“Maria, would you please sit down?” – Drama Over Agenda Order at Schuylkill Commissioners Meeting
At the beginning of Wednesday’s Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting, new chairman Boots Hetherington kinda lost his cool.
Wednesday was Hetherington’s first as Chairman of the County Commissioners. Last week, George Halcovage gave up his chairmanship, at least temporarily. He said he wanted to stay out of the way of county business, as much as possible, while allegations against him are litigated.
So, that made Wednesday’s get-together Boots’ first whole full meeting with the gavel. And he added his own wrinkle to the proceedings.
Boots Loses Cool with Schuylkill County Row Officer
Right at the beginning, Hetherington announced the Public Comment session listed on the official agenda would be on Agenda items only.
Random public comments – those about something not on the agenda – got bumped to the end of the meeting.
That change didn’t sit well with at least 2 people listening to today’s meeting, one of whom was in the room.
Schuylkill County Clerk of Courts Maria Casey objected to this change. She wanted to know why there would be two public comment portions of the meeting instead of just the one.
Points of note here: The Commissioners generally had 1 public comment portion of their regular meetings prior to Wednesday. However, it is common for some municipal boards to split public comments to agenda and non-agenda items.
As Casey got increasingly vocal about this change in the meeting rhythm, Hetherington had had enough.
“Maria, would you please sit down,” he asked rather forcefully.
“That is a legitimate question. We deserve an answer now,” Casey demanded.
At that point, a voice also in the Commissioners meeting chamber told Hetherington, “You have the right to remove any distractions from the meeting.”
Wednesday’s meeting was closed to the general public. Commissioners said that inviting the public into the chamber last week was a mistake.
As to why this agenda change would cause so much drama is hard to explain. One resident who was listening in on the meeting’s teleconference line, former Mount Carbon Mayor Jeff Dunkel, did offer one possible reason.
Dunkel said people who expected the Public Comment portion to be as it was and when it was may have scheduled work breaks around that part of the meeting, specifically.
Wednesday’s meeting lasted a little more than a half-hour.