Apollo Elks lodge battles charter revoke
By Brian C. Rittmeyer
Published: Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The leaders of a more than century-old Armstrong County Elks lodge are fighting a decision by the national organization that recently shut it down.
The appeal of Apollo Elks Lodge 386 in Kiski Township is being heard within the Elks organization.
The Apollo Elks Lodge was closed in early August when the grand lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks revoked its charter “primarily due to what appears to be very poor financial management of the facility,” said Arthur Frost, a past national president and spokesman for the national organization, based in Chicago.
“The lodge is evidently in extreme financial problems,” Frost said. “They are doing things outside the bounds of our constitution and statutes. They don't have a full set of officers.
“There are numerous problems within the management of the facility itself — borrowing money without authorization, that type of thing,” he said.
When the charter was revoked, a set of trustees was assigned to handle the lodge's facilities. “They were told to close the lodge,” Frost said.
Apollo Elks Exalted Ruler Charles Fox said motions for the lodge's appeal are due by Friday.
Fox, a Vandergrift lawyer, conceded the lodge owes back property taxes and money to a bank, but was paying on them and meeting its obligations. He said the lodge had been on probation by the national group since January.
“Basically, the two big reasons for closing us down is that this application to the bank, which was a line of credit, was not approved by the grand lodge when they received it in the late 1990s,” he said. “Back taxes have been a problem for years.”
Frost said the lodge had been assigned a steering committee to help it sometime in 2012.
“The lodge didn't want their help and ignored them,” he said. “There's been a lot of effort put into trying to save the lodge. One thing we don't ever want to do is revoke the charter of a lodge.”
Fox said he will dispute some of the claims against the lodge but can't dispute others, including borrowing without authorization, which he said was done 10 to 20 years ago.
“My main duty was to make sure we were meeting our obligations and find some way out of this jam,” Fox said. “Me and my officers were on the way. We were on the path to do that. All I can say is we were going in the right direction, and that's all.”
Formed in 1897, Apollo Elks has about 500 members. Some have been members for more than 50 years, Fox said. Frost said letters explaining the situation were mailed to members.
For those who had booked the lodge's facilities for events, Frost said he would expect the trustees to honor as many of those obligations as possible.
“We don't want to hurt people who had no part of this at all,” Frost said.
Despite being shut down, Fox said the lodge's golf course remains open. Frost could not be reached to comment on that.
“I do not know any of the plans of the grand lodge,” Fox said.
Nothing will be done with the lodge's property while its appeal is being heard, Frost said.
Frost said the lodge's building and property are owned by the grand lodge. If it is sold, the money would go into a trust, where it would be held for at least five years and could be used toward the formation of a new lodge in the area. If no lodges were to form, the money could go toward a major project in the state.
“We hope to be able to rebuild an Elks lodge there,” Frost said.
Fox said he wants to see the lodge reopen for its members.
“I think we were on the right track financially,” he said. “I thought we were making progress.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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