- PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
- Conor Dwyer Reynolds is the first executive director of the Police Accountability Board.
Reynolds was put on leave following a meeting of the board Thursday evening. The members went into executive session immediately and concluded the meeting upon ending the closed-door session. It’s unclear what was discussed at that meeting.
The board has declined to provide further comment regarding the investigation and Dwyer Reynolds’ leave. Phone messages left for City Council President Miguel Melendez and Councilmember Kim Smith, who serves as City Council’s chief liaison to the PAB, were not immediately returned. A statement from the board was scant on details.
"As a matter of policy, the City of Rochester – including the Police Accountability Board – does not discuss ongoing employee-related complaints or investigations,” the statement read. “It is important that these matters are fully vetted to ensure a fair and complete understanding of all relevant information and to be certain that employee confidentiality and trust are not compromised.”
A statement from Melendez on what he referred to as a personnel matter said that "There are a number of Human Resource related complaints that have emerged in recent days." His office is seeking an outside legal firm to investigate the allegations then issue a report and recommendations to City Council. In the meantime, he offered City Council staff, including Chief of Staff James Smith, as a resource for the PAB to use.
"This matter is larger than one person and requires a thorough investigation. The Council looks forward to the PAB moving this process forward and understanding the validity of these allegations," read the statement from Melendez.
Reynolds was appointed to lead the board in late 2020 and has served as the key arbiter of the fledgling agency’s structure and mission. Reynolds, who formerly lectured on environmental law at Yale Law School, has also been a key public voice for the board.
Ida Perez, a former member of the Police Accountability Board who stepped down from the board in March, said she was surprised that Reynolds had been placed on leave.
“I’m just as surprised as anyone else,” Perez said.
Perez left the board under circumstances she declined to discuss, but said that she was “just not happy” with how the board was operating and decided it was something she no longer wanted to be a part of.
Perez also said she was not surprised at seeing turmoil in the PAB.
“I don’t know what led them to do that, but I’m not surprised,” Perez said. “(In that board), anything can happen.”
Voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the Police Accountability Board in a 2019 referendum. The board was conceived as a way to serve as a power check on the Rochester Police Department.
The nine-member board answers to City Council, and under Reynolds, had secured a $5 million annual budget in 2021, clearing the way for it to hire a staff of about 50 people, an objective it has yet to complete. Mayor Malik Evans, in his budget address Friday, announced he would be renewing that funding for the year.
Two Councilmembers, Stanley Martin and Mitch Gruber, responded to calls seeking comment, but both were in the dark about what exactly happened at the executive session Thursday.
Martin said regardless of what happens with Reynolds, the future of the PAB needs to remain steadfast.
“Seventy-five percent of voters said in the referendum that they fully supported an independent board holding police accountable,” Martin said. “I think the community should focus on making sure that the Police Accountability Board is not defunded.”
This is a developing story, check back throughout the day for updates.
Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or firstname.lastname@example.org.