A meeting of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade affiliated organizations took place on Tuesday, October 4 at Cathedral High School in New York, with many of the groups in attendance pledging to sign a new petition demanding that the parade board of directors “cease and desist” its “hostile takeover” of the parade corporation.

The meeting was led by John Tully, the chairman of the board’s Parade and Celebration Committee which claims that the parade’s affiliates have been muscled out of the organizing of the annual march in favor of an undemocratically elected board of directors led by Dr. John Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University.

Many of the attendees at the meeting expressed anger at the board leadership for allegedly “taking away” the parade, and are deciding on a course forward.  Some of the proposals floated included a withholding of parade affiliation funds that each group must pay to take part in the event, and an effort to secure the parade’s permit from the NYPD.

“This was a very angry meeting.  A lot of anger directed at John Lahey, and a lot of it was totally off base,” one person in attendance told the Irish Voice.

John Dunleavy, the former chairman of the Parade and Celebration Committee who remains a member of the board of directors, spoke at the meeting and urged the attendees to “take back” a parade that rightfully “belongs to them.”

Dunleavy, whose role in the parade leadership was downgraded last year because of his opposition to gay groups marching and widespread financial improprieties uncovered by the parade’s auditors, filed a civil suit against Lahey last October in Bronx Supreme Court alleging that the board of directors held an illegal meeting in June of 2015 that resulted in his diminished status.

Oral arguments in that suit took place in May of this year, but the judge hearing the case, Alexander W. Hunter, has since retired and a new judge appointed, former Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.

Though Hunter said he would rule within 30 days, the court has not yet handed down a decision.  Attorneys for both sides met in Johnson’s chambers a few weeks ago but were unable to come up with a resolution.

“The offer is out there for the affiliates to appoint four ex-officio board members from the AOH, LAOH, the Emeralds and the United Irish Counties.  The affiliates have not responded to that offer,” parade spokesperson Pat Smith told the Irish Voice.

One of the handouts at last week’s meeting was an email exchange between Tully and Lahey in which Lahey pointed out that the “board of directors is the sole legal entity responsible for conducting the annual NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade. All of its committees report to and take direction from the board, not vice versa.”

Tully’s response to Lahey’s August 31 email agreed that the board is the legal entity in charge of the parade, but he added that the bylaws state that that the Parade and Celebration Committee is tasked with organizing the parade, and that the board overlooked the committee’s “historical” role to create two new positions, “filled those positions with two individuals and charged them to conduct the 2016 parade … We believe these actions violated the corporations’ bylaws.  You disagree with this view. The pending lawsuit will determine whose view is correct. We should both do all we can to seek a speedy resolution of the lawsuit.”

The petition, which is on Change.org, says that “since justice delayed is justice denied, if Dr. Lahey and his loyalist[s] are allowed to flagrantly disregard the bylaws and the rule of law, then this not only threatens the continuation of a 254-year-old tradition of the parade, but also sets a dangerous precedent whereby any board for a not-for-profit corporation can betray the trust of the community they serve for their own personal ends.”

The affiliates have planned another meeting for next month.