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Report: Rowback exceeded his authority

GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council on Wednesday night voted 5-2 to adopt its Special Investigation Committee’s report on Councilman-At-Large William Rowback Jr., a document that accused him of “harassment” and “intimidation” against city employees.

The panel — comprised of 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski, chairman, 2nd Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds, and 1st Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss — called a special council meeting at City Hall to publicly air the report.

Siarkowski spent about 30 minutes reading the report, which was adopted 5-2. Voting yes were: Siarkowski, Simonds, Weiss, 5th Ward Councilman Jay Zarelli, and 3rd Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor. Voting no were Rowback and 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio.

Rowback only stated after the reading of the report about himself that city correspondence recently has spelled his name wrong — “William J. Rowback Jr.” instead of correctly “William A. Rowback Jr.”

The Republican Rowback is running for mayor against incumbent Democratic Mayor Vincent DeSantis.

The council in January opened an investigation — pursuant to Section C 24 of the Gloversville City Charter — into the “affairs and conduct” of Rowback.

The cited section of the charter states, “the Common Council may make investigations into 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.”

Allegations regarding Rowback mainly dealt with contact and conversations he had with city government offices at City Hall. They were the offices of former Department of Public Works Director Christopher Perry, City Clerk Jennifer Mazur and Finance Commissioner Tammie Weiterschan.

Perry was selected to become the city’s DPW director early last year with his appointment approved by the Common Council in February 2020 before he was officially sworn in on March 10, 2020. Perry moved to the area from Ohio after accepting the position with the city, departing from a unit manager position for the Lakewood DPW where he had been employed for 10 years.

The DPW director’s position is appointed annually and Perry was reappointed to a one-year term running through Dec. 31, 2021 by the Common Council during the organizational meeting on Jan. 1. But he resigned Jan. 8 and was reappointed a week later on Jan. 12 effective Jan. 13.

A major part of the report was statements by witnesses to what Rowback allegedly said in the past year. Perry indicated Jan. 9 that his staff indicated Rowback was “very upset” that Perry forgot to tell them about a chicken barbecue Rowback held last October. Rowback allegedly said Perry “was going to be out of a job” when he became mayor in January 2022.

A staffer in Perry’s office quoted Rowback allegedly talking about Perry this way: “I should fire him.”

Rowback also reportedly was upset when he felt he wasn’t informed about a trip Perry made to Ohio. The councilman-at-large felt more people should have known about the trip, the report said, quoting Rowback as saying “that’s not how it’s done.”

Mazur told investigators in the committee Jan. 11 that she recalled an incident in spring 2020 that “he was going to have to lay off people if the [Gloversville] sales tax didn’t rebound.” The report said city employees within earshot were upset and intimidated by the comment.

Weiterschan testified Jan. 11 that she learned from her staff that Rowback talked of laying people off.

As part of the probe, Rowback was interviewed Feb. 3. He denied making the statements he was accused of making either to, or around city employees. Through his counsel, he reportedly threatened to sue the city over the entire matter, the report said.

“Why am I being investigated?” he asked the panel.

Findings of the report indicated that Rowback “exceeded the scope of his authority.” The committee also said it determined Rowback was “not truthful in his responses.” His dealings with a Perry staff member left her “shaken” and “extremely uncomfortable,” the report said, as well as leaving the City Clerk’s Office staff uncomfortable.

“Rowback acted outside his authority as councilman-at-large,” the report stated.

It also indicated he is “not the appointing authority” for the city, nor can he personally fire anyone.

“The Common Council is a legislative body, not an executive body,” the report said.

The report also took exception to Rowback’s alleged threats to sue the city. In the final recommendations portion of the report, the committee urged Rowback to publicly apologize to city employees.

“Rowback must take full responsibility for his words and actions,” the report said.

The report said he needs more harassment training, and learn how not to put the city in a state of liability. The report said Rowback is supposed to protect the city, “not cause claims to be filed against the city.”

Rowback also must engage in more legislative duties, and not executive branch ones done by the mayor. He should apologize to the council, the report said.

“Rowback’s conduct reflected poorly on the entire council,” the report said.

Finally, Siarkowski went on to thank his fellow committee members.

“There was no involvement by the executive branch in this process,” he said.

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