JOHNSTOWN — Gloversville Mayor Dayton King pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment, a violation, in Town Court on Monday as part of a plea agreement, less than 24 hours before the trial on his case was scheduled to begin.
King was charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor, by state police on Dec. 8 after former Gloversville mayoral candidate and city firefighter William Rowback Jr. filed a complaint with troopers in Mayfield based on the release of information from his employee personnel file.
A trial on the misconduct charge was scheduled to begin today at 9 a.m., but a plea agreement was reached in Town Court Monday afternoon around 5 p.m. where King and his attorney Robert Abdella appeared along with Rowback and special prosecutor Peter Califano from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office before Justice Karen Palmateer.
Under the agreement, King pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment and received a $250 fine with a $125 surcharge.
Additionally, King will be required to write a letter of apology to Rowback and the Gloversville Firefighters Association to be read during the Oct. 23 Common Council meeting admitting he violated Civil Rights Law Section 50-A by releasing Rowback’s personnel information during a live debate on a local radio station.
Califano said today that he feels the agreement is fair, noting that the imposed fine is the maximum amount allowable for the charge.
Civil Rights Law Section 50-A requires that the personnel records of paid firemen be kept confidential and not subject to release.
“Ultimately Dayton realizes in retrospect that he probably should not have disclosed that information even if Bill asked him to as he did on the record. He probably shouldn’t have answered that question, we understand and appreciate that the fire department members have a right to privacy and that’s why Dayton has no hesitation in issuing an apology,” Abdella said today.
In a Dec. 8 Facebook post, King stated that Rowback “repeatedly pressured” him to discuss his file on air. King said the discussion was a result of Rowback’s insistence to cover the topic, “not because of anything I said or did.” Rowback has maintained that he did not give permission for the release of his personnel information.
Under the initial official misconduct charge, state troopers alleged that King used his position as mayor of Gloversville to gain access to, and review, Rowback’s personnel file and then released the information during the radio debate on Oct. 28.
According to state penal law, a public servant is guilty of official misconduct when the individual knowingly commits an act related to their position as an unauthorized exercise of their official functions or refrains from performing a duty imposed by law or clearly inherent in the nature of their position with the intent to obtain a benefit or deprive another person of a benefit.
Rowback alleged that King, his opponent in the 2017 mayoral election, released the confidential information for political gain.
King entered a plea of not guilty to the misconduct charge in Town Court on Dec. 20 and his attorney motioned to have the charges dismissed in June based on the inability of the court to prove King knew he was unauthorized to release the information. The motion was denied and the trial date set.
“At the time of the debate I didn’t believe I was doing anything illegal and certainly I’ve been educated through this process,” King said today. “I’m happy that we’re moving forward, you certainly never know what a trial looks like, but I think that it would have been difficult to prove that I knew that it was illegal.”
“Certainly I apologize for not knowing the law,” he added. “At the end of the day I’ll maintain that I want to be as transparent as possible.”
King said he is happy to resolve the case that has been difficult for his family and city employees.
“It’s really been a distraction for all the good things going on in the city,” King said. “I appreciate everyone being so supportive.”
Abdella said that he was prepared to take the case to trial, but he supports King’s decision to settle the matter.
“Earlier I had commented publicly that I did not see any merit to the case and nothing has changed my mind about that, I don’t think this case ever belonged in a criminal court and I was looking forward to the trial,” Abdella said. “I think ultimately the city of Gloversville is best served by not having a trial and letting the mayor and fire department focus on business.”
Rowback said today the agreement is “basically” fair, but he will reserve further judgment until hearing King’s apology.
“I will address that on Oct. 23,” Rowback said.