Despite criticism, Spartansburg Mayor Ann Louise Wagner is standing behind her decision to uphold the re-election of Roger Gilbert Jr. as the small Pennsylvania town's fire chief, despite Gilbert's status as a registered sex offender, according to CBS Local.
In 2001, Chief Gilbert was convicted of sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl. He is currently listed in the state's Megan’s Law database. (The New York Times had erroneously stated that Gilbert had pleaded guilty to the crime and later issued a correction on their report.) He had completed a five-to-10-year prison sentence and is considered a felon for the crime of "involuntary deviate sexual intercourse."
Gilbert was elected for a second term for the unpaid volunteer position. The other firefighters serving in the town are aware of Gilbert's criminal history and have been since 2010.
“I assist the hearth division and their determination to have him as chief ... I support the fire department and their decision to have him as chief,” Wagner said. “The firemen have always elected their own officers and that’s how it’s always been done. We don’t question their decisions.”
The victim's mother has spoken out about her opposition to the election results and is specifically afraid Gilbert will be in positions where he could potentially make contact with children again.
"As fire chief, this man interacts with children,” she said. “If you were in an accident, would you want this man working on your child?"
"I don't know why she won't drop this," Wagner said of the victim's mother.
“That was 20 years ago,” Gilbert said. “You know, the story you are telling kids is once you make mistake, you will be punished for the rest of your life. I’ve changed my life for the better. Every day I get up and try to do good.”
State police have decided not to intervene in the matter. They say it's up to the town to decide on the appropriateness of Gilbert's role.
Spartansburg has a population of about 300. It is located 40 miles southeast of Erie, Pennsylvania.
[Photo: Megan's Law database]
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