Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Coal Region Canary
Coal Region CanaryCoal Region Canary

Coronavirus in Schuylkill County

Schuylkill Commissioners Will Try Again on Tyrannical Public Comments Rules

schuylkill county commissioners public comment

Schuylkill County Commissioners will try once again this week to pass a series of rules designed to limit public criticism and squash First Amendment rights.

On the agenda for the Wednesday (Oct. 21) work session meeting of Schuylkill County Commissioners is an item asking the board to approve and adopt 2 pages of rules governing public comments at public meetings.

Rules being proposed on Wednesday are duplicates of the ones the Commissioners first proposed last week. Last week, Commissioners agreed to table passing these rules until this week.

Schuylkill Commissioners Will Try Again on New Public Comments Rules

The rules are designed to squash the criticism of the Commissioners lately, namely Republicans Boots Hetherington and George Halcovage, who’ve come under fire for their mismanagement of CARES Act funds the county received earlier this year and for their secretive nature around the potential acquisition of the former GIANT grocery store property in Pottsville.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Halcovage also faces routine criticism for his alleged sexual harassment of female employees at the Courthouse.

In the last couple months, Schuylkill County Commissioners meetings have been fantastic political theater. Several people have used their time during Public Comments to make accusations against the Commissioners and it’s created a definite division among the board.

In short, the new rules applying to public comments would:

  • Formally create 2 separate Public Comment periods in the meeting (one for items on the official agenda and one for random topics)
  • Require virtual participants to submit their comments by 3 p.m. the day prior to a meeting
  • Give power to the Commissioners Chairman to approve or deny those comments
  • Limit comment periods to 3 topics per person and a total of 3 minutes per person
  • Give power to the Commissioners Chair to adjourn or recess a meeting he feels is out-of-order
  • Prohibit comments that are “scandalous, insulting, malicious, slanderous, libelous, defamatory, inappropriate, irrelevant, redundant” and ones that only serve to disrupt or protract a meeting

Another rule would prohibit anyone from recording these public meetings unless intent to record is given to the Commissioners Chair. That rule is directed, presumably, at The Canary, which has been recording audio in our newsroom that also includes audio of the Commissioners meeting playing through a loudspeaker. We routinely publish clips of that audio through a SoundCloud player in our coverage of these meetings.

A report on these rules appearing in the Times-News cites a source at the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association who says the Commissioners can not prohibit recording of a public meeting. Still, the Commissioners, after having a week to re-think all these rules, are standing pat.

Regarding the window of time when the public can submit comments in writing to the Courthouse, the Commissioners, per their proposed rules, promise to have public agendas posted “to the County’s internet” by 10 a.m. the day prior to the meeting. That only gives the public 5 hours to review the agenda – in the middle of a workday – and submit comments.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The new rules fail to address a process for rejecting comments and how submitters will be notified of their rejection.

On Tuesday, though the new rules haven’t been adopted, the Agenda and other pertinent material for Wednesday’s meeting, wasn’t posted online until closer to 10:30 a.m.

FOR MORE >> Check out the full text of the new rules below. And see our reports on this issue from last week:

Here’s the full text of the proposed new public comment rules that Schuylkill County Commissioners will consider Wednesday: 10-21-20 Motion Public Comments BOC Mtgs


Photo: Coal Region Canary

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Subscribe to Coal Region Canary

Get email updates from Coal Region Canary by becoming a subscriber today. Just enter your email address below to get started!



  1. Insider

    October 21, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    This passed today 2-1.It is time to “Amish” these two incompetent boobs.Shun them.They are destroying the Republican party in Schuylkill County and have made us the laughing stock of Pennsylvania.Together they couldn’t count to 5 if we spotted them 1,2,3…Slander Boots???Nope,just truth!

  2. Rob

    October 23, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    It is both a PA state and federal law that allows public meetings to be recorded. No one has to ask permission or notify anyone they are doing so. See the Sunshine Act as well as The First and 9th Ammendmemt of The Constitution of the United States of America.

    Vote them out in the next election.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More From The Canary

Local Weather

Not as warm as Sunday but nice!

Local Weather

The evening could be stormy.

Local Weather

Another windy day but at least the rain will finally taper off in the morning.

Local Weather

Wind is supposed to stick around today. Slightly cooler temps in the area, too.

Local Weather

Looks like a real soaker today.

Local Weather

The rain is coming back to what's been a very wet April so far.

Local Weather

Should we even trust the forecasts anymore?

PA Lottery Numbers

Wednesday's winning numbers

PA Lottery Numbers

Sunday's winning numbers

PA Lottery Numbers

Thursday's winning numbers