The first Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting was rather tame, relatively speaking.
It was during the Salary Board meeting that immediately followed where things got a little heated.
Thankfully, an icy stare from Commissioners Chairman Boots Hetherington cooled things off.
Schuylkill County Commissioners Spat Over CARES Act Relief Spending
So, during the Public Comment period of Wednesday’s Salary Board meeting – consisting of the Commissioners and various row officers and the HR director – Jeff Dunkel was criticizing the Commissioners for bragging about using CARES Act money in 2020 to pay employee salaries instead of aiding Schuylkill County small businesses and non-profits.
Boots insisted the County dished out more than $1 million from the CARES Act fund for business grants. Dunkel disagreed.
And according to our reporting back in July 2021, the money for those grants that were eventually handed out at the end of 2020 did come from the County’s General Fund, not the CARES Act. That’s exactly what was told to us and other media present at a press conference to explain how the money was spent.
You can read our report on that here: Schuylkill County Divulges Crafty CARES Act Spending Details
While Boots may believe the County intended to pay for those grants with that money, the CARES Act funding was shifted around throughout the year as County officials and a hired consultant tried applying the money to allowable expenses.
To make the numbers work, the County just said the grants came from the General Fund, not from the CARES Act funding.
The argument between Boots and Dunkel quickly boiled over, as it often does.
“We’ll discuss it at a later time,” a frustrated Boots told Dunkel.
16 Seconds Later …
During this part of their back-and-forth, Dunkel approached the Commissioners dais and pointed to a document that presumably was the same handed to media last year showing the CARES spending spelled out on paper.
“Because you don’t know how to answer it. You don’t know how to answer it,” Dunkel said, walking away from the dais.
Dunkel then said, “You’re a joke. You. Are A. Joke.”
“Thank you for those comments,” Hetherington replied.
“Keep hiding the money,” Dunkel said from back at his seat in the board room.
“Are you done, Mr. Dunkel,” Hetherington asked.
“No, I’m not. But I’ll take it up with you after the meeting,” snapped Dunkel.
That exchange clearly angered Boots who didn’t say anything else but gave Dunkel an icy stare.
And it was the mother-of-all-stares. By our count, it was nearly 16 seconds of stone cold silence in the board room.
“I’ll take it up with you after the meeting,” Dunkel said, breaking the silence.
Boots didn’t break from his gaze though. He even drew side glances from each of his fellow Commissioners
Finally, after that 16 seconds that felt like a full minute, the Commissioner continued on with the meeting.
Check out the video of the brief but tense confrontation: