A registered Pennsylvania sex offender was recently re-elected as the volunteer fire chief of a small town called Spartansburg, sparking outrage in the region as the town's mayor stood by him in support.
Reports state that Spartansburg's 43-year-old volunteer fire chief Roger Gilbert Jr was convicted of having sexual intercourse with a four-year-old girl in 2001 and is also listed in the state’s Megan’s Law database.
Court records show that Gilbert Jr is reportedly a felon and also completed a five to 10-year sentence for "involuntary deviate sexual intercourse."
Shortly after his release from prison, Gilbert Jr joined the Spartansburg Volunteer Fire Department in 2010 and was recently re-elected to the position of voluntary fire chief for a second term in a row, according to reports.
The news also outraged netizens who launched a Change.org petition to remove him from the position. The petition titled "Lets get rid of child rapist fire chief Roger Gilbert Jr. of SPARTANSBURG, Pa." aims at getting 500 signatures. The petition has garnered a total of 268 signs already as of Monday morning. Spartansburg is a small town with around 300 residents.
The victim's mother reportedly said that Gilbert Jr should not be allowed to be in a position where he can easily interact with children. Gilbert Jr committed the crime in 2000 in a city close to Spartansburg called Corry.
The town's mayor, Ann Louise Wagner, however, has gone against Gilbert Jr's critics and has vocally supported him in his bid.
Wagner reportedly said that the volunteer firefighting department is aware of the fire chief's history. Gilbert Jr reportedly does not get paid for the position.
"I support the fire department and their decision to have him as chief," Wagner told The Corry Journal. "The firemen have always elected their own officers and that's how it's always been done. We don't question their decisions," she said.
Gilbert Jr, in his defense, has vowed that he has changed ever since he did prison time for his crime.
"That was 20 years ago. You know, the story you are telling kids is once you make mistake, you will be punished for the rest of your life. I've changed my life for the better," he said to the Journal. "Every day I get up and try to do good," Gilbert Jr added.
Pennsylvania police also released a statement, saying that it is on each individual community whether they decide to allow sex offenders who have completed their sentences to serve in offices at the local level, reports state.
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