Bronx Supreme Court dismissed all subsequent motions filed by John Dunleavy against New York St. Patrick's Day parade board chairman Dr. John Lahey.
Both sides in the long-running New York City St. Patrick’s Day legal dispute are claiming victory after Bronx Supreme Court Judge Robert Johnson ruled last Thursday that a lawsuit filed by former parade leader John Dunleavy against parade board chairman Dr. John Lahey can proceed, but dismissed all subsequent motions filed by Dunleavy which sought to nullify the actions of the board since a June 2015 meeting stripped Dunleavy of his power to act on behalf of the parade.
Johnson’s nine-page ruling on the lawsuit, which was filed by Dunleavy in October of 2015, essentially means that the parade will continue to operate under the cloud of legal action that will cost thousands of dollars to defend.
“It’s hard to see what the end game is here, other than wasting the parade’s money on legal fees,” a source told the Irish Voice. “The parade has had terrific grand marshals since 2015, has attracted new sponsors and received lots of great publicity, yet that seems to be a bad thing for those who want to continue with the lawsuit.”
The June 2015 meeting in which Dunleavy was ousted from his leading role in the parade’s organization also ushered in the approval of a second gay marching group in the parade, the Irish Lavender and Green Alliance, for the 2016 march. During his time as parade leader Dunleavy was a fierce opponent of letting gay groups in the parade, but in March of 2015 a gay group marched for the first time, OUT@NBCUniversal, the LGBT group that’s part of the parade’s broadcast home, WNBC.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan was grand marshal of the 2015 parade and signaled his support of allowing a gay group to march in the event. Politicians and sponsors returned to the march when Lavender and Green was given the go-ahead to participate, and the media headlines since no longer include the “gays excluded” controversy that dogged the parade for years.
In a press release, the parade’s board of directors heralded Johnson’s ruling that “denied all of John Dunleavy’s motions to set aside all of the actions of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Board of Directors since its June 30, 2015, meeting, dealing a major setback to a costly and divisive lawsuit. The June 7 ruling by Judge Johnson means all board actions taken since John Lahey was elected chairman on June 30, 2015, including allowing LGBT groups to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and reforming the board’s bylaws, stand.”
The incoming chairman of the board, Sean Lane – Lahey is stepping down on June 30 – praised Lahey’s leadership in the face of Dunleavy’s actions against the parade.
“The dedicated members of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Board of Directors are very proud of what we’ve accomplished under John Lahey’s leadership,” Lane said.
“We have made the parade more inclusive and ended a threat to the very survival of the parade. We have reformed our bylaws to bring them into compliance with state and federal regulations. We have put the parade on a sound financial footing.
“We look forward to working with all the affiliated organizations, and all Irish Americans, to expanding our scholarships and other programs which commemorate our faith, our values and our Irish culture. We look forward to a time when our resources go to scholarships and other programs, and not to legal bills.”
Dunleavy’s attorney Francis X. Young also issued a statement proclaiming Johnson’s ruling as a victory for his client.
“Mr. Dunleavy and I are thrilled that Judge Johnson finally issued his order denying Dr. Lahey’s second motion to dismiss because it is ‘clear that issues of fact exist regarding whether defendants engaged in impermissible behavior,’” Young’s statement said.
“Judge Johnson simply noted that our motions for declaratory judgment were ‘premature’ and that there are ‘key facts in dispute’ regarding the actions taken by the board since June 2015 which prevent him from issuing a preliminary injunction. This only means that the key facts in dispute regarding the actions taken by Dr. Lahey and the board will eventually be examined by a jury and in no way is a vindication of their actions for the past three years.
“In reality, this decision finally gives us the opportunity after waiting for three long years to cross- examine Dr. Lahey, [board member] Francis Comerford and other individuals under oath to expose their lies and transgressions on how they violated their fiduciary duties to the corporation in pursuit of their own personal interests.”
In his action against the parade, Dunleavy alleges that the board, specifically Lahey and Comerford, a top executive at NBC, conspired to keep the parade’s TV contract with WNBC even though Dunleavy says he brokered a more lucrative deal for the parade with WPIX. Last week Johnson reiterated his prior December 2016 ruling that “the absence of a truly competitive, valid offer from another media outlet substantially undermined the plaintiff’s theory that the defendants urged the corporation to renew its contract with NBC as a means of furthering the defendants’ personal interests.” However, Johnson added that “this evidence does not entirely refute plaintiff’s theory of the case or render his claim meritless. Rather, it is clear that issues of fact exist regarding whether the defendants engaged in impermissible behavior.”
The judge also questioned the validity of the minutes from a June 2016 board meeting in which Dunleavy voted for Lahey to continue as chairman of the board; the defense contends that the vote was validation by Dunleavy of Lahey’s leadership, thus rendering his legal action against the parade moot.
In denying all of Dunleavy’s motions to invalidate the work of the parade board since June of 2015, Johnson wrote, “Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate entitlement to injunctive relief…With respect to the first element in assessing whether to grant injunctive relief, the plaintiff is required to demonstrate a likelihood of ultimate success on the merits of his claim for breach of fiduciary duty.”