Monday, October 29, 2001

Legion seeks OK to sell liquor




By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WAYNESVILLE — If villagers pass two ballot issues for the American Legion on Nov. 6, a small wet spot will hit the middle of a “dry” town.

        The liquor issues wouldn't allow bars to open in this traditionally dry community of 2,500 people in northern Warren County. Instead, they would allow the Legion post — when the state finally approves — to sell liquor, even on Sunday. Legally.

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        Legion attorney William Kaufman of Lebanon said the issues would give voters more latitude because only the Legion would be affected, not the entire town.

        People could do legally what apparently they used to do for years: buy a drink at the Legion but not worry about bars springing up in town. But the problem was that the Legion's liquor sales were illegal in a dry town.

        Twice in two years, American Legion Post 615 was investigated for gambling and illegal liquor sales.

        In a raid on its headquarters at 174 S. Fourth St. in October 1999, state liquor agents confiscated five video poker machines; tip tickets; a computer and printer; two cash registers; an assortment of beer, liquor and wine; financial records; and $2,647 in proceeds from the gambling machines.

        Liquor agents froze the legion's bank accounts, including $200,000 in certificates of deposit.

        “They've changed corporate structure now,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There's a piece of legislation that allows the owner of a property to get "wet' and not include the entire precinct.”

        The Legion's problems have caused some concern in the village because the group has used the money generated by liquor sales to help struggling families, to pay for Waynesville's parks, and to build the high school stadium.

        In April 2000, Warren County Common Pleas Judge Neal Bronson told the post's chief operating officer and its commander that they should have known better than to offer gambling because the state had raided the post before. The judge fined them each $1,000 and placed them on probation for two years.

        The judge also levied a $7,500 fine against the Legion, but suspended $2,000 of it.

        Now, the group wants to correct its old problem and go forward.

        “The (Legion) issues aren't being talked about much in town,” said Patrick Irelan, a former councilman. “They're not even being discussed in coffee houses. It's almost a personal issue with people. They say they're going to do what they think is right.”

       



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