Monroe County Democratic Party office searched by prosecutors

20 hours ago

The Monroe County Democratic Committee on University Avenue in Rochester.
Credit David Andreatta / CITY News

The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office executed a search warrant at the headquarters of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, according to party officials.

Zach King, the chairperson of the party, called a meeting Monday of high-level party leaders to inform them that a search of the offices on University Avenue had taken place.

In a brief phone interview on Tuesday, King declined to elaborate on specifics of the search, like when it occurred and what investigators were looking for, citing the advice of legal counsel. But he said that the District Attorney’s Office notified the party of its interest in the premises on Nov. 20.

“We had an emergency listening session last night with district leaders where they were informed of some recent ongoings at the MCDC office,” King said. “MCDC was served with an inquiry from the DA’s office. We were compelled and required by law to comply with their requests.”

The committee issued a statement later in the day that offered a more precise timeline and read:

“On Oct. 4, Chair King and the new Monroe County Democratic Committee (MCDC) leadership started their transition to MCDC. As a part of this, Chair King was presented with information related to past decisions and agreements made before Oct. 3. This information required a conversation with the state Board of Elections and Election Law counsel. Upon consultation with them and under the advice of legal counsel, it was advised that MCDC make the information in question available to interested government agencies. On Nov. 20, an inquiry, in the form of a subpoena, was presented to MCDC by the Monroe County District Attorney's Office, and MCDC complied with this request.”

The party's vice chairperson, Stephen DeVay, who provided the statement, declined to specify what was meant by "past decisions and agreements," saying the committee would not comment further.

District Attorney Sandra Doorley declined to comment, other than to say that her office "received an inquiry from the Monroe County Democratic Committee that we are looking into."

Party leaders in a position to know the details of the meeting, but who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, said that Assistant District Attorney Jacob Ark led the search and that it focused on documents and items belonging to the party’s former chairperson, Brittaney Wells.

Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Jacob Ark.
Credit Max Schulte/WXXI News file photo

Ark is leading the office’s criminal prosecution of Mayor Lovely Warren on alleged campaign finance violations, although it was not clear whether the search was related to the case.

Wells held dual roles in the party — chairperson and executive director. She stepped down as executive director in September and left as chair when her two-year term expired in October.

She has since been named chief of staff to Mayor Lovely Warren. Wells managed Warren’s 2017 re-election campaign prior to assuming her former leadership positions at the Monroe County Democratic Committee.

Through a city spokesperson, Wells declined to comment.

County political committees are not only critical to setting an agenda for the local party faithful, they can also play an outsized role in the fortunes of political candidates, particularly newcomers who struggle to raise money.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.