As a Bronx Supreme Court judge adjourned a temporary restraining order request last Thursday by counsel for New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Committee Chairman John Dunleavy to postpone a meeting of the parade’s governing board on Thursday night, the Irish Voice learned that the legal team acting on behalf of the board and its chairman, Dr. John Lahey, is preparing a defense that will center on a forensic accounting audit of parade finances ordered by Lahey that uncovered $24,000 in unauthorized expenses billed to the parade by Dunleavy, and $15,000 billed by former board member Michael Cassels, who was voted off the board in September after the non-parade charges approved by Dunleavy came to light.
Dunleavy’s attorney Francis X. Young submitted a 95 page document to the court last Tuesday, October 27, as evidence for a temporary restraining order against a parade board meeting on Thursday the 29th that sought a number of by-law changes that would streamline the parade leadership and eliminate the committee that Dunleavy chairs. The case was not heard until Thursday morning because the necessary paperwork was not filed electronically.
On Wednesday, Lahey opted to adjourn the board meeting until a later date to make way for the legal process. On Thursday morning, the judge hearing the case gave Lahey and the board until December 10 to present evidence that would dismiss the complaint outright.
The latest controversy surrounding the St. Patrick’s Day parade has been reported on by a number of media outlets, including the New York Daily News and the local Fox 5 affiliate, which featured an interview on Thursday morning with a Jesuit priest, Father John R. Sheehan, who has led the petition drive on Change.org against Lahey and the board.
The petition was launched nearly two weeks ago, and as of Tuesday morning evening had gathered close to 5,000 signatures. The petition was created by the affiliated organizations of the parade which claim that Lahey and his board are trying to make the parade secular, and remove their influence over the march.
“[Lahey] is removing the voice of the affiliates… none of the affiliates will have a voice in the parade,” Sheehan told Fox 5.
In last week’s Irish Voice, Lahey said the parade will always remain first and foremost a celebration of the life of St. Patrick – a point contained in Article 1 of the board’s bylaws – and any attempt to overturn that would occur “over my dead body. It is not and will never be up for discussion,” he said.
On Monday of this week, a Facebook page initiated by a group calling itself Change Saint Patrick’s NYC posted an open letter to the Lahey and the board.
The letter said the affiliated organizations of the parade “are deeply troubled by the actions of board chairman Dr. John Lahey,” but pointedly did not endorse the leadership of Dunleavy.
“We remain neutral on any and all issues regarding whether John Dunleavy remains involved in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee,” the letter said.
It also pointed out that the affiliated organizations “acknowledge that the question of allowing one or more gay groups to march under their own banner seems to have been resolved.”