Schuylkill County Commissioner Barron Hetherington clearly got fed up with accusations that he’s spreading some type of biosolids or “wastewater” on his farm.
And at Wednesday’s Work Session meeting of the Commissioners, he decided to “break protocol” and address those accusations.
Hetherington was hearing Public Comment from Bob Cook, of Shenandoah, who accused the Commissioner of spreading falsehoods about spreading “wastewater” on his farmland in Union Township.
Cook said Hetherington admitted to do this at another public meeting but now says he doesn’t. As this was being said, Hetherington gave an unusually animated look Cook’s way, shaking his head in disbelief.
Cook also said he talked to State Rep. Dane Watro regarding this issue and then accused the Commissioner of telling Watro one thing and the public another.
“Either Dane’s a liar, I’m a liar, or you’re a liar,” Cook said, “You decide.”
That’s when Hetherington decided to “break protocol” as he put it. That protocol is that Commissioners – by their own rule – don’t address public comments directed at them.
It’s a convenient way of avoiding difficult comments. And it seems the only time Hetherington breaks protocol, as he put it, is to filter comments during meetings.
He said, “Folks, you can say anything you want about me as Commissioner. When you start attacking my wife, my family farm, and my business, that’s out of bounds.”
Hetherington then addressed Cook’s comments and attempted the clear the air about what Cook thought he heard at a public meeting in Tremont recently.
“What I said at that meeting was my son-in-law and my daughter apply sewage sludge on their farm down in Carbon County. We do not and never have put sludge on my farm,” Hetherington said.
He added, “The problem is, people keep saying this … ‘I’m poisoning my customers, I’m going to spread cancer,’ … It’s a blatant lie and it’s not true.”
Hetherington then warned any future commenters at meetings that talking about his farm will result in a muting.
“I’m cautioning you folks, if you are going to keep making comments about my farming operation, my wife, my family, and my family business, you’ll be asked to sit down and forfeit the balance of your time,” Hetherington said.
That warning didn’t sit well with those in the gallery at today’s meeting, particularly Clerk of Courts Maria Casey, who joked that Hetherington’s 3 minutes were up, a reference to the time limit placed on individual public comments.
Hetherington stared her way and asked several times, “Are you done, Maria?”
Casey kept needling the Commissioner until he got threatening again. He said, “You’re out of bou- … you’re out of order. If you speak again, I’m going to ask you to leave, OK? You’re out of order.”
She did speak again, but during her turn at Public Comment. However, she was eventually rejected from Wednesday’s meeting for not going quietly after her 3 minutes of talk time expired.
Prior to getting escorted out of the gallery by a Sheriff’s deputy, she openly wondered what would happen if she went over the 3 minutes and refused to stop talking.
That drew a response from Solicitor Al Marshall, who said to her, “Don’t start, please.”
Here’s video of the exchange between Cook and Hetherington: