The small town of Spartansburg, Pennsylvania, has found itself in the national media spotlight, and all because of the chief of its volunteer fire department. That's because 43-year-old Chief Roger Gilbert, Jr., who has been with the company since 2010, is a convicted sex offender. And he was just elected to his second term.
In 2001, Gilbert, Jr. pleaded guilty to having sexual intercourse with a 4-year-old child and was later sentenced to five-to-10-years in prison. As CBS Local reports, the registered sex offender-turned-fire chief was convicted of felony "involuntary deviate sexual intercourse" with the preschool-aged little girl and required to register as a sex offender as part of the Pennsylvania Megan's Law registry after being released from custody.
Despite Roger Gilbert, Jr.'s criminal history and status as a registered sex offender stemming from his admission of having sexual intercourse with a 4-year-old, Spartansburg Mayor Ann Louise Wagner supports his position as fire chief of the town's volunteer fire department. According to Mayor Wagner, the volunteer firefighters themselves elect their own chief, and her office is content to not "question their decisions."
"I support the fire department and their decision to have him as chief. The firemen have always elected their own officers and that's how it's always been done. We don't question their decisions."https://www.facebook.com/CBSPittsburgh/posts/10155590975193822
Wagner went on to confirm that both she and fellow firefighting volunteers knew of Gilbert, Jr.'s sex offender registry status prior to twice electing him chief.
For his part, Gilbert, Jr. claims that he has made major changes to his life since committing the atrocious 2000 crime he pleaded guilty to. He further claims that tries "to do good" on a daily basis, adding that he believes that when people infer that his past crimes should prevent him from holding his current position is tantamount to, "telling kids is once you make mistake, you will be punished for the rest of your life."
"That was 20 years ago. You know, the story you are. I've changed my life for the better. Every day I get up and try to do good."Since news of Pennsylvania fire chief Roger Gilbert, Jr.'s sex offender status went viral earlier this week, many have taken to social media to share their thoughts on the troubling subject. While many on social media have expressed shock and dismay over the decision of the town of Spartansburg to allow an admitted child rapist to hold a position of such trust, there are no laws in Pennsylvania that prevent Gilbert, Jr. from being elected fire chief. According Pennsylvania State Police, each town and community within the state may decide whether or not to allow registered sex offenders to hold local office, provided they have completed their sentence.
The mother of Roger Gilbert, Jr.'s 4-year-old victim reportedly has a different opinion. According to a local media report, the victim's mother doesn't think that her child's attacker has any business holding a job that potentially puts him in contact with children.