Lockport youth director’s lawyer sees claim in credit card dispute - The Buffalo News
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Lockport youth director’s lawyer sees claim in credit card dispute

LOCKPORT – The attorney for Lockport Youth and Recreation Director Melissa I. Junke said he intends to file a notice of claim against the city, a mandatory preliminary to a lawsuit.

George V.C. Muscato said the case will pertain to the disclosure of Junke’s name and allegedly false statements by City Treasurer Michael E. White.

Anne E. McCaffrey, who succeeded Michael W. Tucker as mayor Friday, was Common Council president when she announced Feb. 3 that there was to be an investigation into misuse of a city credit card.

The Buffalo News, citing four sources who were not authorized to speak, disclosed a day later that Junke was the target and that the probe pertained to use of a credit card that Tucker controlled and used for expenses for a golf tournament sponsored by a restaurant owned by Junke’s brother.

The article quoted White as saying that no proceeds from the tournament ever were deposited with the city. Muscato said last week that although the June 3 tournament lost money, about $1,500 was deposited.

Muscato said the anticipated lawsuit would accuse the city of improperly revealing Junke’s name and would accuse White of making false statements regarding the deposits.

Muscato said he has 90 days from Feb. 4 to file the notice of claim.

White did not return a call seeking comment Friday. He said in the original interview that $9,080 was spent on the tournament from a “trust account” holding funds that Junke had collected in fees for youth activities.

“Not all of the funds paid for the golf outing came from the trust fund, although a majority of it did,” Muscato said. “It wasn’t taxpayers’ money. It was money she raised in previous fund-raising efforts.”

Tucker said Wednesday that Junke raised $65,000 over three years to augment her department’s budget.

Meanwhile, a News analysis of city credit card spending in 2013 shows that the Youth and Recreation Department was the primary user of Tucker’s card.

Of more than $17,000 charged on that card last year, more than $13,000 was attributed to Youth and Recreation. That counts the golf tournament expenses, which ranged from hot dogs and raffle tickets to six round-trip airfares for former National Football League players.

The charges included $1,137 for tickets for youths to see the musical “Sister Act” at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, and $450 for meals on those outings. On another occasion, $187 was spent on 25 youth movie tickets.

Craft supplies accounted for $1,236 in credit card purchases. Youth and Recreation also used Tucker’s card for a $339 purchase at Walmart in July, labeled as “school supplies,” and $410 worth of swimsuits for city lifeguards.

The Police Department was the second most frequent user of Tucker’s card, with $2,383 in costs. Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said, “Some of these vendors will not take a purchase order, so we have to use a city credit card, and then they bill it back to our budget.”

The other city credit card, controlled by White, was used far less often. Its bills totaled $3,634 last year, which included $332 for Youth and Recreation. The largest item on White’s credit card statements was a $1,000 Dell computer for his office.

About $948 in food expenses cropped up on Tucker’s credit card statements, but at least $536 was attributable to the June 28 flash flood and its aftermath.

The mayor used the card to pay for food for volunteer firefighters and other emergency workers during the flood, and for refreshments at subsequent flood-related meetings in Lockport with state and federal officials. The card also paid for food served during Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s two visits to Lockport.

Tucker also used the card on occasion for doughnuts from Tim Hortons for the 7:45 a.m. meetings of Greater Lockport Development Corp. The card also was used at Tops Market to buy $74 worth of cake and punch for a reception after a Council meeting.

White’s card was used to buy $105 worth of food at Molinaro’s Ristorante for the Board of Assessment Review’s daylong Grievance Day meeting June 18.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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