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City lawyers up for Singletary lawsuit 

click to enlarge Former Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary.

PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

Former Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary.

The city of Rochester is preparing to hire an outside law firm to defend itself against a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Police Chief La’Ron Singletary — because its own lawyers are defending Singletary in a separate legal action.

City Council is slated to vote next week on a $30,000 contract with Buffalo-based law firm Goldberg Segalla LLP for legal representation in the case filed by Singletary.

The contract would also cover representation by the firm in litigation brought against the city by Police Officer Andrew Specksgoor, according to the paperwork provided to City Council. That case was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The situation is unusual.

Typically, the city Law Department would represent the city in cases like the ones filed by Singletary and Specksgoor. But because the city’s lawyers are defending Singletary and Specksgoor in a lawsuit brought by Joe Prude, the brother of Daniel Prude, the Law Department faced a potential conflict of interest.

Daniel Prude was restrained by Rochester police officers in March 2020 after being found acting erratic and running naked on Jefferson Avenue. He died a week later after losing consciousness while in custody.

Specksgoor was one of the officers who had responded to Prude, whose brother had called 911, and was in a police vehicle filing mental health arrest paperwork at the time Prude was restrained.

“The law department has determined that a conflict exists due to the fact that it is presently defending both La’Ron Singletary and Andrew Specksgoor in active litigation and cannot now take a position adverse to these individuals,” the paperwork establishing the contract reads.

Singletary put the city on notice in September that he planned to sue Mayor Lovely Warren and her top leadership, alleging wrongful termination, defamation of character, and creating a hostile work environment.

He announced that he would resign as the city’s police chief in September 2020, a few weeks after the circumstances of Prude’s death became known publicly. But Warren subsequently fired Singletary before he could step down, claiming that he had misled her on the details of Prude’s death. Meanwhile, Singletary claimed the mayor told him to lie to the public.

Singletary is also named alongside other city employees in a federal class action lawsuit filed by people alleging injury from the police response to protests to Prude’s death. That case is ongoing.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.

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