FULL AUDIO OF TODAY’S PUBLIC COMMENTS BELOW
If you missed today’s Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting, well, you missed quite a spectacle.
The meeting itself was pretty boring, as most of them are. If you want to watch several grown-up people read from a scripted agenda, it’s a blast. But we suspect that’s not your brand of entertainment.
But today’s meeting went off the rails when the second Public Comment portion finally arrived about 30 minutes into the meeting.
These comments came less than a day after comments from an attorney representing Commissioner George Halcovage were printed in the Times-News. Attorney Gerard Geiger pleaded for people to stop trying Halcovage in the court of public opinion. And he said “local blogs” and the media were not helping by perpetuating these stories for anyone who didn’t attend the meetings.
For the record, before we continue with today’s developments, Halcovage has denied all accusations against him.
Schuylkill County Commissioners Meeting Public Comments Go Off the Rails
Well, today’s commentators must have missed the comments from Halcovage’s attorney, or they simply ignored them.
Because today had it all … alleged booty calls, a human fly, attempts at censorship, the whole works.
It all kicked off with former Mount Carbon Mayor Jeff Dunkel and things were going fine.
Dunkel first mentioned the CARES Act money Schuylkill County was allocated. He said the County “dropped the ball” when it failed to announce a formal grant program and how much money would be set aside from that $12.7 million to help local small businesses.
“Are you waiting to see how much money you spend on the GIANT building,” he asked.
The County does have a grant program. However, it hasn’t made any formal public announcement indicating there is such a program. Last week, the County did share information about the program with the Schuylkill County Chamber of Commerce to let its members know. But still, no formal public announcement was made.
And the deadline to apply for the funds is Sept. 2, so the County is giving businesses that do find out about it just 2 weeks to apply.
Dunkel: Are You Aware of the Booty Calls?
Then, it got a little nuts in the Courthouse and over the Zoom call line.
Dunkel then attempted to bring up the latest accusations against Halcovage.
“The last thing I have … we’re going to go back to Mr. George (Halcovage) there, who still sits on the board …,” Dunkel started to say.
However, he was abruptly cut off by Commissioners Chairman Boots Hetherington.
“Mr. Dunkel, one second … unless you have something new to provide us,” Hetherington said, “I’m asking you to defer from any additional comments, OK?
Dunkel didn’t like being cut off and said, “Additional comments on what?”
Hetherington replied, “On Mr. Halcovage. I’d rather not go through that again with you.”
But Dunkel did have something new to provide, apparently, so he continued.
“OK, I do have new information so I’ll continue my Public Comment,” he said, “because I’m given 5 minutes and I didn’t violate any policies, so …”
That’s when Dunkel began outlining the latest accusation against Halcovage in a public forum.
“I just want to know if you guys are aware … maybe the board investigated them since they’re there … July 21, 2018, are you aware of the messages that he was sending, doing his little booty calls through Facebook Messenger and text messages at 1:56 a.m. to employees,” Dunkel asked.
And again, Hetherington tries to cut him off from continuing with his latest attack.
“Mr. Dunkel,” Hetherington interjected. “We’re here to conduct the business of the Courthouse, not to (inaudible) attacks. I ask you to refrain from doing that, please.”
Dunkel continued by going over some material he’s said in previous meetings, namely the County hiring 3 new employees to allegedly replace 2 of Halcovage’s reported victims who are currently not coming to work since the allegations went public.
Hetherington again stopped Dunkel before he could continue. He said he wasn’t into reruns.
“Mr. Dunkel, we’ve heard this all before. If it’s not something new to the Courthouse or the operation of the Courthouse, please refrain,” Hetherington replied.
Casey Steps In – Calls for Boots to Resign – Says Halcovage is The Human Fly
That’s when, out of nowhere, Clerk of Courts Maria Casey jumped in to the call. She’s been another frequent commentator during these public meetings and also has her share of accusations to level against Halcovage.
“OK, Jeff, I’m in now,” Casey said.
“This is Maria Casey,” she said. “You know who I am, Boots.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Hetherington said in a much quieter tone.
Casey wasn’t happy with the Boots’ interjections into Dunkel’s allotted Public Comment time or his attempts to censor it.
“Do not try to take away our First Amendment right to free speech,” Casey said. “Mr. Dunkel can say anything he wants to say. That’s why it’s called Public Comment.”
But from there, Casey basically picked up the ball on what Dunkel had been saying.
“So,” she said to Hetherington, “You are George’s enabler. You’re protecting a pervert. It has to stop.”
Casey then injected her own new accusations into the mix.
“On July 23rd of this year, George scaled an almost vertical wall to intercept two of his victims. You’ve seen the security tapes. You’ve seen what he did. And you let him stay in the Courthouse,” Casey said. “He had to literally crawl on his hands and knees to get up that wall from the lower parking lot to the upper parking lot, where he planned on intercepting two of his victims who still work there.”
She added, “The one victim met with you … and told you how concerned she was for her personal safety because he deliberately tried to intercept her. We don’t know what he was planning on doing. You’ve seen the surveillance tape. This must stop.”
Later in her comments on this rock scaling incident, Casey referred to Halcovage as The Human Fly.
Before that, Casey took it a step further and called on the newly appointed Commissioner Hetherington to quit, too. She’s previously and repeatedly called for Halcovage to resign.
“You know what Boots? You should resign because you are protecting him,” she added. “This is ridiculous. It’s an affront to justice. I’m asking you to resign today. You are an affront to all women in the county because you enable this predator, this pervert to continue these actions and do what he’s doing.
“And then you try to abridge Mr. Dunkel’s right to free speech and tell him he can’t raise anything about Commissioner Halcovage,” Casey continued. “Of course he can. That is his right and you will not do that to any of us. We will talk on Public Comment about any topic we want.”
Hetherington then thanked Casey and Dunkel for their comments. But Dunkel wasn’t happy about that response from the Commissioners chairman, considering he had his 5 minutes abruptly interrupted by Hetherington and then Casey.
About Those Booty Calls, Though
But the one topic left hanging was those alleged booty calls.
That’s when another frequent public commentator stepped in. Ringtown resident Doug Litwhiler picked up the ball from there.
He said, “The message he was talking about was to a former employee, at 1:58 a.m. in July 2018. When she left the Courthouse, she showed Mr. (Gary) Bender, at least, so they’re well aware of what he’s doing for years there. It’s got to stop.”
Litwhiler also took exception to Hetherington trying to control the content of the Public Comment period.
“You can’t control what people say,” he said.
ICYMI: Impeachment Papers Submitted
Lost in the fight today was another comment from local political activist Marcus Riddell of Porter Township.
He informed Commissioners that he had given a deadline for Halcovage to resign, it had passed, and as he’d promised, he filed what he believes is the necessary paperwork with the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to start the impeachment process against Halcovage.
That process starts with a reading of the documents in the House. The matter then goes into Committee in Harrisburg. If a vote in what would likely be the House Judiciary Committee is successful, the matter would come before the full House for a vote. If that passes with a majority, the impeachment proceedings against Halcovage or any County Commissioner would go to the State Senate, which does hold conviction powers and could have Halcovage removed from office.
Listen to the full Public Comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting here:
MORE FROM THE SCHUYLKILL COUNTY #METOO SAGA:
- Halcovage Attorney: Don’t Convict in Court of Public Opinion
- Halcovage on Rock Climbing Adventures?
- Local Activist Preps Impeachment Docs, Plans Protest to Force Halcovage Resignation
- Schuylkill County HR Director Resigns Amid Halcovage Saga
- Maria Casey Tells Taxpayers Halcovage Saga Could Cost Us Millions
- Casey Accuses Boots of Running Cover for Embattled Halcovage
- The Summer of George Halcovage (A Meme Story)
- “Maria, would you please sit down?” – Drama Over Agenda Order at Schuylkill Commissioners Meeting
- Women Claiming to be Courthouse Employees Say They Don’t Feel Safe at Work