Attorneys to city: Sack the suspended PAB director 

click to enlarge Suspended Police Accountability Board Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds has lost his lawsuit seeking reinstatement.


Suspended Police Accountability Board Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds has lost his lawsuit seeking reinstatement.

Investigators commissioned by the City Council to look into allegations of mismanagement at the Rochester Police Accountability Board have called for the executive director to be fired.

City Council released the investigators’ final report Wednesday. The nearly 100-page document asserts that Conor Dwyer Reynolds, the board’s suspended executive director, “engaged in inappropriate behaviors related to the handling of confidential documents and exercised poor judgment with respect to staff relations, personnel practices, and other critical functions of his position.”

The report was prepared by the Penfield law firm of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete.

Reynolds was suspended by the agency’s board on May 12. According to the report, Reynolds was originally placed on leave because he was retaliating against staff members with whom he didn’t see eye to eye by doing things such as yelling at them or changing their job descriptions.

During the weeks prior, Police Accountability Board employees had approached Reynolds with concerns that he was creating a work environment where there was little direction, poor communication, and “seemingly arbitrary decision-making.” They also expressed concerns over the perceived retaliation.

In a complaint to the state Division of Human Rights, one employee claimed Reynolds fostered a hostile work environment that had become riddled with paranoia.

A week before he was suspended, Reynolds had filed a sexual harassment complaint with the state Division of Human Rights against Shani Wilson, who at the time was the chair of the agency’s board.

The report says investigators couldn’t substantiate Reynolds’ complaint.

“It was corroborated that Wilson and Dwyer Reynolds had mutual feelings for each other and had expressed their romantic interest but made a decision to not pursue their feelings for each other because of their work with PAB,” the report reads. “Further, despite alleging that he was subjected to sexual harassment for over two years, Dwyer Reynolds did not report the alleged sexual harassment until after staff had lodged complaints against him.”

The investigation focused on whether Reynolds or other PAB employees violated city policies and did not address whether there were any potential violations of state or federal law.

The report lays out several instances where investigators believe Reynolds violated city policies and where his justifications for his actions “strain credulity.” For example, Reynolds hired an employee in January for a staff attorney position even though the employee hadn’t passed the state bar exam yet. A month after she was hired, Reynolds granted the employee paid time off to complete her studies. No city policy allows such an arrangement, the report states.

Reynolds responded by claiming that he thought the city operated like a law firm and would hire law school graduates in anticipation of them passing the bar, the report says. He then claimed that the paid time off fell under the city’s tuition assistance program, which grants $3,000 per year to city employees to pursue higher education.

“His interpretation is not supported by a plain reading of the policy,” the report reads.

While several major claims against Reynolds were unsubstantiated, several complaints against him were. For example, the report determined Reynolds repeatedly violated policies for public access to city records by leaking internal documents to the Democrat and Chronicle in early 2021. Those documents included pay information for a new hire and communications between Reynolds and the police chief at the time, Cynthia Herriott.

In another instance, investigators found that when Reynolds was suspended, he downloaded to a personal thumb drive some files related to an investigation the PAB was conducting, according to the report. He kept the drive as he remained on suspension. The terms of Reynolds’ suspension specifically stated he was to return any city property or files.

Reynolds, in a phone call, said he felt “vindicated” by the report. He said despite the recommendation that he be fired, the report does not confirm any of the more serious allegations against him. He likened the substantiated complaints to minor infractions.

“I think if there’s a pattern to be seen here, it’s that if you stand up against misconduct, you’re punished for it,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds maintains he was suspended in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment from Wilson. He also believes that the board will support him returning to work.

“I not only want to go back to work, I think for the good of the PAB, I need to go back to work,” Reynolds said.

The report makes a series of recommendations beyond firing Reynolds. For example, it recommends the city hire an organizational consultant to rectify issues with, among other things, communication between junior and senior staffers.

The report also recommends members of PAB Board receive training around retaliation and sexual harassment, among other things.

“City Council and the PAB are seeing this report at the same time as it is being made publicly available,” City Council President Miguel Melendez said in a statement Wednesday. “We are as eager as everyone else in the community to read it, to digest its contents and to review its recommendations. All of us who believe in holding our police department accountable to the public will be reviewing this important document, so we can finally get the PAB on track to begin the work it was created to do.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or [email protected].

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