Al Donahue, the former mayor of Buchanan, was out of town and unavailable for comment when the Journal News ran an article about a state audit of the village finances. The audit — which had been requested by Donahue — found fault with the use of grant money for a community center. Here is Donahue’s response:
If the Journal News was actually interested in determining what happened to the $365,000 I raised for the Buchanan Community Center Project, it should look to those last holding the purse strings – Team O’Neill. The State Audit Report recites the fact that my administration provided it with documentary proof of deposit from donors and architect plans right into January, ‘02. O’Neill assumed control a matter of days later and remained in office until 2008 which encompasses the time period when the money disappeared.
The minutes of Board meetings form ‘02 to ‘08 are devoid of any mention of the Community Center or the funds on deposit to finance it. The auditors, both professional accountants, were at a loss to trace the use of even one dollar but did conclude the entire fund had been depleted. Now, Murray, whose brain and mouth are in continuous disconnect, asserts the Village will “comb through paperwork” for 2001 “when Donahue was Mayor” even though the auditors reported the funds disappeared after 2002.
I made frequent inquiries as to this money and was repeatedly told it remained intact in the Village account. I attended almost every meeting during O’Neill’s tenure and not once did he or Bell, Hitney, Surak or Tropiano make mention of the project or the use of the funds each knew were intended only for use in construction of the Community Center. When I was elected Mayor in March, ‘08, I requested the Office of the Comptroller to conduct an audit in the hope the use of the funds could be ascertained. It wasn’t until August, ‘09, that the auditors commenced their investigation which concluded in October, ‘09. I was present almost every day during this period, answering any questions posed to me, and assisted in the search for any records that might be helpful but absolutely none existed.
I have never stated to any person or the auditors at any time that the funds were utilized to “rehabilitate existing structures”. While this may be a possibility, I did not comment on this for the simple reason that I haven’t the slightest ideas what the money was used for or whether it was used for a legitimate purpose or misappropriated for an improper use. In reference to two trustees, one being the every present talkative Murray, making that pronouncement, neither one was involved, interested or even participated in Village affairs during this time period.
In reference to Murray’s observation that the project was dropped because construction was estimated to be several million dollars, this is another example of his ignorance of this project as the architect’s estimate for constructing the proposed 2100 sq. ft. Butler building was $500,000. Continuing on addressing other comments by Murray, who obviously suffers from terminal foot-in-mouth disease, no donor ever informed the former O’Neill Board that their donation could be used for any Village purpose as he claimed on Channel 12. Since he is the self-proclaimed “Chairman of the Union”, and a valued Entergy employee, he can easily obtain from Entergy executives a letter backing up his statement. If not, I think he should keep his mouth shut regarding matters of which he has no knowledge.
Lastly, I again state without reservation that I do not know what happened to the $365,000. What I do know is that it was there when I left office in March, ‘02, and it wasn’t there when I returned in March, ‘08.
Alfred J. Donahue