Think you're seeing the same faces again and again in city and county government? You are. Take a peek behind the curtain, starting with Mayor Lovely Warren, at Rochester's family tree.
Warren is a protégé of David Gantt, a controversial but influential State Assembly member. She was appointed to City Council to fill the unexpired term of Ben Douglas, who stepped down to take a job with the administration of Mayor Bob Duffy only days after saying he'd seek another Council term. The implication is that Gantt wanted Douglas out of the way in order to get the Warren train rolling.
While mayor, Duffy, who is also Rochester's former police chief, unexpectedly ditched Police Chief David Moore. Nothing to see here, Duffy said, as he practically shoved Moore out the door. Duffy made the announcement on a Friday and Moore was gone by Monday. Moore became director of public safety for Monroe County under Executive Maggie Brooks. Jim Sheppard, a longtime member of the RPD, became the new chief.
Duffy left to become lieutenant governor of New York State in 2011. His departure set off a "Who's in charge here?" scramble that ended up in court.
Tom Richards, city attorney under Mayor Duffy, became acting mayor but had to resign because of an arcane federal law. City commissioner Carlos Carballada became the city's third mayor in three weeks, simply because he was the only one at City Hall when the phone rang (not really).
Tom Richards, now mayor for real, lost the 2013 mayoral primary to Warren. Although tradition dictates that Richards drop out and back Warren, some Democratic insiders, including ultimate insider Molly Clifford, continued to push Richards in the general election, which created a rift that has weakened the party.
Jim Sheppard lasted three years as police chief before stepping down amid rumors that now mayor Lovely Warren was going to oust him. Michael Ciminelli became the new chief.
Sheppard won election to the County Legislature in 2015, scoring a landslide victory over his opponent, Mitch Rowe, who many said was personally picked by Warren. A lot of people peg the popular Sheppard as a future mayoral challenger to Warren, which would explain Warren's alleged opposition to his Legislature candidacy.
In the same general time period, Molly Clifford decided to run for the Northwest District on City Council. Clifford has held positions in city government and the Democratic Party and also ran Bob Duffy's first successful mayoral campaign in 2005. She narrowly won the Council race and she, too, is talked about as a potential mayoral candidate down the line.
With Clifford on Council is the irrepressible Carolee Conklin, who has been the city's deputy treasurer, city clerk, and Monroe County deputy county clerk. She is also the mother of Mitch Rowe, who challenged Sheppard in the 2015 County Legislature race. Rowe was on the County Legislature from 2002 to 2005, and was the city's director of planning and zoning before being named its new head of buildings and parks in 2015. The parks department, incidentally, was once lead by Loretta Scott, who is the current president of City Council.
Scott, as Council president, voted to give a contract to study the city's nuisance points system to former mayor Bill Johnson's company. But Council asked for an opinion from the city's ethics board because Johnson's administration, in fact, created the nuisance points system and letting him study it, critics said, may be a conflict of interest. Scott is on the ethics board, which quickly gave its A-OK to give Johnson's company the contract. Scott, incidentally, was also a member of Johnson's administration.
Dinolfo won the exec office in January 2016, taking over for Maggie Brooks, a fellow Republican who held the seat for 12 years. This is actually the second time that Dinolfo succeeded Brooks. In 2004, then-Governor George Pataki appointed Dinolfo to the county clerk seat, which was left vacant after Brooks was elected county executive.
As Brooks prepared to leave the county exec job, the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority announced that she would join the agency as vice president of strategic initiatives. Several officials during her administration had already made the jump to RGRTA, including former chief financial officer Scott Adair, former budget director Bill Carpenter, and former county attorney Dan DeLaus.
During her time in office, Brooks advocated for local development corporations: quasi-governmental organizations that are supposed to act independently of county government. But the LDC's are controversial and plagued by suspicions that they're just a sneaky way of rewarding GOP donors.
Eventually, the state Attorney General's Office alleged that two of the LDC's — Upstate Telecommunications Corporation and Monroe Security and Safety Systems — were at the center of a bid-rigging scheme. Four people were charged, including Brooks' husband, Robert Wiesner. Ultimately, Wiesner pleaded guilty to a single felony charge and avoided prison time.
Wiesner's co-defendants include Nelson Rivera, who is Brooks' former chief information officer. He pleaded guilty to a pair of felonies and also avoided prison time.
But years before the criminal case, Dinolfo and her husband, Vince, were unwittingly pulled into the LDC universe. When Harris Beach attorney Michael Townsend incorporated Upstate Telecommunications Corporation in 2004, he listed Vince Dinolfo as one of the board members. Dinolfo was an Irondequoit town justice at the time, though he's now a county court justice.
He appears to have been a placeholder on the UTC board, and by the time the board started meeting in 2005, he had been replaced. Vince Dinolfo said that he wasn't aware that he was listed as a board member until it came to light several years later, following a state Comptroller's Office audit.