GLOVERSVILLE – Gloversville Mayor Dayton King Friday resisted a call from his former opponent to resign after state police accused King of official misconduct.
State police say King illegally used his position to access the personnel file of his opponent and city firefighter William Rowback Jr. ahead of an Oct. 28 mayoral debate on Gloversville radio station WENT and then released that information on air.
Troopers processed King on the misdemeanor misconduct count at the Mayfield barracks and issued him to return to court Dec. 20.
King ultimately defeated Rowback in the contentious contest after a miscount erroneously called Rowback the winner.
Rowback called for an investigation into King shortly after the debate and an alleged subsequent release of his personnel information. On Friday, after news of King’s arrest surfaced, Rowback, in a Facebook post, called on King to resign.
“It is now 100% clear that Mayor Dayton King won this election by breaking the law,” Rowback wrote on Facebook. “Mayor King abused his position and used my confidential personnel file for political points. Mayor Dayton King should resign.”
King responded to the charge via video in his own Facebook post. He indicated he will fight the charge and continue to lead the city.
“I have already consulted with my attorney and we remain very confident that this case will be resolved in a favorable manner,” King said. “Unfortunately this investigation and this charge is an example of how politics can be ugly. I intend to remain positive and I’ll continue moving our city forward.”
As part of his video, King played a section of the debate where he argued the issue lies.
King stressed in his defense that the discussion began through Rowback’s insistence to talk about the file, “not because anything I said or did.”
In the section of the debate aired on Fulton County radio station WENT, the candidates were asked about leadership and education. The discussion turned to Rowback’s 28-year history with the fire department.
“If you looked at my work history at the City of Gloversville…” Rowback said as King interjected.
“I have,” King said.
“You have?” Rowback responded. “Oh.”
Rowback then pauses for several seconds and started pressing King, asking whether he noticed that Rowback had applied multiple times to be a fire investigator, and whether there was a reason why he wasn’t appointed.
King initially doesn’t give a clear answer. But, he eventually referenced “calling in sick” and “going bowling.”
“I would encourage people to talk to those people that you’ve worked with as well, about working with each other, you know, about calling in sick and going bowling and doing those things. Those are integrity issues those are the things that…”
King’s response video ends the clip there. According to full video shared on Facebook, King’s sentence ends, “Those are the things that, I think, in your personnel file that people need to know about.”
In the midst of the debate exchange, King backed his review of Rowback’s file with a misstatement of the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
King indicated at the debate that the entire personnel file, minus medical information, is open for public review.
State law, however, has special restrictions on personnel files of firefighters, as well as police and corrections officers.
The law, known as 50-a, protects “all personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion” of those officers and firefighters.
Those records “shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such … firefighter” except under court order.
The Gloversville Firefighters Association cited the 50-a law in a release days after the debate and called for an investigation.
“The unauthorized distribution of personnel records not only violates the law, it violates the privacy of the City’s firefighters,” firefighters union president Ed Martelle said in a statement then. Martelle could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
Rowback cited the law, as well, in a release prior to the election.
Contacted Friday evening, Robert Freeman, head of the state Committee on Open Government, said 50-a turns on the phrase “used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion.” If the record can’t be used for that, then it’s not subject to the law. If it is, then it is subject to it.
Results from election night initially appeared to make the issue moot, at least as far as governing the city was concerned.
Those totals handed the office to Rowback by 310 votes out of nearly 3,300 cast. However, a Board of Elections review found two wards double-counted. The news came two weeks after the election, King had actually won by 28 votes.