LOCKPORT – A state Division of Human Rights hearing over the ouster of former City of Lockport Youth and Recreation Director Melissa I. Junke ended Monday in Buffalo.
Junke’s $54,000-a-year job was abolished by the Common Council in 2014, with the city attributing the action to its financial crisis at that time and arguing that the move had been proposed eight months before it happened. Junke had been investigated in 2013 over alleged misuse of a city credit card. She was on workers’ compensation with a back injury, suffered in a fall on an icy sidewalk outside her office, when she lost her job.
Junke contended that she was kicked out in retribution for her complaints about alleged sexual harassment by former Mayor Michael W. Tucker, who resigned Feb. 21, 2014, the day after Junke’s attorney presented a threatened lawsuit over the harassment. Junke also testified that she helped cover up a sexual affair Tucker was having with another city employee. Tucker has denied those allegations.
Junke’s attorney, Lindy Korn, said both sides will write briefs based on the hearing transcript before Administrative Law Judge Martin Erazo Jr. drafts a decision. The sides then will present any objections to Human Rights Commissioner Helen D. Foster, who makes the final ruling. Korn said, based on her experience in other cases, that the process may last another four to six months.
“Whatever damages are available, we’ll be seeking,” Korn said, but she declined to discuss details.
McCaffrey and the city’s attorney, Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
In 2015, the Buffalo office of the Division of Human Rights ruled that Junke had no evidence that she was the victim of retaliation, but 10 months later changed its mind and ordered the hearing, which began July 18 and 19 before a two-month adjournment.