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Hired law firm clears Erie County of negligence in Dirschberger case

Albnay County District Attorney

There are words like "creepy," "egotistical," "troubling," "shady" and an "alarming" number of complaints when former Erie County Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger began to make changes in his department, but it was characterized as a "morale problem" and not discriminatory. That is among the findings by the law firm hired to investigate a claim of negligence against Erie County.

Dirschberger resigned in December and is awaiting trial on a rape charge against a female county employee during a work trip.

That employee later filed a notice of claim against Erie County, alleging it knew of sexual harassment or abuse by Dirschberger and that it allowed a hostile work environment to exist.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the Lemire Law Firm, hired to investigate the claim, has cleared the county.

"I'm proud to say, as I knew this report would say, the Lemire Law Firm found no evidence of any wrongdoing with regards to my administration," Poloncarz said, "with regards to the retention and hiring of Dr. Dirschberger as the Commissioner of Social Services. During his tenure, we had no evidence, no formal complaints that were provided to us nor any evidence  of any workplace harassment issues, other than the allegations that were the reason for his eventual resignation."

In its final report, the Lemire Law Firm says it did not interview the county employee who made the original complaint. It found "troubling" behavior by Dirschberger at off-site work events, but it was not "clear anyone with supervisory or management responbility had any knowledge" of it.

Link to redacted final report provided by WIVB-TV.