Answer to an article that appeared in a local newspaper entitled: "War memorial bid for fuel help may hit legal snag, says Swain."
The article states that Selectman Swain requested Ms. Colburn to contact the Department of Revenue for its opinion on this matter. The DOR suggested that the issue should go to town counsel for confirmation of state law on how municipalities may and may not expend public money. This is an important issue and we all must follow the laws of the commonwealth. The town of Shirley is a subscribing member of the Mass Municipal Association, which assists cities and towns with procedural and legal issues pertaining to municipal administration.
The MMA issued an opinion that providing public funds or property for use by veterans' organizations is generally considered a public purpose." Furthermore, Mass General Laws Chapter 12, Section 8E, states that the American Legion (and many other veterans organizations) are "public charities." Therefore, individual concerns that the American Legion is a "private" organization and not eligible for public funding, appears to be unfounded.
But, once again, that is not the real issue ...
The distinction between the American Legion and the Board of Trustees must be made clear. The Board of Trustees are responsible (per MGL ch. 41, sect. 105) for the maintenance and upkeep of the War Memorial Building, which is a monument, not dedicated to the American Legion, but to all the veterans of Shirley, past and present, who put their lives on the line and fought for our freedom.
The American Legion is one veteran's organization that has had their home in this building for more than 80 years and it is solely through the generosity of the American Legion that the building was built and became a town asset.
The town of Shirley has been fortunate that the Shirley American Legion has provided all the funding for the upkeep of the War Memorial Building for the past 22 years, but no longer has sufficient funds to continue funding all expenses at this time. That is why the American Legion notified the Board of Trustees of not being able to fund the heating for the balance of the year. The Board of Trustees showed concern about the damage that would be caused if the furnace were shut down because of the lack of requested fuel aid from the town.
The War Memorial Building has also been home to the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, concurrent with the American Legion. Neither of those two organizations have had to deal with this issue with the town of Shirley.
The referenced newspaper article states that Ms. Colburn flagged a proposed warrant article that was presented by the Board of Trustees to help fund some of the building expenses, Ms. Colburn erroneously calling it a request from the American Legion, and the Selectmen voted to take no action on this request.
I find it unusual that an individual can set themselves up to prevent the voters of our town from exercising their rights to vote on such an article.
Apparently some individuals, who may say they do not have a problem with veterans, do seem to have a problem with a particular veteran's organization. The American Legion, for one, has served this community for many years at their own expense because they are a part of our community and continues to serve it.
NORMAN G. ALBERT
World War II Marine Corps veteran