Frank Maxant's public bashing of the Ayer Shirley American Legion Post 139 may have fit his personal agenda but it was unbecoming of an elected official and a U.S. Navy veteran.

What's most disturbing is that Maxant used his office as an Ayer selectman to try to embarrass the Legion Post over a private matter involving a friend that should have stayed buried in the past.

Maxant's grudge match backfired; in the end it was Maxant who wound up embarrassing himself.

At the Feb. 5 Ayer Board of Selectmen's meeting, Maxant tore to shreds the Post's letter of appreciation that he and other town officials received for marching in the Memorial Day parade.

Maxant's rage was directed at the Post for allegedly denying a membership three years ago to his former apartment house neighbor, Benjamin Franklin Pierce, because Pierce was a registered Level 3 sex offender.

Maxant accused Post leaders of "social cowardice" for "turning their backs on a veteran in need" -- the veteran being Pierce who had served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1970s.

Yet it's Maxant who is acting cowardly; he ambushed the Post over an incident that was never publicly reported and didn't have to be. We don't even know if it is true.

The American Legion is a private organization that promotes traditional family values and love of country. There's nothing in the Post charter ordering it to let in Level 3 sex offenders with criminal records. And Pierce, while honorably discharged from the Marines, didn't come close to being a model citizen after his military service. In 1977 he was convicted of rape in New Hampshire and served eight years in prison. From 1995 to 2000, Pierce was convicted five times for open-and-gross lewdness.

No wonder Massachusetts classified him as a Level 3 sex offender when he moved to Ayer in 2008-09.

Quite frankly, if the Post had accepted Pierce as a member, it would have created both a scandal and huge legal liability issues.

We can only hope that the Ayer Shirley American Legion Post 139 continues to uphold the values and standards which set it apart as a prideful and patriotic community organization.

As for Maxant, we're disheartened that this former soldier seems to have forgotten the lessons of valor, honor, restraint and, most of all, good judgment.