Rogowski takes guilty plea in misdemeanor charge

Chronicle file photo of Councilmember James Rogowski.
Chronicle file photo of Councilmember James Rogowski.

CHEEKTOWAGA – The domestic legal saga surrounding Cheektowaga Councilmember James Rogowski will soon be resolved after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Attempted Criminal Contempt Wednesday.

The plea stems from an incident this past February in which Mr. Rogowski was arrested by West Seneca Police after his wife Patricia accused him of violating an order of protection as the pair were driving in separate cars on the Thruway in the Town of West Seneca on February 23rd.

“I think he wanted to put it behind him,” said Patrick Stafford, Mr. Rogowski’s attorney.  “He didn’t want his children to go through anymore so he decided to accept the plea offer from the District Attorney.”

The Attempted Criminal Contempt plea was offered because while Mr. Rogowski drove near his wife, it was difficult to prove that he had any intent to violate the order of protection.

The judge could impose a sentence of up to 1-year probation when he is sentenced on November 13th.  If he violates his probation he faces a maximum of 90-days in jail.  A new order of protection was also issued for his wife.

With the resolution of his legal matter resulting in a misdemeanor charge and not an exoneration, focus now turns to his council seat.

Speaking very briefly with Mr. Rogowski Thursday, he tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that he has no plans to resign from the Cheektowaga Town Council.

Supervisor Diane Benczkowski tells us she is waiting to hear from the town attorney to see if Mr. Rogowski’s plea jeopardizes his ability to serve on the board.

“As an elected official we are all held to a high standard, and this case involved domestic violence, and he knowingly violated a court-ordered no-contact order of protection,” Ms. Benczkowski said.  “I feel this is a serious crime and I need to take a stand for the victims of domestic violence.  I just can’t take this lightly.”

Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner told the Buffalo News of his fellow Democrat, “The people of Cheektowaga deserve a council devoted entirely to public matters without the distraction of personal conflicts and legal issues.  It is time for Councilman Rogowski to step aside in order to focus on healing his family and allow the business of town government to go forward.”

Councilmember Brian Nowak who called for Mr. Rogowski’s resignation shortly after his arrest remains steadfast in his opinion following the plea.  “My feelings remain the same,” Mr. Nowak said. 

There are eight ways a public official can be removed from office according to the New York Department of State; Resignation, Removal from office due to cause, Residency change for which no exception or exemption applies, Conviction of a felony, Judgment of incompetency by a court with jurisdiction, Judgment declaring election or appointment void, and Failure by neglect or refusal to file an official oath.

After being petitioned by a district attorney or a citizen for cause, the supreme court can remove an official for any misconduct, maladministration, malfeasance or malversation in the performance of the public official’s office.

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