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Ousted PAB boss loses lawsuit to be reinstated 

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

PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

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

Conor Dwyer Reynolds, the suspended executive director of the Rochester Police Accountability Board, has lost his lawsuit seeking reinstatement to the position.

Reynolds had argued that the PAB held secret meetings to discuss his removal as the agency’s head.

But in a decision dated Tuesday, state Supreme Court Justice Sam Valleriani said the claims were unfounded. Valleriani found that while the board may have technically violated the state’s Open Meetings Law, there was no campaign to covertly oust Reynolds.

“No votes were cast. Open public business was not discussed. No decisions were made,” his decision read. “Thus, although the court finds technical violations, they were minor and devoid of intent to circumvent the OML (Open Meetings Law).”

Reynolds was suspended from the agency in May amid a flurry of complaints of mismanagement.

Meanwhile, Reynolds filed a state Division of Human Rights complaint against board Chair Shani Wilson, alleging a pattern of sexual harassment. Wilson later resigned from the board, while City Council authorized an independent investigation into issues at the agency, which is expected to conclude in the coming weeks.

Reynolds, an attorney and former Yale Law School professor, was tapped to lead the board in November 2020.  He remains on the city payroll, and could still be reinstated pending the outcome of the city's investigation.

The primary focus of his lawsuit was a May 12 meeting in which the board voted to suspend Reynolds. That meeting was held behind closed doors in what’s called “executive session,” a type of private meeting that members of government boards often engage to discuss sensitive matters, such as personnel issues.

“Petitioner (Reynolds) here attended many of the ‘meetings’ that he claims violated the OML, and had ample opportunity to address the PAB as director, but failed to do so,” Valleriani wrote. “As an employee serving at the pleasure of the PAB, and mindful of the purpose of the OML, petitioner has failed to show good cause to annul the determination of the PAB.”

Valleriani did agree with Reynolds on one thing: the PAB needs better training in Open Meetings Law in order to avoid future technical violations.

The court ordered the agency to contact the Office on Open Government to schedule training for its board members within 90 days.

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