Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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May 2, 2014

Junke files notice of claim against city

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Youth Director Melissa I. Junke has filed a notice of claim against the City of Lockport on the basis that her rights were violated when her name was released publicly during an investigation over her use of a city credit card.

Filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court, the notice states Junke’s name was released to the public, which is in violation of state and federal workplace laws that are supposed to protect public employees. The notice says the credit card investigation was a personnel matter and Junke’s name should have never been made public.

The release of Junke’s name took place in February, said George Muscato, Junke’s attorney, meaning the 90-day deadline to file was approaching. A notice of claim is a intention to file a lawsuit.

According to the city’s investigation, Junke used the credit card held by former Mayor Michael W. Tucker to pay for expenses involving a golf tournament fundraiser for her department. 

The notice also challenges city Treasurer Michael White’s statements that Junke never deposited any money raised from the June golf tournament. Muscato said Junke deposited a total of about $1,500.

”We provided copies of the receipts,” Muscato said.

City Attorney John J. Ottaviano said he wasn’t aware of any facts or basis to support the claim that Junke’s rights were violated.

“Of course any time it involves an employee of the municipality my preference is not to discuss it in public. With that said, the truth is an absolute defense to a defamation action and there’s nothing Mike White said that wasn’t true, or not already made public by other means,” Ottaviano said. “The public had a legitimate concern and the employee’s actions were reasonably related to matters warranting public exposure, such as the use of public funds.”

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