Last year, Schuylkill County Commissioners approved rules on public comments at their board meetings in an attempt to curb some of the criticism and backlash they faced over mounting scandals and internal drama.
The rules went over the line in that they restricted the public’s First Amendment rights:
- They limited the topics which could be discussed.
- They barred the media from recording the meetings – without prior permission – even though they were held virtually on Zoom.
- They limited public comments to emails that had to be submitted within a 5-hour window the day prior to the meeting.
Schuylkill County Attempting to Bar Discussion of Government Employee Hiring, Salaries
Commissioners Chairman`Boots Hetherington claimed last year that he didn’t even write the rules but ever since they were passed, he’s been the lone enforcer of them and based on his latest iteration of them, he’s constantly rewriting them.
On Wednesday, came the latest version. In addition to his banishment of the following …
- “Personal attacks”
- “Attacks on personal businesses of Commissioners”
- “Political campaigns” of the politicians working at the Courthouse
… Boots has now added a topper to these already illegal rules. He’s made them illegal-er.
On Wednesday, he said it’s no longer permissible to discuss the personnel items included on the meeting agendas.
It takes a lot of gall to suggest the public can’t discuss the salaries of the people who “work” at the Courthouse and who the county is hiring. After all, it’s the public that pays those salaries.
Just imagine, the County could decide to hire all the cronies and relatives it wants and pay them really handsome salaries. It could put those decisions on the public agendas at the meetings where those people will be hired. But the public, per Boots’ new rule, can’t say a word about it.
This is clearly another desperate attempt to squash any discussion of the pending federal lawsuit against Commissioner George Halcovage and other county officials who are being sued over sexual harassment of four female employees.
The County is also facing backlash for deciding, while the lawsuit is active, to revamp the Courthouse’s tax offices, where at least two of those women are employed.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF PUBLIC COMMENTS AT SCHUYLKILL COUNTY COURTHOUSE:
- Boots Strikes Public Comments Because They Came In Too Late
- Boots Caught Editing Public Comments Again
- Public Comments Erased from Schuylkill County Commissioners Meeting Minutes
- Boots Caught Editing Public Comments During Schuylkill County Commissioners Meeting Wednesday
- Schuylkill Commissioners Pass Highly Controversial Public Comments Policy
- Schuylkill County Commissioner Called Commentator, Threatened to Silence Public Comments
- Boots Throws Temper Tantrum Over Comments on Commissioners’ Berry Picking Expedition
- Schuylkill Commissioners Not Planning on Revoking At Least Part of New Public Comment Rules
- Boots Says County Could Back Off Rule on Recording Public Meetings
- Schuylkill County Commissioners Think Twice on Comments Rules – Boots Compared to Hitler
- Schuylkill County Commissioners Attempting to Muzzle the Public with New Comment Rules