filed for bankruptcy more than 20 years ago when she was a single mother of two. She’d been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had unpaid medical bills.

The committee members spoke with were also concerned that the vote that party leadership asked the committee to undertake was very unusual. The only other time they could remember was when then State Senator Daylin Leach (D) was being accused of sexual misconduct in 2019. There where questions as to why the committee wasn’t asked to vote to hold other elected Democrats accountable and stress Democratic Party values. Recent examples provided were:

There were also concerns about how Duckett’s removal from consideration for the appointment to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners (and eventually as a party backed candidate) was handled. As the Inquirer article pointed out, “party officials” stated that she had a prior bankruptcy and unpaid medical bills (while she was a single mother and had been diagnosed and treated for cancer). One of our sources stated, “Mr. Salus has a history of using women of color to further his personal agenda, regardless of how it impacts them. He thinks that running women of color is the only way he can get the black community out to vote, as if they don’t have interest in the political system beyond skin color.”

Overall, the committee members spoke with felt that the party should be focused on the upcoming election and that the focus on Lower Gwynedd was a waste of time. They also felt the committee was used to further attack Duckett. has been provided a lot of leads to follow in regards to Salus’ and his control of the party that runs the county and many local governments. We believe more people will be willing to talk after this article.

Please note, Salus and the president of Burb Media, which publishes have a history. You can read all about it here.

Photo: Montgomery County Treasurer Jason Salus