A small town in northwest Pennsylvania has elected a registered sex offender to his second term as fire chief.
Chief Roger Gilbert Jr. was re-elected as head of Spartansburg, PA’s volunteer fire department by the members of the department, despite having a 2001 conviction for having sexual intercourse with a four-year-old girl in the nearby town of Corry, CBS Pittsburgh reported.
Gilbert, a felon included on the state’s Megan’s Law database of sex offenders, served between five and 10 years in prison for “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse,” court records revealed.
Spartansburg’s mayor, Ann Louise Wagner, has stood by the department’s decision.
“I support the fire department and their decision to have him as chief,” Wagner said to reporters. “The firemen have always elected their own officers and that’s how it’s always been done. We don’t question their decisions.”
Gilbert, 43, has served the town of around 300 people just southeast of Erie, PA since 2010. He is an unpaid volunteer.
Still, the victim’s mother doesn’t believe Gilbert should be in a job where he might have to interact with children, given his crimes.
“That was 20 years ago,” Gilbert said, defending himself. “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 said it is the community’s discretion whether to allow sex offenders to serve in public office.