The mayor of a small Pennsylvania town is defending a decision by its volunteer fire department to reelect a man who is a registered sex offender as its fire chief.
In 2001 Chief Roger Gilbert pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with a four-year-old girl and is listed in Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law database, The Washington Post reports. According to court records, He served a five-to ten-year sentence for “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.”
And even though Spartansburg mayor Ann Louise Wagner says she and the firefighters are aware that Gilbert, who has been with the department since 2010 and is an unpaid volunteer, is a registered sex offender, he was just reelected to his second term.
However, she has decided not to question the status quo.
“I support the fire department and their decision to have him as chief,” Wagner told The Corry Journal. “The firemen have always elected their own officers and that’s how it’s always been done. We don’t question their decisions.”
But this is like a slap in the face for the victim’s mother. She told the newspaper that Gilbert shouldn’t be in a job where he interacts with children, AJC.com reports.
“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?”
Wagner apparently doesn’t share the mother’s sentiments.
“I don’t know why she won’t drop this,” she said, in reference to the victim’s mother.
State police also say they leave it up to individual communities to decide whether sex offenders who have completed their sentences should be able to serve in local offices.
Gilbert maintains that he’s made positive changes in his life since reportedly committing the crime in nearby Corry in 2000, The Post reports.
“That was 20 years ago,” he said. “You know, the story you are telling kids is once you make a 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.”
While this is noteworthy, it’s worth remembering that the victim and her mother are innocent yet were punished when this crime was committed all those years ago. Every time they bump into this man, it must be a sharp and horrible reminder of that painful past.
Watch the video below for information about Wagner’s decision.
Featured image courtesy of CBS Pittsburgh via YouTube video