Investigator: no crime in Lockport credit card use

LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – An attorney hired to investigate charges that the director of Lockport’s Youth and Recreation Department made on a city credit card says it appears no crime was committed in the case.

Attorney Brian Doyle shared the findings of his investigation with city council members on Tuesday evening, among them, that “the City of Lockport credit card was used to purchase airline tickets and other items related to a golf event that took place on June 3rd of 2013.”

Doyle examined about $9,000 worth of charges that Youth and Recreation Director Melissa Junke made on the card, including plane tickets for out-of-town celebrities to attend the golf event.

“We were able to establish that the purchases were not – did not receive prior authorization,” Doyle explained. “In other words, they weren’t a budget item in the budget, there was no transfer done by the Common Council to add funds to certain budget lines, and they were not prior authorized by the former mayor.”

Doyle’s findings further suggest no wrongdoing or cover-up by former Mayor Michael Tucker, who resigned shortly after the charges became public.

“I did have two different conversations with the Mayor, both before he left office and then after he left office,” Doyle told News 4. “We were able to have a conversation about what he knew, when he knew it. Specifically regarding the airline tickets, it was established that he had no prior knowledge that they were being purchased. He did know the card was being used, but not necessarily the full extent of how it was being used.”

Some charges were caught by administrators and denied before they could be processed on the card – including a $2,000 limousine bill.

“In addition to the airline tickets, other purchases were made under the assumption that employees of the Youth and Recreation Department had, in the past, raised funds and thought that those funds could be spent as they saw fit, under the circumstances,” Doyle said. “So the justification for some of the purchases that were made… was the fact that the funds were raised by employees of the Youth and Recreation Department.”

“We were not able to uncover any overt criminal activity.”

New mayor Anne McCaffery will make the final decision, regarding if and how Junke will be disciplined.

“The general, and almost universal, practice is that the mayor appoints a hearing officer to gather all the evidence together and then make a report and recommendation to her,” Doyle said. “And then she would decide, ultimately, whether the charges were appropriate and whether the level of discipline being sought is appropriate.”

McCaffery did not sit in on the executive session portion of Tuesday meeting, and was therefore unable to speak with reporters regarding the case. Other council members had no comment.

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