A small-town fire department in Pennsylvania is facing mounting backlash over its decision to appoint a convicted pedophile as its chief.
As the Corry Journal reported, 43-year-old Roger Gilbert Jr. was re-elected to his second term as head of the Spartansburg agency.
Many in the tight-knit community, including the victim’s mother, believe that he should be disqualified from the position for a 2001 conviction for sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl.
Despite the local controversy, the town’s mayor, Ann Louise Wagner, is supporting the agency’s decision and its right to select its own chief, according to the Daily Mail.
Wagner said both she and the volunteer fire crew knew of the conviction and the sentence Gilbert served for his crime.
“I support the fire department and their decision to have him as chief,” she said, explaining the agency has always had autonomy to select its officials.
“We don’t question their decisions,” Wagner said.
Gilbert is also speaking out in his own defense, insisting he is a changed man and deserves an opportunity to prove it.
“That was 20 years ago,” he said of his conviction, telling the Journal that he has changed his life “for the better” since his release from prison.
“Every day I get up and try to do good,” Gilbert said.
Nevertheless, a number of locals — including the mother of Gilbert’s victim — say he does has not deserve to serve in a position of authority and trust.
As for his legal right to fill the position, state authorities confirmed such matters are left to localities to determine.
[Featured image: Roger Gilbert Jr./Pennsylvania Megan’s Law]