Following the revelation that he was convicted in 2001 of having sexual intercourse with a four-year-old girl, a Pennsylvania fire chief has resigned from his position.
Roger Gilbert Jr., 43, resigned from his post as fire chief of the Spartansburg Volunteer Fire Department, as well as from his postion as a fireman. Gilbert told YourErie.com that he has been a volunteer fireman in Spartansburg for 25 years, starting as a junior fireman. Prior to being elected fire chief a year ago, he served as the assistant chief.
In 2001, Gilbert pleaded no contest to charges of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl and completed a five-to-10-year sentence for “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.”
Since his release, Gilbert said he has had the full support of the Spartansburg Fire Department and the community of approximately 300 residents. Following recent widespread reports of his criminal record, Gilbert and his family began to receive death threats.
“My family and our community are being attacked,” Gilbert said. “I didn’t want that to continue. All I have done for 18 years is good things. But outsiders are tearing us up. I felt the best thing to do was back away.”
Regarding his situation, Gilbert said, “It seems you can never do wrong and do good again.”
Upon learning about Gilbert’s background, many demanded that Gilbert be removed from his position. However, Spartansburg mayor, Ann Louise Wagner, supported Gilbert, noting that his history was known in the department, and that the position is unpaid.
“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 mother of Gilbert’s victim does not believe that he should be serving in a capacity which enables him to interact with children, although Gilbert vowed that he has changed since he committed the crime in 2000.
“That was 20 years ago,” he 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.”
According to state police, communities are allowed to decide whether to allow sex offenders who have completed their sentences to serve in an elected office at the local level.