City Council unanimously confirmed Conor Dwyer Reynolds as the first executive director of the Police Accountability Board.
The 9-0 vote on Nov. 10 at a scheduled City Council meeting wasn’t as lopsided as the score would indicate.
“You all have no idea how we got there,” Council President Loretta Scott said after the vote was entered into the record and Mayor Lovely Warren could be seen on the Zoom video call applauding the outcome.
While several council members answered the roll call vote with an immediate yes, there was at least one hesitation. It was several seconds before a yes from Michael Patterson, who led the questioning of Reynolds during at times a contentious confirmation hearing a week earlier.
“You have no idea how we spent the day,” said Scott, who spent part of it with her pastor in search of spiritual guidance for her vote. “Some call it getting to yes. You have to work to get to yes because there was not enough votes to get this done. I wanted a unanimous vote because this body of work is so important. In the annals of history, I want it to look right and be right.”
Reynolds, a Rochester native, was selected from more than 150 candidates and named as executive director in October. In a statement released by City Council after the vote, Reynolds said, “I’m overwhelmed by the support from the Board, City Council, and community. The work continues.”
Reynolds had already begun his duties, but a memo he wrote Nov. 2 about the board’s independence caused some turmoil. The document, which was sent to four city staff members and eventually shared with council members, claimed the PAB would be independent of City Council and other city entities.
At Reynolds’ confirmation hearing on Nov. 5, several council members questioned his interpretation of independence and his motives for writing the memo. They said the PAB was intended to be independent of the Rochester Police Department. However, it would be an office under City Council.
Council met with the PAB on Nov. 9, and Scott read a statement that couched any conflict in terms of the growing pains of a new endeavor. After her statement, the meeting went into executive session, which is closed to the public. When council emerged, it was to announce adjournment.
Prior to the vote, council held its Speak to Council session, during which several members of the Police Accountability Board Alliance voiced support for Reynolds and urged council to confirm his appointment.
Issues of communication between council and the PAB that were discussed at the confirmation hearing resurfaced at the vote.
Lightfoot suggested that regardless of the outcome, the leadership of both groups should have monthly meetings. “We need to continue to be on the same page,” he said.
Before the vote, council members praised the work of the volunteer PAB in getting to this point. Reynolds is the only one associated with the board who draws a salary.
“It’s always been my hope that the council would embrace the selection of the Police Accountability Board director,” Scott said. “We know the tremendous amount of work the PAB put into the search … with no compensation and only the hope of creating a more just city for all Rochesterians. I hope the PAB knows that no matter how my colleagues and vote, our votes do not diminish the appreciation we have for you and the work you’ve done.”
Even with an executive director, the PAB still faces at least one challenge. A decision on whether it will have disciplinary power rests in an appeals court.
The PAB also is expected to help craft the city’s response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order that municipalities present a police reform plan by April 1.
“We’re looking forward to working with everyone to get the work done on behalf of the people,” Warren said after the vote. “We have a time frame to get our work before the governor. We’re looking forward to getting it done on behalf of all of our citizens.”