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A high-ranking Buffalo official has been suspended for one month without pay after a woman who worked under contract for the city lodged a complaint about inappropriate e-mail messages she allegedly received.

Joseph E. Ryan, commissioner of strategic planning and one of Mayor Anthony M. Masiello's key advisers on economic development, has been suspended until March 12, the mayor's office confirmed Thursday.

A week earlier, the Department of Human Resources investigated a sexual harassment complaint filed by the unidentified worker.

"We received a complaint, reviewed it and made a recommendation to the mayor," said Louis R. Giardina, director of employee relations.

When contacted at his home Thursday, Ryan declined to discuss the issue.

Vincent J. LoVallo, Masiello's chief of staff, said the mayor's office took "swift action" shortly after learning about the allegations.

"This administration takes this kind of complaint very seriously," said LoVallo. "In his conversations with me, Mr. Ryan expressed regret and embarrassment for himself, his family and this administration."

Ryan, who was paralyzed in a bicycling accident in the mid-1980s, is a longtime advocate for the disabled as well as a former chairman of the Erie County Medical Center Board. He is regarded by many as one of Masiello's most effective commissioners.

He has been actively involved in Buffalo's community development block grant program for nearly three decades. Masiello named Ryan community development commissioner three years ago, a post that was recently renamed commissioner of strategic planning. Ryan, who served in Vietnam, also is a prominent figure in the local veterans community.

While LoVallo and Giardina declined to discuss specifics in the investigation, they said the suspension sends a signal to others that the administration has zero tolerance for any behavior that would be deemed inappropriate in the workplace.

"We're trying to be very proactive when it comes to making city employees aware of these kind of things," said Giardina.

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