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Ironton Elks sanctioned by national organization

Four specially named representatives met with officials from the Ironton Elks Lodge 177 Thursday after the local chapter was placed on probation by the national agency that oversees it.

The four who are overseeing the review are John Johnson, district deputy grand exalted ruler from the Nelsonville Lodge, J. Fran Mullens from the Gallipolis Lodge, and Carl Dobbins and Alvey Pelfrey, both from the Jackson Lodge.

“They are very knowledgeable and very supportive,” Donald Washburn, lodge exalted ruler, said. “The goal is to make sure the lodge complies with Elks’ policy and guidelines. I think moving forward the members of the lodge need to become much more active in the day-to-day activities. With appropriate support with the district representatives, the lodge will address those issues and move forward.”

The reprimand came in a March 12 letter to the 280-member lodge that James L. Nichelson, grand exalted ruler of all Elks organizations in the United States, sent to the local lodge’s officers and members.

If the terms set forth in the executive order are not complied with officers could be removed from office and sanctioned and the lodge could lose its charter.

Among the violations that provoked the censure was that the Ironton lodge at 416 Park Ave. was continuing to run bingo and sell gaming tickets although it had lost its license from the Charitable Gaming Division of the Ohio State Lottery.

On Jan. 28, Robin Zubkowicz of the Ohio Lottery in Cleveland, wrote to the lodge concerning the non-renewal of its 2010 charitable bingo license.

“Since the bingo application for your organization was not submitted online or postmarked by Dec. 31, 2009, your organization is not eligible for a temporary permit.

In accordance with Ohio’s charitable bingo laws, your organization must immediately cease all bingo operations,” the letter states.

“If your organization intends to conduct bingo in 2010, then it will be necessary to submit the 2010 bingo application to the office at your earliest convenience. Your organization may not resume any bingo activities until it has been issued and has received a 2010 charitable bingo license.”

However, Nichelson’s letter states that the lodge continued to run bingo and sell gaming tickets, both of which were in violation of state and lodge laws.

The lodge also was permitting its members to smoke on the premises and maintain gambling machines that offer paper tickets that were then turned into cash, according to Nichelson. Both are also violations of state and Elks regulations.

“The lodge is involved in unacceptable in-fighting between the trustees, board of governors and officers. They refuse to form a cohesive corps of officers and members and show no respect for the exalted ruler or anyone outside of the clique,” Nichelson writes.

Another complaint of the Elks national leader focused on lodge funds not being properly receipted by its secretary and then turned over to the treasurer.

“The trustees are taking the money generated from the illegal gambling machines, bingo and tickets and holding the money,” the letter states. “They are not turning the funds over to the secretary for receipt and who then forwards the funds to the treasurer for deposit.”

Both Nichelson and Karl Wentz, local lodge treasurer, declined comment as did other Ironton members.

Nichelson also faults the lodge for what he terms nepotism, which “while is not a violation, it certainly can lead to authorities being overstepped or ignored all together. In Ironton’s case, the trustee chairman is the mother of the bar manager and the aunt to the lodge secretary.”

The leader ordered that a bookkeeping system be set up using the Grand Lodge Uniform Chart of Accounts with proper internal controls and voucher system.

“The secretary shall properly maintain all books and records and fulfill the duties and responsibilities set forth … in the laws of order. The secretary shall receive all monies (dues and club) and pay them over to the Treasurer,” according to the letter. “The treasurer shall properly maintain all books and records and fulfill the duties and responsibilities set forth … in the laws of order.”