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Schuylkill County News

What Caused Boots to Sport This Grinchy Grimace?

The Speech Police were out in force on Wednesday.

The speech police were out in full force again on Wednesday at Schuylkill County Courthouse.

Schuylkill County Commissioner Boots Hetherington has made policing speech during Public Comment periods one of the hallmarks of his administration. And, apparently, he doesn’t take a break for the holidays.

He was really putting out some Grinch vibes on Wednesday, specifically during what should have been a short-lived Salary Board meeting following the Commissioners Work Session meeting just minutes prior.

During the Public Comment period, North Manheim Township resident Melinda Deibert, a regular critic of the Commissioners, began using her 3 minutes to talk about some procedural issues that came up in the Commissioners Work Session meeting.

That was quickly snuffed out by Hetherington and Solicitor Paul Datte. They admonished Deibert for speaking about things not related to Salary Board. Speaking about things Boots considers off-topic is a big no-no on a seemingly never-ending list of no-nos with regard to Public Comments at meetings under his gavel.

Deibert gave up that line of commentary and moved on to what she thought was a Salary Board-related comment. It wasn’t on the meeting agenda but nothing really was on Wednesday. She quickly learned that what she was going to say next wasn’t considered a Salary Board comment and wasn’t well-received.

She started talking about a previous controversy regarding Schuylkill County Children & Youth Director Lisa Stevens and an apparent pay scandal that is alluded to in depositions from the Commissioner George Halcovage lawsuit that were made public earlier this year.

In those depositions, County officials fail to deny that Stevens allegedly used subordinate employees at Children & Youth to run an overtime pay scheme, where she worked hours but they claimed them and then paid her from their compensation.

North Manheim Township resident Melinda Deibert (red sweater) got into a heated discussion with Schuylkill County officials during Wednesday’s County Salary Board meeting, arguing her comments were relevant to the forum. Officials disagreed and did nearly everything in their power to keep her from talking more than she did. (Coal Region Canary photos)

Datte didn’t like where this discussion was going and interrupted Deibert.

“Does this have anything to do with Salary Board,” he asked.

Deibert vehemently objected to his interruption and stance that her comments had nothing to do with Salary Board.

She said to Datte, “Theft? Yes it does. It does have to do with Salary Board.”

That’s when Boots jumped in … the captain on the Speech Police squad.

“Mrs. Deibert, I think you’re out of line, okay? Seriously,” he said. “You either talk about Salary Board or please take your seat.”

Deibert persisted and the back-and-forth focused on whether or not Stevens’ alleged issue had anything to do with Salary Board.

She said it does.

But Boots, Datte, and even County Administrator Gary Bender all seemed to think her comments had nothing to do with the Salary Board and they wanted to shut her up.

However, their argument then transitioned to whether or not Deibert’s comments had anything to do with Salary Board and its agenda on that particular day.

“Is her salary an issue before the Salary Board,” Datte asked.

This seems to hint that there’s another Public Comment rule we’re now learning. Apparently, people can only discuss items on the Salary Board meeting agenda on that given day. That’d be a new rule.

And if it applies to Commissioners meetings going forward, that’s going to ruffle the feathers of a few people who tend to discuss things during those Public Comment periods that are far off topics on the agenda any given day.

Boots backed up what Datte said about staying on topic with agenda items only. He said, “It’s not on the agenda today.”

Deibert tried one more time to talk about Stevens’ and what she called “theft by deception” but was quickly silenced by Boots.

She wished him a Merry Christmas but didn’t get a reply other than that cold stare.

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  1. Val

    December 21, 2023 at 9:59 am

    I have a stinky feeling: They are stealing together:-))

  2. James EISENHART Jr

    December 21, 2023 at 11:05 am

    Wow-I hadn’t considered that. He is a PSU graduate,is she? you know they like to hide their crimes in happy valley.

    Public comment is public comment-what’s next you have to send in your comments for approval?

    Everyone bitched about the Reassessment,then they go re-elect the two who voted for it! Go figure,we have met the enemy,and it is US!

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