The editing of public comments at Schuylkill County Commissioners meetings continued Wednesday.
On two separate occasions, Chairman Boots Hetherington openly admitted that the County received written public comments but he refused to read them because they were submitted after the 3 p.m. deadline.
One of the comments was submitted on an item on the public meeting agenda. Another was on a random topic and was meant to be read at the end of the meeting, during the second public comment portion of the Commissioners meeting.
Each time, Boots cited the asinine rules on public comments at meetings that he helped craft last year.
Schuylkill Commissioner Refuses to Read Comments He Deemed “Late”
He felt he needed those rules when the pressure started mounting on him and the Commissioners in general. The rules banned callers to the County’s virtual meetings from actually voicing their comments. They were muted. Instead, the public had to submit comments in writing. Even then, Boots seemingly has sole authority on whether or not the comments will be read.
And for comments on agenda items for the meeting, the public really only has about 5 hours – from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, generally – to go to the County website, review the agenda and write a comment.
The rules were thoroughly criticized by the public, The Canary, and even for a short time, The Times News newspaper. Rules also try to ban the media from recording meetings without first getting permission to do so from … who else? Boots.
Democrat Commissioner Gary Hess even criticized the rules and voted against them but on Wednesday, he didn’t say a word when Boots announced that he wasn’t reading comments because they were late.
In addition to not reading the public comments received this week, the County has also made it a new habit to not publish the public comments read and delivered in-person in the official meeting minutes. The County previously did publish comments in the minutes but that stopped around the same time as the new rules went into effect.
And just a few weeks ago, we caught Boots editing public comments submitted because he deemed them redundant, another convenient feature he added to the public comment rules.
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