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Lawyer says Police Accountability Board was racked by ‘confusion, tension, and paranoia’ 

click to enlarge Conor Dwyer Reynolds, executive director of the Police Accountability Board, is currently on administrative leave pending an independent investigation into personnel issues at the agency.

PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

Conor Dwyer Reynolds, executive director of the Police Accountability Board, is currently on administrative leave pending an independent investigation into personnel issues at the agency.

A lawyer for the city’s Police Accountability Board claimed the work environment at the nascent agency was “overwhelmed by confusion, tension, and paranoia” fostered by the organization’s executive director, Conor Dwyer Reynolds.

Reynolds was placed on administrative leave last month pending an investigation by an outside attorney into unspecified personnel issues within the agency.

The accusations against him, lodged by Chenoa Maye, associate general counsel for the board, were contained in a complaint that was filed with the city and the state Division of Human Rights in May.

The filings were obtained by CITY on Wednesday, a day after Reynolds published an essay online that accused his boss, the PAB’s chair, Shani Wilson, of sexually harassing him.

Maye’s complaint, first filed with the city’s Human Resources Department on May 11, also accuses Reynolds and a board member, Bob Harrison, of harassment and racial discrimination.

“Mr. Reynolds has used manipulation of staff, procedural interference and outright lies to curate a work environment overwhelmed by confusion, tension, and paranoia,” the complaint reads.

The PAB is in the midst of a hiring freeze that was imposed by City Council following Reynolds’ suspension. Council President Miguel Melendez has been put in charge of approving all of its spending.

Some Council members have openly asked representatives of the board what they have been doing since the agency got on its feet last year with an allotment of $5 million in the city budget.

The complaint against Reynolds described a work environment in which Reynolds allegedly retaliated against employees for questioning spending and used arbitrary hiring practices to bring on unfit employees. It also claimed that other staff “appeared to be sitting idle with nothing to do and minimal supervision.”

Senior staff met on April 27 and sent a memo to Reynolds and board members stating they had concerns with communication inside of the agency, a lack of transparency between PAB leadership and City Council, a general lack of understanding among staffers of their roles and responsibilities, and arbitrary decision-making by leadership, according to the complaint.

The complaint also recalled an instance in which Reynolds allegedly referred to a law student who had been hired by the agency but hadn’t passed the bar as a staff attorney. The complaint claimed he said he wanted the PAB to be a “training ground” for inexperienced staff.

Reynolds met with board members May 5 to respond to the concerns, according to the complaint. During the meeting, he allegedly accused Maye of aggressive and threatening behavior and of orchestrating a coup, and leveled his own accusations of harassment against Wilson.

He reiterated those accusations in his essay, published on the blogging site Medium. Reynolds claimed that Wilson began harassing him soon after he began working for the board in October 2020. A month into his time at the board, he wrote, Wilson showed up at his house, tried to get him to drink, and asked him to sleep with her.

Bolstering Maye’s complaint against Reynolds was a statement from board member Drorah Setel. The statement, dated June 7, echoed Maye’s allegations and described Reynolds’ behavior at the May 5 meeting as “desperate and hysterical.”

In her statement, Setel alleged Reynolds engaged in cronyism by hiring his friends and accused Reynolds of acting inappropriately toward Wilson.

“I witnessed Conor Dwyer Reynolds touch Shani Wilson at least two to three times, and observed Shani Wilson was noticeably uncomfortable with Mr. Dwyer Reynolds touching her,” the statement reads.

The PAB was formed following a November 2019 referendum in which 75 percent of voters supported it. One of its stated functions was to investigate allegations of misconduct against Rochester police officers.

Representatives of the board have said that the agency expects to begin taking complaints from the public on June 20.

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