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Schuylkill County Commissioner Frustrated by Non-Compliance

boots hetherington dissent gary hess

boots hetherington dissent gary hess

Schuylkill County Commissioners chairman Boots Hetherington clearly doesn’t enjoy dissent.

On Wednesday, he scolded a colleague because he voted against a project that’s got a new price tag every time the Commissioners get together.

Boots failed to get the full support of his fellow Commissioners on a motion to approve more than $855,000 on a County 9-1-1 project.

This is the project that started as a $2.197 million request for mobile dispatch consoles for 9-1-1 operators in the event COVID or another emergency somehow made the dispatch headquarters in Pottsville inoperable.

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Then, the project grew by about another $60,000. And then it grew by $2.88 million more.

Finally (perhaps), on Wednesday, County 9-1-1 said needed this additional $855 grand.

All of this money is coming from the county’s $12.7 million CARES Act funding, nearly cutting the amount available for other projects or expenses or, Heaven forbid, small business grants, in half.

Well, Commissioner Gary Hess decided to vote against this spending. He voted against the request for $2.88 million, too. And each time, Boots wasn’t pleased.

Schuylkill County Commissioner Frustrated by Non-Compliance

For the second time in as many meetings (the Commissioners didn’t meet last week), Boots tried to take Hess out back to the proverbial wood shed over his dissent.

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Once Hess finished a mini-rant on his thoughts on the 9-1-1 project and the spending involved, Hetherington said, “I’d like to call an executive session.”

This is the second time in as many meetings that Hetherington tried to interrupt a public meeting with a potentially illegal executive session.

Two weeks ago, during discussion on the deal to appoint Administrator Gary Bender as the grand land dealer to negotiate buying the former GIANT grocery store in Pottsville, Hetherington called an executive session after Hess expressed his disapproval of the project.

At that meeting, however, the Commissioners did break into a short executive session without taking a vote on it and without saying publicly what they were going to discuss. Typically, Executive Sessions at public meetings are called to discuss personnel or legal matters outside the public view. Hetherington did neither two weeks ago. The Commissioners also failed to state the reason for their Executive Session after it was adjourned and they returned to the board room.

And then, on Wednesday, Hetherington tried to do the same thing. After calling for an Executive Session Wednesday, it sounded as though several in the board room with him said that wasn’t a very good idea.

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“You can’t have it both ways.”

The raw audio from the meeting was nearly inaudible again but it sounds like Hetherington said he wanted to discuss the 9-1-1 project in the Executive Session that never happened. That was code for him wanting to go behind closed doors and give Hess the business for voting the way he wanted, not the way Boots wanted.

So, instead of going behind closed doors, Boots decided to deride Hess for his No vote on the latest 9-1-1 request.

“We try to put these things together. Mr. Hess, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t always say you’re in favor of something and then vote ‘No’,” Boots said.

Due to poor audio, which we’ve embedded below, Hetherington mumbles something else at Hess before the minority Commissioner fires back.

“I’m not in favor of utilizing the (CARES Act) money, Commissioner,” Hess said. “I think I stated that very well.”

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Boots didn’t want to hear any more so he stubbornly kept the meeting moving.

“Alright, let’s move on to Agenda Item Number 5,” he said.

Here’s the audio of that exchange:


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  1. Just sayin

    October 9, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    Boots sounds like a big old bully to me!

    • Canary Commenter

      October 10, 2020 at 11:45 am

      He’s not that big. Actually, kind of a little fella.

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