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Local DAV target of national probe

Ryan Carter

The color guard from Disabled American Veterans Chapter 40 will march

in Burbank’s Veterans Day ceremony Tuesday, like always. But this

year could be the last of the 21-gun salutes.

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A lawyer will be in court Friday arguing to keep the local chapter

alive. The national Disabled American Veterans organization has filed

a lawsuit in Glendale Superior Court alleging that funds from the

local chapter have been mismanaged by its trustees.

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The national organization is seeking the forfeiture of assets from

the local chapter to the state organization, including its building

at 1115 W. Magnolia Blvd., and wants to revoke its charter.

Members of the chapter, who deny the allegations, say turning over

its buildings and possessions would shut it down for good after

nearly 70 years in Burbank. Members said the chapter is one of only

two stand-alone chapters in the state.

Assets also would include the chapter’s bar and lounge, which

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provide a fund-raising mechanism for disabled veterans. They also

include the guns and equipment the group uses when its members

participate in local veterans’ ceremonies as color guard.

“We would cease to exist, and there would be nobody helping these

veterans,” said Lou DeSantis, an Army veteran who is commander of the

chapter. “If we lose it, we cannot do what we do.”

DeSantis said that after the taxes on it are paid, whatever is

left from the revenue from fund-raising and the bar go to benefit the

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Veterans Administration hospital on Plummer Street in Sepulveda.

The complaint filed by the national organization alleges that

funds from the Burbank chapter’s bar and lounge were mismanaged.

“Since at least 2001, DAV-California has been concerned about the

deteriorating financial condition of Chapter 40,” the document

stated. “The liquid assets were diminishing at a significant rate.

However, there was no corresponding increase in expenditures for

veterans’ programs, so it was clear that the assets of Chapter 40

were not being used to provide increased services to veterans.”

According to the complaint, a transaction to lease out a portion

of the bar this year was a “sham” designed to evade the national

organization’s regulations, and that the chapter bar now has no right

to operate in the state.

On Friday, a Glendale judge could slap a preliminary injunction on

the chapter, effectively shutting it down pending the outcome of the

case.

“It would pretty much be the death penalty,” chapter lawyer

William Ramseyer said. “The state organization demanded [the bar and

lounge] show a profit, and they felt they did that.”

State Disabled American Veterans officials did not return phone

calls for comment.

Ramseyer said he would also submit a list of good works that the

chapter does, including its color guard duties. On the day of the

hearing, the chapter’s veterans will be at the Sepulveda hospital

holding a bingo game for patients.

“This building belongs to the members. They built it,” DeSantis

said. “National and the state departments did not pay a dime for it.

They aren’t going to take it. The more they harass us, the madder I

get and the more I stick with it. We do our work.”


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