John Dunleavy in his parade leadership days
By Ray O’Hanlon
You can tell John Dunleavy that you don’t like the way he ran the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade for all those years.
You can tell him that you weren’t fond of the parade grand marshal in this year or that.
You can tell him that he was responsible for the lousy weather in such and such a year.
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But don’t tell him that he played fast and loose with parade finances.
That’s a red line for the man who chaired the parade board and committee for over twenty years up until his ouster in 2015.
All manner of assertions and allegations flew around the parade world after Dunleavy’s sidelining from an event with which he had become virtually synonymous.
And of course some of them concerned money, and the spending of money for a parade that, given its size and importance, is always in need of funding to keep those marchers heading up Fifth Avenue in the third month of the year.
The tumultuous changes in the parade’s governing structure in 2015 resulted in legal action, suit and counter suit, in the Bronx courts.
John Dunleavy is still pursuing court action, represented by his attorney Frank Young.
Along the way, and critically for Dunleavy, there was a verdict of sorts.
Not from a court bench, but by way of a decision, in March 2016, by the office of the New York State Attorney General not to take any action against the former parade chairman.
Dunleavy said at the time that he felt thoroughly vindicated by the decision not to pursue allegations of financial impropriety against him, allegations that Dunleavy and his attorney stated were sourced in the parade board.
The Attorney General’s office had been in receipt of a letter from the parade board in November, 2015, pointing to expenditure of roughly $24,000 in questionable credit card charges over three years for trips that didn’t seem connected to the parade’s business or core-mission.
The letter had followed an internal audit of parade finances and was followed by board representatives publicly making the point that new and stricter legal regulations for non-profits required the parade’s business to be conducted by the book.
“Dunleavy was accused of spending company money for personal items, but the attorney general dismissed the allegations,” the Daily News reported.
After the allegations became public, Mr. Dunleavy, while defending the expenditures, also offered to repay the parade for any spending ultimately deemed to be unjustified.
That the parade’s affairs were to be conducted by the book was an assertion that Mr. Dunleavy clearly took to heart because he recently asked to see the book, or rather the books.
At a parade board meeting in the first week of September Dunleavy, in attendance by virtue of his continued membership of the board, asked that the board, which is chaired by Sean Lane, to be given access to “audited financial statements” pertaining to the parade.
This was not forthcoming and, according to Mr. Dunleavy, he was refused access in part due to the fact that he was still in litigation against the board.
There was then, Dunleavy stated in a subsequent email sent to “the members of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc.,” and seen by the Echo, a motion presented to the meeting that would have resulted in his expulsion from the board.
Suffice it to say, things were getting hot under collars, and Mr. Dunleavy, never the backing down type, was feeling hot enough to, as he stated in the email, “compelled under duress to abruptly resign from the Parade Board.”
This was, according to Dunleavy, in response to the motion of expulsion directed at him.
Dunleavy, in his email, wrote that his immediate reaction was an emotional response to the expulsion move.
Emotional or not, his resignation was not rejected by the board and would thus appear to have immediate effect.
Dunleavy stated that his obligation as a director “was to resign because I wanted to protect my dignity as a person and my integrity as a Director and chose to resign rather than be expelled for simply fulfilling my fiduciary duties as a Director.”
In the email he continued: “My reaction to resign reflects the emotional and psychological toll the constant grind of these past four years have taken upon me.
“To be falsely and publicly accused by certain members of the Parade Board of misappropriating Parade funds on several trips to Washington, D.C. have inflicted severe emotional distress upon my family and me. They falsely claimed that these trips have no indication of being related to company business let alone that they had prior approval by the Corporation.
“As I have recently submitted to the Court, these trips were taken on behalf of the Parade in response to invitations we received from the Military District of Washington to strengthen our relationship with the military.
“These trips were taken with full knowledge of the Parade Board and there was no policy requirement at the time for me to seek prior approval from the Parade Board before participating in these trips.”
The email was penned in the cold light of day after the previous evening’s board meeting and contretemps over the parade’s finances.
And in that cooler light Mr. Dunleavy wrote: “Since the Parade Board did not vote to formally accept my resignation last night, I am submitting this email to the Parade Board to formally rescind my resignation from the Parade Board. Any decision to resign from a not-for-profit Corporation should not be taken lightly and should not be done in the heat of the moment.
“Also it should be noted that the law requires prior notice to an individual who is going to be made the subject of a motion to terminate his board position. Because no such notice was ever given, any termination or purported resignation of that member is a nullity.”
That assertion, like so much of the parade’s affairs in recent years, is open to interpretation and argument.