TEWKSBURY — The sign on the door reads “Closed until further notice.” Pickup trucks enter and exit the parking lot, seemingly confused. American Legion members are left scratching their heads as to how to access their flags and files.
The Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary Unit 110 in Tewksbury has been shut down, according to Jesse Flynn, Assistant Adjutant for the DAV at the state house in Boston. The DAV performed an unannounced audit of the facility two months ago, and determined that the operation, running as a bar and lounge, was not operating by the parameters that govern how DAV chapters are to be run.
“We have strict protocols for bar/lounge operations,” said Flynn. “There were no veterans in the place, no veterans working there, sign in sheets were not kept; it was just a place to get cheap beers.”
Flynn explained that DAV organizations are non-profits and while they are their own entities, the chapters operate under the umbrella of the state and federal DAV and have procedures for accounting and reporting they are to follow. Flynn said that for a non-profit veterans service organization, no veteran services were being conducted.
“Chapter meetings are supposed to be conducted monthly, and any monies raised are to be used for service projects and programming for veterans,” which Flynn said was not happening.
Flynn explained that while the bar/lounge operation is suspended at the 180 Pond St. location, the chapter suspension has been lifted to give the group a chance to meet and determine how they wish to proceed.
“They are not profitable, and they are not operating according to our governance,” Flynn said. “We’ve made a recommendation and are waiting to hear back on their decision.”
The chapter is also delinquent in meals tax to the state. The chapter is up to date with monies owed to the town, according to the office of the tax collector, though in past years have been delinquent with water and sewer bills, according to public records.
This has also created a situation for the American Legion, whose members meet in the building.
“We’ve had to find other places to meet,” said Ed Flanagan. “We met in the community training room at the police station in December and will be meeting at the library this month,” he added via telephone.
The Legion is concerned about access to their files and flags and have not been able to obtain entry to the building. According to Flynn, this should not be happening, and the Legion should be permitted in.
“The rest of the building can be used for meetings,” he said.
A determination about the fate of the five acre property must be reached by the local chapter. According to Tom Barry, a contact for the DAV Tewksbury chapter, the group is set to meet later this month and discuss the situation.
According to Flynn, should the chapter decide to sell the property, there are strict policies around the sale, including asking the DAV at the state level for permission to sell, evaluation by a review board that meets quarterly, and a defined distribution plan for proceeds which may only be spent on services and programs for the DAV.
Flynn said that proceeds could be donated to other chapters or turned back to the state chapter to be used, for example, for veterans housing. Until the chapter meets, according to Flynn, no further action will take place.
Flynn said that any veteran in need of services is welcome to call their office at the state house at 617-727-2974.