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Boots Caught Editing Public Comments Again

commissioner hetherington editing public comments

commissioner hetherington editing public comments

Schuylkill County Commissioner Boots Hetherington decided to edit public comments submitted to be read during last week’s public meeting.

The comment we’re talking about came from Palo Alto resident and former Mount Carbon Mayor Jeffrey Dunkel.

We don’t really know what was in the comment because Hetherington refused to read it. Based on what he said after quickly glancing at it in front of him, we can assume he considered the comment redundant or repetitive, meaning that Dunkel previously raised the issue before Commissioners.

And if Boots feels a public comment, submitted in writing via email a day prior to the meeting, repeats a previous comment he’s read in the past, he just doesn’t read it.

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Based on what Hetherington did disclose, the comment pertained to a contract the Commissioners were set to approve later in the meeting. The Commissioners decided not to put it out for public bids.

They could have but according to some rule, they apparently don’t have to do that on all contracts, typically below a certain monetary threshold.

“The first one,” Boots said as he started to review Dunkel’s comment before reading it, “is a question about contracts. These are no-bid contracts so I’m not going to (inaudible) again.”

We assume he said something to the effect that he wasn’t going to read that comment “again”.

Boots Caught Editing Public Comments at Schuylkill County Commissioners Meetings

Now, if you’re just joining us, Boots is sticking fast to public comment rules he adopted last year to curb what he felt were outlandish comments from the public when they were upset with actions the Commissioners were taking or planning to take on some issues. Many comments also focused on Commissioner George Halcovage when the County’s internal investigation revealed he’d violated several workplace policies.

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Meetings were getting boisterous, even for an audio-only Zoom call, and Boots wanted to put a stop to it. So, he enacted rules that muted the public entirely during meetings. Instead of any member of the public actually voicing their opinions before the Commissioners at these virtual meetings, Boots’ new rules mandated that comments be submitted in writing by 3 p.m. the day prior to the meeting.

Those same rules indicated that the County would make its meeting agenda public by 10 a.m. the day prior, too.

And the rules allowed Boots to deny some comments from being read if he felt they weren’t appropriate for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is if it’s been said in the past.

The trouble with that particular rule is that Boots can’t assume everyone attending a Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting is a regular like Dunkel. If someone was just attending for the first time, they’d have no idea what Dunkel was inferring with his submitted comment.

And what if that first-timer had submitted a comment but was unaware it may have been said in the past? Does Boots edit that comment, too? Just because he is tired of hearing it, doesn’t mean everyone else is, too. The Commissioners need to stop this bad habit immediately.

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