OGDENSBURG — Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly has formally been charged with harassment in connection with an incident where he allegedly pushed a former city fire captain to the ground outside City Hall last year.
Mayor Skelly, 61, was charged by state police Wednesday with second-degree harassment, state police Troop B Public Information Officer Jennifer Fleishman confirmed Thursday. He was issued a summons returnable to Fowler Town Court on March 16.
Mayor Skelly said Thursday that he plans to fight the charge.
“It’s not true and I’m going to fight it,” Mayor Skelly said.
According to a complaint filed Dec. 29 of last year in City Court, Mayor Skelly is alleged to have physically harassed a person outside City Hall on Dec. 9, 2020. It was later confirmed the person allegedly pushed by the mayor was now-retired Fire Capt. Gerald H. Mack. The incident was also reportedly caught on camera.
Even though police began investigating shortly before the complaint was filed in December, the case was moved from City Court to Canton Town Court after justices recused themselves. Once the case was in Canton, more justices recused themselves, resulting in the case being kicked back to St. Lawrence County Court Judge Gregory P. Storie in order to determine a viable local court option. The case was then moved to Fowler Town Court.
The Ogdensburg Police Department, then state police, were called to City Hall ahead of the Dec. 9 special meeting as councilors met to pass the 2021 city budget. Dozens of demonstrators concerned about staffing cuts to the city fire department lined Ford and Caroline streets in protest that night. With the passing of the budget, seven positions were eliminated from the fire department.
Five layoff notices were issued, instead of seven, and later executed Jan. 1 as Mr. Mack opted for retirement and another firefighter was out on leave, but four of the five men laid off have since been brought back to work.
Jacob Thornton is the last remaining laid-off firefighter.
Describing the altercation that day, Mayor Skelly previously told the Times he was wrongfully accused of pushing Mr. Mack, who he remembers saying, “If you touch me you are getting arrested.”
The mayor said Mr. Mack was blocking his path, then fell to the ground and claimed he had been pushed.