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PAB to launch search for new executive director

Members of the Police Accountability Board Alliance and organizers with Free the People Roc gather Monday in front of City Hall to speak out against the proposal.
Gino Fanelli
/
WXXI News
Members of the Police Accountability Board Alliance and organizers with Free the People Roc gather Monday in front of City Hall to speak out against the proposal.

The Rochester Police Accountability Board is starting its search for a new executive director, and it’s seeking an outside firm to conduct it.

In a request for proposals, city officials have laid out a rigorous process with a high degree of scrutiny to select the next leader of the agency.

For example, the contractor hired to conduct the search will be required to meet with key members of the city administration and the PAB and to host multiple community forums and focus groups prior to making any selection. The firm would also be required to list ads in major legal publications seeking candidates for the position.

The firm will be responsible for selecting 10-12 candidates who will be subject to intensive screenings, including background checks entailing searches of each candidate’s criminal, civil, media, and driving histories.

“The consultant will cross-reference the profile of the ideal Executive Director candidate for the Board with their database of thousands of candidates and their contacts in the field and will conduct an aggressive outreach effort that includes making personal calls to prospective applicants in order to identify and recruit outstanding candidates, including qualified minority and women candidates,” the request for proposals reads.

The board will make the final choice of which candidate to appoint. The city's 2024 budget sets the executive director salary at between $97,769 and $128,918.

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Any prospective bidder will have to set a budget for the search. Per city code, if the budget exceeds $20,000, City Council will need to approve the contract. The contractor is expected to begin work on Jan. 22, and is expected to have about 90 days to seek a candidate.

The PAB's current head is Sherry Cowart-Walker, who from 2005 to 2016 was president and CEO of the Center for Dispute Settlement, the nonprofit that oversaw the now-defunct Civilian Review Board.

Cowart-Walker was tapped to serve as the PAB’s interim-executive director in December 2022, after the city ousted Conor Dwyer Reynolds, the agency’s first director. After an investigation, the city concluded that Reynolds violated city policy on multiple occasions, including mishandling of confidential documents.

Reynolds, meanwhile, maintained that he was suspended, and fired, as retaliation for complaining of sexual harassment by former board Chair Shani Wilson. A defamation suit against the city filed by Reynolds in August claims as much.

That case is ongoing.

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.