Licensing board members said they appreciate the good work of the VFW post and know how hard it is for small veterans organizations to survive. But they said they had to act due to the seriousness and extent of the illegal gambling.
What went on at the club was “way out of control,” said commissioner Rick Lee, a veteran. “I’m just disappointed in the decision-making process down there ...
“It just troubles me as a veteran,” Lee said, looking across the table at three club officials. “I know it troubles you guys.”
Licensing Board Chairman Robert St. Pierre, who voted for the suspension, said he contacted Mayor Kim Driscoll before the meeting to notify her that he is a member of the Witch City post and was filing a disclosure form because of the appearance of a conflict of interest. St. Pierre said he was confident he could rule on the case without prejudice.
The case was investigated by Detective James Page, who said he was first contacted by the ABCC in September and a second time in December. On the second call, the ABCC investigator told Page that a caller said Salem police were not going to investigate because they were going to “protect the manager of the VFW.”
“That is absolutely not true,” Page said emphatically last night.
While admitting he is a personal friend of the post commander, Page said Salem police investigate all cases with the same fairness and impartiality.
Page said the club was “100 percent cooperative.”
White citing the important role clubs like the VFW play, especially for servicemen and women returning today from the Middle East, Page said it is important to “send a message” to all social and veterans clubs in the city that illegal gambling will not be allowed.
“We don’t make the laws,” Page said. “We just have to enforce them.”