Thomas Switches Watchdog Focus from Schools to Courthouse Drama, Local Politics
An outspoken critic of Pottsville Area School District administration announced this week his latest media project, which looks to offer a broader look at municipal and county issues.
Scott Thomas, a Schuylkill County native who resides in Clearwater, Fla., unveiled via Facebook earlier this week, “Scott Thomas, Schuylkill County Watchdog” and his website https://citizensforthomas.com.
“My hope is to get different communities within Schuylkill County involved and paying attention in their local government,” Thomas told us Saturday. “We will be holding a show that will be posted on Facebook which will feature different guests that are involved in government and politics.”
This move comes after Thomas, 30, launched the Facebook group “Taxpayers of the Pottsville Area School District” where he regularly live-streamed from his apartment living room. In the videos, Thomas talked about his time as a school director and his current dissatisfaction with some of the recent decisions by the board and its administration.
Part of the format also included a question and answer segment, where Thomas responded to viewer-submitted questions. Typically, about 400-plus people logged on at about 7 p.m. on most Monday nights. Some of those watching included city residents, former students, and teachers.
Thomas directed much of his criticism toward embattled Pottsville Area’s superintendent Jeff Zwiebel, who stepped aside from his administrative duties after his request for medical leave was approved by the board. Thomas also penned a letter to the editor of the Republican Herald newspaper in May. The paper later quoted Thomas’s website in a story about the soon-to-be-named acting superintendent of Pottsville schools.
“It absolutely had an impact. I think it helped make people become more informed of the issues the district faces,” Thomas said. “It gave people a voice that they were able to ask questions and get those questions answered.”
He criticized school board chairman Bud Quandel as well as the board’s decision to approve a multi-million dollar solar-panel project.
Thomas, an alumnus of the district, became involved with Schuylkill County politics shortly as a teenager – starting with his involvement with the Schuylkill County Young Republican organization. At 23, he defeated his opponent in the 2013 GOP primary for Pottsville mayoral race. Thomas, however, lost the election by less than 400 votes to his Democratic rival. Thomas won 2 terms as a member of the Pottsville Area School Board.
More recently, Thomas ran for city council in Clearwater but was unable to secure enough votes for a council seat. Although he’s relocated, Thomas maintains a home in Pottsville and says he’s a taxpayer, too.
“The Open Records and Sunshine laws in Florida are much different. For instance, there are no executive sessions here. As for the open records, any document is open to the public, for the most part …,” he said. “The laws are different, of course, but even with Pennsylvania law being less user-friendly, it depends on the agency as to how difficult getting that information will be. The Pottsville Area School District was very difficult in the beginning and would request a 30-day extension on everything, despite how readily available it is. Others have responded timely and have been great to work with.”
Meanwhile in Schuylkill County government, there remains continuing fallout from sexual harassment allegations made against a County Commissioner and calls for his resignation.
“It’s something we’ll dive into eventually,” Thomas said, when asked whether he had any comments on the current state of affairs at the Schuylkill County Courthouse. “I’ve always remained focused in getting the facts out and I’ll continue to do that with the county government as well.”