GLOVERSVILLE — Mayor Dayton King made his initial appearance in Johnstown Town Court Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to a charge of official misconduct.
King is accused of illegally using his position as mayor to access the personnel file of his mayoral opponent — a city firefighter — and releasing that information in a radio debate.
King entered Johnstown Town Hall with his attorney, Robert Abdella, and soon exited after entering his plea.
Outside, Abdella spoke for King and said he is “pretty darn confident” that the case will end in acquittal and King’s exoneration.
“Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t see there being any merit to this case at all,” Abdella told reporters. “Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m really surprised that he was charged with anything at all.”
Special prosecutor Kelli McCoski, however, said later the case is base on state law governing the release of such information.
King defeated his opponent, William Rowback Jr., in the November election by 28 votes. Rowback has called on King to resign, saying King won by breaking the law.
King did not comment before or after the proceedings. Abdella, however, repeated that King would not resign.
“He’s going to go about the business of being the mayor of Gloversville and continuing to do a good job for the city of Gloversville,” Abdella said.
Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown turned over the investigation to his counterpart in Montgomery County due to a conflict, McCoski said Wednesday evening.
Justice Karen Palmateer set a February return date.
The case centers on a state law that protects the privacy of firefighters, police officers and corrections officers. It makes “all personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion” off limits “to inspection or review” without the employee’s consent or a court order.
King defended himself in a Facebook Live video he made after his arrest, stressing that the debate discussion began through Rowback’s insistence to talk about the file, “not because anything I said or did.”
McCoski said the state police investigated and concluded the law had been broken.
The debate at issue aired Oct. 28 on Gloversville radio station WENT. As the candidates spoke of leadership and education, the discussion turned to Rowback’s 28-year history with the Fire Department.
After King indicated he’d seen Rowback’s work history, Rowback pressed King about what he had seen and reasons why Rowback hadn’t made fire investigator. King initially didn’t give a clear answer. But, he eventually referenced “calling in sick” and “going bowling.”
Rowback reiterated by phone Wednesday evening that he never gave permission to release that information.
“Right now I am representing every employee in the state of New York,” Rowback said.