Modified: December 28, 2017 6:48pm
The following is a statement from Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz on today’s resignation of Department of Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger:
We’re here today to announce the resignation of Commissioner Al Dirschberger.
As I will more fully detail Commissioner Dirschberger resigned today at 12:00PM by email pursuant to my request that he tender his resignation.
Last Saturday December 23rd at approximately 10AM I was made aware verbally of an alleged serious incident involving the Commissioner and a subordinate employee in Albany New York during a conference on December 5th and/or 6th of this year.
I immediately engaged senior staff including the County Attorney and the Personnel Commissioner, who was and still is in the United Kingdom on vacation, in reviewing the allegation and to examine relevant county personnel policies.
Later that evening in response to my call to him, I received a return call from an Albany Police Department Detective. I informed him that I had no interest in interfering in the investigation, but because of the critical importance of Mr. Dirschbergers’s position I needed some information. I asked him whether Mr. Dirschberger was a suspect in a criminal investigation in Albany County. He confirmed that Commissioner Dirschberger was a person of interest in a criminal investigation. After I asked what if any charges had been filed or would be filed at that time, the Detective confirmed no charges had been filed and would not confirm any potential charges that might be filed against him in the future.
Over the weekend we continued our internal investigation as well as Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
As part of the internal investigation a written incident report was filed by a senior Department of Social Services staff member at 8:30PM last night and sent to the Personnel Commissioner, the Deputy County Executive and my Chief of Staff. I did not receive a copy of the report until this morning.
This morning upon review of the incident report and other information provided during the internal investigation, the County Attorney, the Deputy County Executive, and I determined that the Commissioner had clearly violated multiple County Personnel policies.
Mr. Dirschberger was not in County Government today. He has not been in office all week. He was scheduled to be off.
Therefore at approximately 10AM our Chief of Staff called him and told him that he must report to the Rath Building to discuss a personnel matter. He informed the Chief of Staff that he was out of the area and not available to meet, but would be back in town tomorrow if that was acceptable to the County Executive.
He was called back and a message was left asking him to meet today. He did not come into the office but he did call back at which time a conference call was held with Mr. Dirshberger, the County Attorney, the Deputy County Executive, my Chief of Staff and I.
I informed Mr. Dirshberger on the phone of what I knew of the investigation. I asked him specific questions with regards to his conduct. Based on his responses I believe he violated multiple county policies and asked him to resign, which he did verbally over the phone.
At that point I asked for a written confirmation of his resignation via email which he agreed to do.
I informed Commissioner Dirschberger that upon receipt of his email his access to the county system, including access to all county buildings would be deactivated and he would be required to turn in all county property including cell phones and laptops.
Approximately one hour after that conversation I received the following email from Commissioner Dirschberger:
“I am tendering my resignation effective 12/28/17 due to personal reasons. Thank you for the opportunity to work in an environment to better the lives of individuals”.
Upon receipt of the email Mr. Dirshberger’s access to county systems was deactivated, and First Deputy Commissioners Marie Cannon and Sharon Rochelle were informed of Mr. Dirshberger’s resignation. Mrs. Cannon was asked to serve as acting Commissioner until a search for a replacement could be conducted.
At 2:30PM Deputy County Executive Whyte joined First Deputy Commissioners Rochelle and Cannon to inform senior Department of Social Services personnel of Mr. Dirschberger resignation, and that Mrs. Cannon would be serving as acting Commissioner.
At no time today have I, or any other member of my staff, been advised of any criminal charges being filed against Mr. Dirschberger. His resignation today is based on our internal investigation and Mr. Dirschberger’s answers to my questions.
A local media outlet is reporting that criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Dirschberger. We have no independent confirmation of that.
Furthermore, pursuant to a conversation between a senior staff member and a representative of the Albany Police Department at 4:45PM today our senior staff member was advised that no charges have been filed by the Albany Police Department against Mr. Dirschberger.
Regardless of whatever criminal investigation may be occurring, Mr. Dirschberger’s conduct warranted removal from his post. Due to the unique nature of the Social Services Commissioner being appointed to a specific term, and not serving at my pleasure, I could not terminate him at will, and therefore requested his resignation, which he did provide.
My administration demands the highest standards from all Erie County employees, including all of our appointed leadership. I remain disappointed and angered about the alleged incident. I had no choice but to request Mr. Dirschberger’s resignation from this important position in county government.