UPDATE: In a press release issued Saturday, BC Yukon Command clarified some of the allegations against Penticton Legion executives that led to them being suspended and the branch being placed in trusteeship.
The release, issued after a special meeting Friday, states “allegations of non-compliance to Legion general bylaws are being investigated.
“In addition the trustees are reviewing potential liquor licensing breaches, financial mismanagement and lotteries inventory control issues. The Legion takes these allegations seriously and works hard to ensure branches remain solvent and in compliance with liquor and lotteries as well as its own by-laws.”
The release goes on to say that while Legions are run by volunteer members, they are still subject to “many strict regulations in how they operate.” The trustee, it added, will investigate and review the branch’s operations and make recommendations on how it can move forward.
“The Penticton Legion Branch has served the community with distinction for decades. Through this process of investigation, review and trusteeship, our plan is to ensure the Legion’s presence remains a significant community service.”
All 12 members of the Penticton Legion’s executive have been removed from office for unspecified reasons and threatened with a lawsuit if they speak out publicly.
Deposed Branch 40 president Vittorio Scialdone declined comment Wednesday. Executives were informed of their dismissals in a letter dated May 18, which was signed by B.C./Yukon Command executive director Inga Kruse and obtained by the Western News.
In an interview Wednesday, Kruse said executives are required to ensure the branch complies with Legion bylaws, liquor licences, lottery contracts and other such obligations, and, “If any of those are seen to be at risk, or are being breached, the bylaws allow us to take over and make sure that the community doesn’t lose its Legion.”
Kruse would not provide specifics of what the local executive is alleged to have, or have not, done, and it’s unclear if regular members will find out at a special meeting Friday night.
“It’s not a court situation where you have to prove anything,” Kruse said. “There’s been enough evidence, according to the president of our organization and administrative officers, that the branch is at risk. And when a branch is at risk, we make sure it doesn’t go down the tubes, and that’s all there is to it.”
The letter to Scialdone ended with a warning to members of the executive that while they’re removed from office, “any inflammatory, incorrect statements or proprietary information released… to the media or in a public forum could put you at risk of a civil liability suit.”
Kruse said that warning was meant to ensure members would hear about the matter from the Legion, rather than the media.
Branch 40 has been placed under the trusteeship of Okanagan Falls member Ed Findlater in the interim and will be handed back to members once its affairs are put in order.
“The purpose of these trusteeships … is about ensuring that one small group of people doesn’t cause the decline of a branch in the community,” Kruse added. “There’s no intent of closing the branch.”
Scialdone assumed leadership of the branch, which has about 900 members, in January. He also served part of a term as president in 2010.