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Investigation into Rowback continues

GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council has established a special committee to lead the investigation into allegations reported to the city regarding Councilman-at-Large William Rowback Jr.

The Common Council during a special meeting on Thursday approved a motion 5-1 to initiate an investigation into the “affairs and conduct” of Rowback in accordance with city charter provisions. Rowback was not permitted to vote on the motion. Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio voted against the action.

The city charter permits the Common Council to investigate “the affairs of the city and the conduct of any city department, agency or office and for this purpose may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and require the production of evidence. Any person who fails or refuses to obey such a lawful order issued in the exercise of these powers will be subject to enforcement of such powers as provided by law.”

The investigation was initiated during the second straight night of special meetings conducted by the Common Council. During meetings on Wednesday and Thursday conducted via videoconference due to the coronavirus and livestreamed online, the Common Council opened the public session before approving motions to adjourn to executive session, ending the livestream.

The executive sessions were authorized under state Public Officers Law to discuss the “medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation.”

The council briefly returned to public session on Thursday and reestablished the livestream to consider the motion regarding the investigation of Rowback. The council subsequently returned to executive session, but without Rowback who was instructed by City Attorney Anthony Casale that he would be unable to participate.

No official explanation for the investigation has been provided by city officials. Second Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski on Saturday issued a brief statement regarding the action taken by the council and its establishment of a special committee to investigate Rowback with Siarkowski serving as chairman.

“Recently, allegations were reported to the Common Council regarding Councilman-at-Large William Rowback, Jr. Due to the nature of the allegations, the Common Council made a determination to initiate an investigation pursuant to the provisions provided at C-24 of the Gloversville city charter,” stated Siarkowski.

“A special committee has been established pursuant to a procedure agreed to and acted upon by the Common Council, resulting in a committee composed by Councilmen Wrandy Siarkowski, Arthur Simonds and Marcia Weiss. This committee shall proceed with an impartial, transparent and thorough investigation into these allegations and will report its findings and recommendations to the Common Council,” the statement concludes.

The investigation is apparently linked to the sudden resignation of Department of Public Works Director Christopher Perry effective Friday. In his letter of resignation submitted to the city, a copy of which was obtained by The Leader-Herald through a Freedom of Information Law request, Perry accused Rowback of “repeatedly” insulting and degrading Mayor Vincent DeSantis while speaking to Perry.

“Nearly every discussion inevitably went down the path of Vince DeSantis character assassination — which I found deeply troubling to say the least,” wrote Perry.

The letter additionally alleges that Rowback told other individuals that Perry should be terminated.

“The fact is, Bill Rowback has mentioned twice now to people/employees that I should be fired — which of course he will and has denied, insinuating that the people that told me are liars,” wrote Perry. “I have residents now tell me, or tell Brittny, I should be fired and/or I will ‘be gone when Rowback is mayor.'”

Perry moved to the area from Ohio after he was selected to become the city’s DPW director early last year, departing from a unit manager position for the Lakewood DPW where he had been employed for 10 years. His appointment was nominated by DeSantis and unanimously confirmed by the Common Council in February before he was officially sworn in on March 10.

The DPW director’s position is appointed annually and Perry was reappointed to a one-year term running through Dec. 31 by the Common Council during the organizational meeting on Jan. 1. A job posting for the DPW Director’s position was suddenly listed by the city online on Thursday afternoon without any explanation for the opening.

In his resignation letter, Perry wrote that he accepted another position with a non-profit organization, that he did not name “out of fear of potential retribution,” due to the political climate in the city and his belief that he would not be reappointed in 2022 if Rowback runs for and is elected mayor in November.

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