At last week’s Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting, an argument between two adversaries evolved into an adult spelling bee.
During his regular Public Comment time, former Mt. Carbon Mayor Jeff Dunkel was questioning the pay rate for two consultants the Commissioners were about to retain for the big tax offices shake-up and to prepare for a potential countywide reassessment.
The contracts with Anthony Alu and Virginia Murray pay them $40 an hour with a monthly earnings cap. Alu and Murray have been on with the county as consultants since early 2021.
Now, the issue Dunkel has with the consultants, outside of the rate they’re getting, is the fact that Murray is mentioned by name in the federal civil lawsuit against Commissioner George Halcovage and other Courthouse officials for sexual harassment and complicity in that alleged behavior.
In that lawsuit, the 4 Jane Doe defendants claim Halcovage once referred to Murray as a “carpet muncher” and now Dunkel’s wondering if the decision to bring on Murray is some sort of payola.
There’s no evidence to suggest that’s the case but that doesn’t stop Dunkel from wondering that aloud on a regular basis.
You Can’t Say That at the Commissioners Meeting!
The topic also gives him an opportunity to use language you don’t often hear at local government meetings, even though you can read it in that major lawsuit. And last Wednesday, Dunkel didn’t miss a beat.
“He called her a lesbian, a d*ke, and a carpet muncher,” Dunkel said.
It only took a few seconds for Commissioner Boots Hetherington to throw the proverbial flag on Dunkel’s speech. He obviously abhors any sort of foul language and it goes against the informal rules he tried to impose over Schuylkill County Commissioners meetings in 2020.
“Mr. Dunkel, I’ve asked you not to use that language,” Hetherington said, interrupting Dunkel’s Public Comment time. “I realize that it’s not illegal but it’s inappropriate.”
Dunkel believes he has the right and should be able to use that language because he says it’s included in the lawsuit against Halcovage.
Boots indicated he’s tired of hearing the same story week in and week out from Dunkel. However, there’s nothing preventing Dunkel from repeatedly bringing up issues during his Public Comment times at these meetings.
The language issue is another, separate issue. And while Dunkel is well within his rights to say what he wants – for the most part – it is up to the Commissioners Chairman – in this case, Boots – to determine where they mythical line which can not be crossed exists.
“We’ve heard it a dozen times,” Boots told Dunkel of the references to Murray in the lawsuit during a brief exchange.
Boots, Your Word is “S***”
Eventually, Dunkel moved off the Murray subject and questioned other alleged actions inside the Courthouse. To sum up, he said, “There’s a lot of shady sh** going on.” But instead of self-editing, Dunkel let the famous four-letter word slip.
Now, you know that word was going to rile up Boots and it took no time it all for the two to get back to squabbling. But apparently, Boots’ rule on vulgarity only applies to vulgarities if they’re spoken, not spelled.
“You just used a vulgar word again,” Boots said.
Dunkel responded, “It’s not vulgar,” perhaps forgetting quickly what he’d just said.
“S-H-I-T is not vulgar,” Boots asked Dunkel, spelling out the swear word instead of just saying it.
Later, Dunkel apologized for saying “s**t” but he also spelled it out instead of saying –it.