GLOVERSVILLE — Mayor Dayton King is set for a Sept. 11 trial, at which he will face charges of official misconduct over information he released during a debate with his 2017 mayoral election opponent, William Rowback Jr.
During a court hearing in the case Wednesday, Town Justice Karen Palmateer rejected King’s motion to dismiss the charges. King and his attorney, Robert Abdella, first made the motion for dismissal several months ago.
“There was no explanation why our motion was dismissed,” King said after the decision.
King was arrested by state police in December and was charged with official misconduct. Specifically, he is accused of violating Rowback’s civil rights by looking into Rowback’s personnel file from his employment as a firefighter in Gloversville and using information in the file against Rowback during an Oct. 28 mayoral debate aired on radio station WENT.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kelli McCoski was named special prosecutor for the case after Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown recused himself.
Rowback said he was glad the case was not dismissed and that King will likely have to face trial, if he does not plead to a lesser charge before then.
“I think the judicial system is actually working the right way,” Rowback said.
During the broadcast debate, King and Rowback argued over whether Rowback was ever disciplined or passed over for promotion due to allegations that he went bowling during a sick day from work.
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 paused 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 referenced “calling in sick,” and, “going bowling,” as potential reasons.
Rowback and his firefighter union called on the state police to investigate the issue, arguing King violated state Civil Rights Law 50-a, which states the personnel files of firefighters and police officers “used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion” of those officers and firefighters … “shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such … firefighter” except under court order.
During the debate, King repeatedly said he believed Rowback’s personnel file was subject to the New York state Freedom of Information Law, which is not correct. Rowback subsequently filed a FOIL request for his own personnel file, after which the city released Rowback’s file to another person who had filed a FOIL request for it. The file was published on the internet by that person.
After the election, which King won, Rowback filed ethics complaints against Gloversville City Attorney Anthony Casale, 1st Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss and King, all for allegedly violating the FOIL law by releasing Rowback’s personnel file. Weiss had shared a link to the file on social media.
The Gloversville Ethics Board initially sent the complaints against Casale, Weiss and King to the Fulton County Ethics Board, citing concerns about conflicts of interest. The county ethics board returned the complaints to the city board because it lacked the necessary number of members to review the issue.
The city ethics board subsequently dismissed the complaints against Casale and Weiss, but it has not answered the complaint against King pending the outcome of his trial.
Ellen DiScioscia resigned her seat on the city ethics board after its decision to dismiss the complaints against Casale and Weiss, citing concerns about conflicts of interest on the ethics board, which includes City Assessor Joni Dennie, who was appointed to her position by King. City code requires at least one member of the board to be an employee of the city of Gloversville.
King said he thinks the criminal case against him has no merit because he had no intent to break the law by discussing details of Rowback’s personnel history.
“I think this has all just been blown out of proportion completely,” King said. “To have to prove that I knew what I was saying was illegal, I don’t see how that is possible. It was a heated debate. It was a controversial election. My opponent asked me multiple times, ‘Oh, no, please say why I wasn’t promoted.’ Then he went out and gave personal information about his wife having a seizure disorder. It was just dumbfounding how all if it came out.”
Rowback said he believes King violated his civil rights and that this case will have implications for all public employees in New York state.
“My response is, am I being promoted or am I being disciplined? There is no other reason he should have been in my file. He broke the law, simple as that,” Rowback said.
Rowback said he believes the ethics board’s decision to dismiss the complaints against Casale and Weiss was the result of board appointees remaining loyal to King and Weiss, who both have a role in determining who sits on that board.
“When you stack the board, you’re always going to get your outcome,” he said. “[They’ve] put somebody on the ethics board that works for the mayor, who works for the council.”
King said he does not appoint people to the ethics board based on personal loyalty or friendship. He said he will be accepting applications from interested residents who are Democrats to fill the seat vacated by DiScioscia, likely at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, and the Common Council will then vote on whether to accept his nominee.
After Wednesday’s Town Court hearing, Abdella issued a statement that he thinks it’s unfortunate the dispute between King and Rowback has become a criminal court case because it “could have been resolved over a couple of beers and a bro hug.”
Rowback said he has no interest in drinking beer with King or hugging him.
“His legal advice wants me to go out to a brew pub and have a few brews and hug and kiss and all this. No, no thank you,” he said.