Former Erie County Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger may have made a staffer feel “uncomfortable” in the months before allegedly raping her, according to a memo written by a department administrator.
That information was revealed in a report by an independent investigator hired to look into the county’s handling of the Dirschberger case.
Investigators with the Lemire Law Firm say in a memo to county administration, the witness, who is only identified as ‘Witness 1’, was told by another person in the summer of 2017 that Dirschberger “would continually come to [Jane Doe’s] office and spend time talking with [Jane Doe]. The content of the conversation was not work-related and [Jane Doe] was feeling uncomfortable.”
Dirschberger is accused of raping the staffer, identified as Jane Doe, while on a work-related trip to Albany in early December 2017.
“The report notes that while there were some individuals who noticed that there was an interplay between Mr. Dirschberger and Jane Doe as she’s called, there’s nothing that was formally reported to anyone,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “If there’s no formal report, how is anyone to know about it?”
The report indicates that Dirschberger asked ‘Witness 1’ to tell detectives that she had invited the alleged victim on the trip, rather than Dirschberger.
Poloncarz told Lemire’s investigators that he first learned about the rape allegation on December 23rd. On the 28th, he spoke with Dirschberger by phone, and asked if he had intercourse with the woman. Dirschberger answered affirmatively, according to the report. His resignation was then requested and tendered.
The law firm cleared Erie County officials of mishandling the Dirschberger case, claiming no negligence was found in the hiring of Dirschberger and their duty to protect employees from Dirschberger, nor was anyone in county government aware of any harassment by Dirschberger.
“This report concluded and confirmed that my administration acted appropriately and that we acted concisely,” said Poloncarz. “We did not have any prior knowledge of any issues associated with Dr. Dirschberger. And when we finally did have knowledge of this issue, we acted appropriately and quickly to resolve it.”
While investigators with the Lemire Law Firm spoke with several county employees, they did not speak to the alleged victim, nor key witnesses set to testify in Dirschberger’s upcoming trial, which is scheduled to begin on December 10th. That was pursuant to an agreement with the Albany County District Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case.
To read the entire report, click here.