Tim Curtin, city's top lawyer, to resign in June after Council presses mayor to fire him
Tim Curtin, the head of City Hall's law department, will resign from his position on June 30 and return to private practice, the city stated in a news release Friday.
The announcement comes one week after members of City Council called on Mayor Lovely Warren to fire Curtin over his handling of police body-worn camera footage from the arrest of Daniel Prude. Council is currently considering a resolution formalizing that demand and was set to vote on it later this month.
“I have informed Mayor Warren that I will be returning to my private law practice as of June 30, 2021,’” read a prepared statement from Curtin in the City Hall news release. “It has been an honor to serve the City of Rochester and Mayor Warren and a privilege to work with the many dedicated members of her administration.”
June 30 is the last day of the city's fiscal year.
Curtin has served as corporation counsel since January 2018, and previously had served as deputy corporation counsel since 2015. Prior to that, he'd served as bond counsel to the city from 1994 to 2015 and as bond counsel for the Rochester Housing Authority and Monroe County Industrial Development Agency.
The Council members issued their call for Curtin's termination roughly two weeks after attorney Andrew Celli presented them with the findings of his investigation into the city's handling of Prude's death at the hands of Rochester police officers. On March 25, the Council members stated that they were calling for his termination because of actions and remarks the report attributed to him.
Celli publicly released the Prude report on March 12. It stated that Curtin advised Warren, for reasons that were factually incorrect or without legal basis, to refrain from publicly commenting after she had seen the body-worn camera footage of Prude's March 23, 2020, arrest. The videos show that Prude stopped breathing as three officers pinned him to the pavement of Jefferson Avenue.
Prude was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he died on March 30, 2020.
The report also stated that Curtin claimed that HIPAA, a series of confidentiality laws intended to protect medical patients, precluded the release of body-worn camera video from Prude’s arrest to Elliot Shields, an attorney representing his family. The report concluded there was no basis for that claim or withholding of the video.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Patrick Beath in August provided the footage to Shields -- who had requested it in April -- under the belief that Curtin had authorized its release, according to the report. Curtin responded by saying the “city will burn” and “we will all lose our jobs," it added.
The Warren administration pushed back on City Council's call for Curtin's firing. In a statement released after the Council members' March 25 announcement, city Communications Director Justin Roj noted that in September, Curtin was suspended without pay for a month following Deputy Mayor James Smith’s review of how the administration and top Rochester Police Department officials handled information about Prude’s death and the circumstances behind it.
On Friday, Warren noted Curtin's contributions to the city and thanked him for his service.
“Tim Curtin left a highly successful and lucrative law practice in New York, to return to Rochester and work in City Hall because he wanted to invest some of his time and talent in public service,” read a statement from Warren in the news release. “Tim’s expertise as a long time ‘Bond Counsel,’ whose private law practice worked extensively within the financial sphere, was invaluable to our city, particularly as we were navigating the difficult waters related to bonding in the wake of the city school district’s recent fiscal crisis."
Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.