GLOVERSVILLE – Members of the Common Council are consulting the city’s labor attorney Bryan Goldberger on the crafting of a “No Confidence” resolution for 2020 Republican mayoral candidate and current city Councilman-at-large William Rowback Jr.
Council members Monday, however, said they doubt the resolution will be ready for Tuesday night’s council meeting.
“I’m 99.99 percent sure it won’t happen, because we’re dealing with a lot of things and this one has been pushed out for a couple of weeks,” said Marcia Weiss, 1st Ward councilwoman.
Second Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds, a Republican, called for the “No Confidence” vote concerning Rowback during the council’s July 13 meeting after Rowback told the council he did not intend to follow any of the recommendations from the Special Investigation Committee formed in January to probe allegations that he had threatened to fire Department of Public Works Director Christopher Perry after he is elected mayor and “layoff” other city employees if sales tax revenue did not improve in Gloversville.
“One would have to make me believe that everybody I heard — who put their hand on the Bible and swore an oath — that every one of them lied, either that or you had to lie, one way or the other; it couldn’t be any other way,” Simonds told Rowback during the July 13 meeting.
The three-member bi-partisan Special Investigation Committee — which included Simonds, Weiss [a Democrat] and was chaired by Republican 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski — was conducted under the rarely-used city charter section C-24, which gives the council the power to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and gather evidence into the conduct of any city employee or elected official.
The committee produced a 10-page report in April that included testimony from Perry, his secretary Brittany Harding, City Clerk Jennifer Mazur, Commissioner of Finance Tammie Weiterschan, Deputy Commissioner of Finance Mary Ann Reppenhagen, and Rowback.
The report concluded that Rowback acted outside the scope of his authority as councilman-at-large, was “untruthful” under oath when interviewed by the committee, and had exposed the city to potential lawsuits due to harassing, intimidating, and threatening conduct toward city employees.
In April the council approved the special committee’s recommendations that Rowback “take full responsibility for his words and actions”, issue a formal apology, reviewed and approved by the council, to the city employees who testified against him and “undertake more comprehensive training regarding harassment in the workplace and workplace bullying”, as well as requiring him to apologize to the rest of the council. Rowback and 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio voted to reject the council’s findings, but all three members of the committee plus Republican 5th Ward Councilman Jay Zarrelli.
Zarrelli and Democratic 3rd Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor voted to approve the report — resulting in a 5-2 bi-partisan vote in favor of the committee’s findings.
At the July 13 meeting, Rowback read a prepared statement that reiterated his rejection of the probe, which he said was political in nature and designed to “prop up” Mayor Vince DeSantis in the upcoming election.
“I will not be following the recommendations in the report, including issuing any sort of apology — simply put, no apology is justified,” Rowback said.
“In fact, if there is to be any apology issued in this matter, it should be issued to me by the members of the investigative committee.”
Simonds said when Rowback briefly believed he had won the 2017 mayoral election against former Mayor Dayton King he had also made statements indicating he would fire some city personnel after being sworn in as mayor. A double-counting of several hundred ballots for Rowback was discovered by Fulton County Board of Elections officials a few weeks after the 2017 contest, reversing the outcome resulting in King’s re-election. King would later resign from office as part of a plea deal after he was arrested for the theft of some stamps from city hall, ultimately resulting in DeSantis serving out the remainder of King’s third term.
Simonds said Rowback has also threatened to sue the city, and that’s part of why he feels the “No Confidence” vote is justified.
“You told the council, right up front, that you were going to sue the city if you didn’t like the outcome [of the Special Investigation Committee probe],” Simonds said. “That didn’t sit right with me, it really didn’t. So, that was the toss-up for me, and my conclusion was Bill, you weren’t telling the truth.”
Weiss said Rowback’s statement is effectively the same thing as calling the rest of the city employees interviewed by the probe “liars.”
“Bill, for someone who is out in the public, all day every day, talking about transparency, where’s yours?” Weiss asked Rowback. “I want to personally apologize to our employees for the garbage he has put you through. It was absolutely horrible.”
At the conclusion of Rowback’s statement, City Attorney Anthony Casale interjected into the discussion for the first of several times during the meeting, sparking additional controversy.
“Shame on you Bill, shame on you,” Casale said.
“Shame on you, for doin’ this,” Anadio shot back.
“Shame on you for supporting this [expletive]! You know better Ellen!” Casale yelled.
Anadio then brought up past conflicts between Rowback and Weiss and Casale stemming from the 2017 mayoral elections, after which Rowback accused the two of ethics violations relating to the exposure of a portion of Rowback’s personnel file as a city firefighter that indicated he had once gone bowling on a sick day, a point of dispute between Rowback and King during their live debate on radio station WENT.
Casale said the city’s ethics panel unanimously rejected Rowback’s ethics complaint against him and the matter has been “water under the bridge ever since.” The ethics charge against Weiss was also dropped.
Casale then said Rowback has refused to comment on the investigative probe other than a written statement “he could barely read himself”, and then engaged in a shouting match with Anadio when she attempted to interrupt him.
“I have the floor now. If you want to have a contest of who can talk loudest, I will win that contest,” Casale yelled.
Since then, the council voted 6-0 during a special meeting on July 20 to ask for Casale’s resignation. Anadio was not present for the vote.
Casale has indicated he will not resign and intends to serve out the remainder of his term, which lasts until the end of 2020.
Siarkowski Monday said not “all of the paperwork has been completed yet” for the potential “No confidence” vote for Rowback.
“We’re having our labor attorney help us with this, because this is all fresh ground,” he said. “We’ve never gone through this before, so we’re trying to get it right.”
Rowback Monday said he feels Casale should be held to a “higher standard” and resign, in part due to his status as a lawyer. He said he doesn’t know if the council will conduct a “No Confidence” vote, or what the implications of that vote would be. He said the probe was unfair in part because letters written on his behalf vouching for his character were not included in the report.
“I believe what I said during the deposition, being interviewed by that committee, that I spoke truthfully,” he said.
Rowback said he has not yet decided whether or not he would replace Perry or other appointed officials in January of 2022, if he wins the mayoral race. He denied Simonds’ July 13 statement regarding his having threatened to fire city employees when he believed himself to be mayor-elect in 2017.
“I’m not mayor yet,” Rowback said. “[Simonds’ statement] was also false. When I found out [in 2017 that rumors of my firing people] were going around city hall, I made a point to go to each department head and tell them that was false, and [why would I] just come in and do a new slate, when everything was working great?”