LOCKPORT – The Common Council voted, 5-1, Tuesday to hire Hamburg attorney Brian D. Doyle to investigate allegations of misuse of a city credit card by Youth and Recreation Director Melissa I. Junke.
Four sources confirmed her involvement in the case, and a Freedom of Information Law request brought The Buffalo News 42 pages of credit card receipts and purchase orders approved by Junke regarding a golf tournament last year sponsored by a restaurant co-owned by her brother, Brian Junke.
The $85-a-ticket tournament was supposed to have raised money for youth programs, but no proceeds were ever deposited with the city, City Treasurer Michael E. White said last week.
Council President Anne E. McCaffrey said, “We’re asking, why was nothing done about it? Why did management do nothing about it? I, along with some of my fellow Council members, decided to take a stand and make an inquiry into the matter.”
White said last week that the credit card expenses connected with the tournament totaled $9,080.77, paid from city funds. The credit card used was one controlled by Mayor Michael W. Tucker, although Tucker said twice last week that he couldn’t remember giving Junke the card for that purpose.
Asked during Tuesday’s Council meeting by city resident Jean M. Kiene whether he stood by that statement, Tucker said he did, although he added, “It’s not hard to figure out.”
When Kiene asked whether Tucker went to the golf outing, Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano wouldn’t let him reply.
The resolution to hire Doyle, who is to be paid $200 an hour, authorizes him to investigate the case, recommend discipline, and draw up and prosecute charges if need be. Anyone with civil service protection, such as Junke, can’t be fired without a hearing.
Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, voted against hiring Doyle. ”
McCaffrey pledged, “When we receive the final report, we will make as much of it public as possible.”
The Council did hire Bonadio Group of Amherst for up to $7,000 for a postmortem of the wildly inaccurate financial reporting that led to an unexpected deficit last year.
Ottaviano said, “We’re attempting to find out why the bank statements, closings and reconciliations weren’t done in a timely manner.”
McCaffrey said Bonadio will determine whether a consultant or additional staff is needed in the financial offices. The firm was hired last month for $24,000 to do this year’s state-mandated independent audit. Also, the State Comptroller’s Office is sending auditors to Lockport to check on the city’s internal financial controls.