BUFFALO, N.Y. — As criminal proceedings continue into the alleged rape of an Erie County employee by then-Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger, court documents emerged this week claiming the county knew of prior sexual harassment or abuse he committed.
"It's important to note that this oversight and failure oversight could've happened by the county executive's office, by the department of personnel, by our office of equal opportunity employment or high level administrators directly in social services, all of whom still work for Erie County," County Legislature Minority Leader Joe Lorigo, C, said,
In response to the potential lawsuit, emails directly to the legislature and calls from the county comptroller for an independent investigation, Lorigo crafted a bill outlining a process to hire special counsel.
"It's not inflammatory. It's nonpartisan. It actually gives the majority side of the legislature more representatives on the oversight committee and this is done solely to protect our employees and get to the bottom of what was happening when Mr. Dirschberger was here," he said.
The legislature unanimously approved the resolution Thursday. Under it, the special counsel will be empowered to investigate any formal claims or complaints that were either known or should've been uncovered prior to Dirschberger's hiring or during his tenure and how the county responded.
"We need to get the facts and I think it needs to be done in an independent transparent way so that we can determine what happened and if more reform or policy changes need to take place, we'll have the information to go with," Chairman Peter Savage said.
Next, the legislature will put out a request for proposals and appoint an investigator no later than May 10. County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw said it's important that person has absolutely no connection to county government to ensure total independence.
"No county employee should have to go through the horrors of what this one county employee allegedly went through and we need to make sure that this never happens again," he said.
A spokesperson for the county executive said he is fine with the investigation and had already begun looking into initiating an internal review.