Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today issued the following statement following the Lemire Law Firm’s completion of their final report on the Albert Dirschberger matter. The former Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Social Services, Dirschberger resigned on December 28, 2017 after an internal investigation revealed that he had violated Erie County policies during a work-related trip to Albany in early December 2017. Lemire was retained as independent counsel by the Erie County Legislature and charged with investigating any formal complaints against Dirschberger, county policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment, potential negligence on the part of supervisors, and other related areas of inquiry.
“The final independent counsel report is now out and I am pleased to note that it reaffirms that my administration acted appropriately and in a timely manner when the Dirschberger matter came to our attention,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “While this case is still working its way through the court and is apparently headed to trial, at this point the independent counsel retained by the Legislature has confirmed that county polices were followed, that there was no prior knowledge on our part of any harassment issue related to Dr. Dirschberger, and that there was no negligence on the part of the county and my administration.”
Among the findings in the 103-page Final Report:
- Lemire Law Firm “did not find any evidence that any employee or third parties made formal claims or complaints of sexual harassment or gender discrimination against Dr. Dirschberger during his tenure at DSS, other than the December 2017 allegations that led to Dr. Dirschberger’s resignation.” (p.23)
- Lemire Law Firm “did not find any credible evidence that there were any complaints related to sexual harassment or workplace discrimination made against Dr. Dirschberger that were known or should have been known prior to his hiring.” (p.24)
- Lemire Law Firm found that “there is no evidence that any complaints about Dr. Dirschberger relating to workplace misconduct, including sexual harassment, were sent to the Erie County EEO Office, the Personnel Office, or the County Attorney’s Office.” (p. 34)
- Lemire Law Firm stated that “our investigation did not uncover anything to suggest that Erie County was negligent in the hiring and supervision of Dr. Dirschberger.” (p.34), and that “our investigation found no evidence that anyone in Erie County government was aware of sexual harassment and/or abuse by Dr. Dirschberger while he was employed by Erie County and allowed such conduct to continue unabated.” (p.35)
- Lemire Law Firm found that “our investigation did not uncover anything to suggest that Erie County was negligent in its duty to protect employees from Dr. Dirschberger or instances of sexual harassment or assault.” (p.35)
- Lemire Law Firm also added, “We found no credible evidence that anyone had or should have had actual or constructive notice of prior actions by Dr. Dirschberger specific to sexually harassing and/or abusing employees in his charge because we found no evidence that there were prior actions of Dr. Dirschberger specific to sexually harassing and/or abusing employees in his charge.” (p.36)
The Final Report also examined county reporting procedures for harassment and compared these policies with those practiced by counties statewide, along with mandated harassment trainings that employees are required to complete. The final report has been presented to the Legislature and is available there.