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Schuylkill County News

Limits on Public Comments Once Again Challenged in Schuylkill County

Why is it so hard to let someone speak for 3 minutes on whatever they want?

Once again, the topic of what can be discussed during Public Comment periods at Schuylkill County Courthouse became a point of contention last week.

During Wednesday’s Schuylkill County Salary Board meeting, some County officials attempted to limit what can be discussed in a public meeting. The question: Should Public Comments during a Salary Board meeting be limited to Salary Board issues?

For clarity, the County’s Salary Board includes the three Commissioners and Controller Sharyn Yackenchick. Row officers and other officials who oversee offices with hirings and other salary-related issues also vote during Salary Board meetings.

A few weeks ago, this same question was raised and the dialogue then and last week was nearly identical, almost verbatim.

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The only difference was the topic of the Public comments and the speaker.

In his Salary Board public comments, the Commissioners’ chief antagonizer, Jeff Dunkel, spoke about a collapsing property in Girardville and the recently completed Courthouse Climate Survey of County employees that was required as part of a Dept. of Justice Consent Decree.

About a minute into his comments, Dunkel was interrupted by Commissioner Boots Hetherington, who a few weeks ago, also preempted comments by another weekly critic of the County government.

On Wednesday, Hetherington asked Commissioner Larry Padora if Dunkel’s comments were related to the Salary Board.

Padora muttered something to Hetherington. From the press row of seating in the Commissioners Board Room, it had something to do with just allowing Dunkel to finish his time. The words “three minutes” were clearly audible.

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Dunkel continued his partially extemporaneous comments, going on about the inquiry into Chief Tax Assessor Kent Hatter and his work-from-home status after a harassment lawsuit was recently filed against him.

Then, less than a minute after that first interruption, Hetherington again jumped in, saying, “This is just an extension of the 3 minutes from the last meeting. I don’t understand why we’re discussing this.”

That prompted a loud-mouthed row between he and Dunkel.

About 30 seconds later, Solicitor David Rice jumped in and told Dunkel he was “off the beaten path” of the Salary Board agenda but didn’t really stop him from speaking until the 3-minute time limit had expired.

Currently, the County’s Salary Board really doesn’t have any rules on what can and can’t be discussed during any Public Comment period during Commissioners or Salary Board meetings.

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If it does, it’s not public knowledge.

You can watch this rather contentious exchange from the last Salary Board meeting in our video below:

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pat

    April 7, 2024 at 1:00 pm

    From watching the video of the Salary Board Meeting, it seems Commissioner Chairman Padora needs to put a muzzle on Commissioner Boots. Looks like Boots can’t get the hang of playing second fiddle to the actual Chairman- Larry Padora, who is in charge of running the meetings.

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