Police Accountability Board chair resigns 

click to enlarge Police Accountability Board Chair Shani Wilson.


Police Accountability Board Chair Shani Wilson.

The chair of the Police Accountability Board resigned Friday effective immediately, citing the fledgling and embattled agency being "under threat."

Shani Wilson had been the chair of the board for two years and oversaw its evolution from an agency on paper to a brick-and-mortar operation with staff and a $5 million budget.

But the thrust of the agency has been stymied in recent weeks by infighting among its leaders and questions from city lawmakers about its efficacy.

Last month, the board abruptly suspended the agency’s executive director, Conor Dwyer Reynolds, pending a City Council investigation.

While the board has yet to publicly offer a reason why Reynolds was placed on leave or the scope of the city’s probe, CITY reported this week that his departure followed complaints lodged against him by a board lawyer that he had fostered a work environment characterized by “confusion, tension, and paranoia.”

News of the complaints, filed by lawyer Chenoa Maye with the city and the state Division of Human Rights in May, surfaced a day after Reynolds had broken his silence about his circumstances in an online essay in which he accused Wilson of sexually harassing him.

In her resignation letter, which was made public by the board along with a brief statement announcing her departure, Wilson denied the allegations but said her stepping down was the best thing she could do for the future of the agency.
“We created something that will serve Rochester for years to come,” she wrote. “Over the last two months, however, it has become clear the agency is in (sic) under threat.

“Staff raised serious and valid concerns about executive leadership and management, and the board immediately took action,” her letter continued. “At the same time, these issues came to light, allegations were made against me.

“While I maintain that the accusations against me are false, I recognize that the best thing for this organization, the residents of this city, and my wellness and safety is that I resign.”

The PAB was formed in 2019 following a referendum in which three-quarters of Rochester voters supported the creation of an agency to investigate allegations of misconduct against Rochester police officers.

Last year, the agency was allotted an annual budget of $5 million to hire about 50 staff members and begin its work of accepting and investigating complaints against police.

Representatives of the organization have said that it spent about half of the allotment before City Council froze its finances and hiring last month.

The agency has yet to begin taking complaints from the public about police, but representatives of the board have said they expect to begin doing so later this month.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at [email protected].
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