Posted by on September 9, 2020 4:09 am

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hetherington called dunkel to silence public comments

(Photo: Coal Region Canary)

Schuylkill County Commissioner Boots Hetherington clearly has had enough of the sideshow that’s developing during public comments at his board’s weekly meetings.

Last week, he threatened to shut down that part of weekly Schuylkill County Commissioners public meetings. But it’s not that he threatened to do this; it’s how he threatened to do this.

Schuylkill Commissioner Threatens to Shut Off Public Comments

According to an internal Courthouse email The Canary intercepted last week, Hetherington phoned frequent commentator Jeffrey Dunkel, the former Mayor of Mount Carbon, right before the meeting on September 2.

Boots said if Dunkel didn’t knock off his weekly rants on various topics, namely the controversy surrounding Commissioner George Halcovage, he’d shut down the free-wheeling Public Comment segment at the end of weekly meetings.

This phone call came to light in an email from Clerk of Courts Maria Casey to Hetherington. The Canary confirmed with Dunkel that he did receive a phone call from Hetherington about an hour prior to last week’s Schuylkill Commissioners work session meeting.

Dunkel’s comments were rather limited last week as it was Pottsville City Councilman Mark Atkinson who basically stole the show.

Atkinson used the second Public Comment portion of last week’s meeting to demand the Schuylkill Commissioners pay up on a debt he says is owed the City of Pottsville. He said the County owes Pottsville more than $46,000 for collecting the county’s property taxes using City employees.

READ: Pottsville Councilman Demands Schuylkill Commissioners Pay Up

However, it’s usually Dunkel and Casey who have the most interesting things to say during Public Comment at these weekly meetings. They really ramped up the conversation after a Courthouse investigation determined Commissioner George Halcovage violated several workplace policies for his treatment of female employees there.

Halcovage denies all these accusations. But during the public meetings, Casey and Dunkel either bring up new allegations or demand Halcovage resign from office or be confined to his office.

Public Comments Gone Wild

When things started going sideways during these meetings, and after Hetherington took over for Halcovage as Commissioners chairman, Commissioners adopted a new format for their weekly meetings.

Rather than just a single Public Comment segment near the beginning of the meeting, there are now two. The first session happens early but it’s limited to talking about items on that day’s meeting Agenda. The second Public Comment session happens right before a meeting is adjourned and can discuss any topic a person wants.

A few weeks ago, Hetherington tried interrupting Dunkel from dishing on Halcovage during a Public Comment period. Hetherington cut off Dunkel and said he’d had it. And if Dunkel’s comments weren’t about the business of the Courthouse or the County, he should keep quiet.

That didn’t sit well with Dunkel or Casey, who joined the call and scolded Hetherington for trying to limit Dunkel’s First Amendment rights, she said.

So, it appears based on last week’s phone call directly to Dunkel prior to the meeting, that Hetherington was trying to do an end-around on Casey by confronting the former Mayor of Mount Carbon directly.

For the September 9 meeting, the second Public Comment portion of the meeting is still on the Agenda.

Hetherington Guilty of Sexual Harassment by Proxy?

It’s likely, during this week’s meeting, that we’ll hear about the rest of the contents of that email from Casey to Hetherington. In it, Casey demands Hetherington take further action against Halcovage. She says the Commissioners chairman is “facilitating” Halcovage’s “predatory conduct” by failing to suspend his fellow Commissioner.

Casey also says Hetherington has requested the Schuylkill County Sheriff’s office reinstate Halcovage’s unlimited access to the Courthouse. Halcovage, according to previous stories shared during these insightful Public Comment sessions, is allegedly confined to his office during the workday.

The email also indicates that Hetherington has viewed a video which purportedly shows Halcovage scaling an embankment at the Courthouse to see two of his accusers near their parking spaces.

“Despite indisputable footage of Halcovage attempting to intimidate these Victims and despite one of these Victims meeting with you after this outrageous incident to demand he be banned from the Courthouse facilities, you continue to refuse to enforce your own Policy to, at the very least, have Halcovage suspended,” the email from Casey to Hetherington reads.

Casey also says Hetherington is guilty of violating the Courthouse Sexual Harassment policy because he refuses to act on “remedial measures” that would ensure Halcovage can’t confront his accusers at work.

“Indeed, you have ignored my repeated requests that he be immediately suspended even prior to this latest psychotic episode,” Casey writes in that email.

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2 responses to Schuylkill County Commissioner Called Commentator, Threatened to Silence Public Comments

  1. Just sayin September 9th, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    Halc9vage has got to. I know of 2 women sexually harassed by him and the incidents are very disturbing…

    Reply

    • Canary Commenter September 9th, 2020 at 8:16 pm

      We’re waiting to see/hear the evidence before casting judgement. Be wary of Courthouse politics. If we see evidence that supports these crazy stories, we’re on board with the Dump Halcovage crew.

      Reply

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