Erie County legislators unanimously agreed Thursday to hire an independent investigator to look into allegations that former Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger sexually harassed employees in his department prior to the December incident in which he is accused of raping a subordinate.
The bipartisan decision to hire outside counsel comes on the heels of a legal document filed against Erie County by the employee who accused him of rape. She accused the county of negligence, saying county administrators were aware of prior incidents of sexual harassment by Dirschberger and did not take appropriate action against him.
Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo, C-West Seneca, who sponsored the resolution, called the allegations "very serious." The resolution calls for special counsel to be hired by mid-May.
County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said he has no objection to an outside investigation and had, prior to Thursday's resolution, already asked the county attorney and personnel director to do their own internal investigation into the allegations.
On Wednesday, Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw called on the Legislature chairman to bring in an outside investigator and said he was pleased with the decision to take action on the matter Thursday.
"I hope this special counsel will truly be independent of county government," he said. "Employees deserve to be protected, and so do taxpayers."
Legislature Chairman Peter Savage called the allegations about Dirschberger's conduct "a matter of public interest" and said he supports an independent and transparent review.