The Lavender and Green Alliance was formally approved as the second gay group to join next year’s New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade on Monday after a board meeting that was crashed by four AOH members loyal to Parade Committee Chairman John Dunleavy. The four demanded Dunleavy restoration as the parade’s chief decision-maker and spokesperson.
The board meeting of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc., the group that has legal control over all aspects of the parade, also brought to light several financial improprieties that resulted in one board member and Dunleavy loyalist, Michael Cassels, being removed from the board for submitting bills on three occasions for non-parade related expenses that were approved by Dunleavy and paid for on the parade credit card.
A forensic audit of parade finances, initiated by Dr. John Lahey after he was unanimously approved as the board chair in June, also found that Dunleavy misused some $24,000 of parade funds for 14 trips over three years to Myrtle Beach and Washington, D.C. and $2,000 in other personal expenses such as physician bills and medication.
A source close to the board told the Irish Voice on Tuesday, “The auditor’s report was critical of management of parade finances under John Dunleavy’s leadership, and has recommended an audit committee to oversee all parade financials moving forward.”
The autumn board meeting of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc., was scheduled for Monday at the New York Athletic Club, and Dunleavy, one of the 18 board members, had four supporters in tow – AOH members Tom Beirne, a state director; Division 7 President John Tully; New York County President Denis Grogan; and Mary McLoughlin, president of the LAOH New York County Board – who refused to leave the meeting so board business could be conducted.
Their presence became so disruptive that board members opted to leave the Athletic Club and continue the meeting at the nearby Metropolitan Club. Grogan followed the members to the venue and had to be removed by security.
For now, Dunleavy retains his membership on the board, and his role as chairman of the Parade Committee responsible for overseeing the march formation, but sources tell the Irish Voice that his position has become untenable because he has threatened the board with a lawsuit, publicly slammed its members and in recent weeks has been working with a small group of downstate AOH members on forming a new corporation in an attempt to wrest control from NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc.
“John Lahey has tried and tried to work these issues out privately, and Dunleavy has refused,” a source told the Irish Voice.
“It is clearly apparent now that Dunleavy cannot work with the board that has every legal right to oversee the parade. And now an auditor has revealed financial improprieties.”
Lahey, President of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and the 1997 parade grand marshal, was elected to chair NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc. after a series of revelations – first reported in the Irish Voice – that Dunleavy was offering parade TV rights to other networks after WNBC helped broker a compromise in 2015 that resulted in OUT@NBCUniversal marching in last year’s parade, the first time a gay group was permitted to take part. He told parade delegates at a meeting in August that he had secured an offer from WPIX Channel 11, but a high level source at the network told the Irish Voice that no offer was ever made.
Dunleavy, an ardent opponent of gay groups participating in the parade, told an interviewer that gay groups “would have a hard time” taking part in next year’s event during an interview that was made public on the parade’s Facebook page.
NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc., formed with Dunleavy’s input several years ago as the legal corporation in charge of all parade issues, decided to exercise its control after Dunleavy’s continued attempts to derail LGBT groups from marching on Fifth Avenue and persistent behind the scenes maneuvering to change parade policy.
A board meeting was held at the end of June via conference call which Dunleavy did not take part in – he was out of the country and claims he wasn’t notified in time – and Lahey was voted in as chairman of the board, with Dunleavy retaining his title as chairman of the board’s Parade Committee with responsibility for the formation of marching groups on the day.
Co. Westmeath native Dunleavy, 78, who up until June was the chief spokesperson for the parade which he has been involved with for decades, has been fighting back ever since, even though board members have reached out on several occasions, sources tell the Irish Voice, in an attempt to compromise and pay respect to his years of service to the parade.
Dunleavy, who said that he wanted to step down as Parade Committee chairman after next year’s march which will mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, was offered the role of grand marshal but declined. He has since enlisted supporters to start a letter-writing campaign targeted towards board members and the Irish government, whose members Dunleavy has also been harshly critical of.
At a September 12 meeting of the AOH Downstate Metropolitan Council, the AOH groups in attendance backed Dunleavy, with some of them offering assistance to form a new corporation in an attempt to control the parade and bar gay groups from taking part.
When contacted by the Irish Voice, Timothy McSweeney, president of the New York State AOH, said that the organization “does not run parades,” and that individual members offering assistance to Dunleavy in forming a new corporation “would be doing so in a private capacity.”
Dunleavy has said he will run in November for another term as chairman of the Parade Committee, a position that will be voted on by the 180 affiliated parade organizations.