F our days after members of the Whitehall American Legion were cited for disorderly conduct over being in a state road conducting a coin drop, the Legion responded to the situation at the end of its annual Veterans Day ceremonies.
“We are sworn to uphold the Constitution, which gives the right to the complainant or complainants to do what they did,” said Jim Lafayette of the Legion. “But it also gives me the right to stand up here and defend the good name of the American Legion.”
Lafayette said that, like local emergency service companies and other groups, the Legion members were simply conducting a coin drop when they were approached and asked to stop by members of the Whitehall Police Department (a description is found in this week’s Police Log).
The person who filed the complaint, Whitehall resident Ron Rushia, said he did so because he was reporting a situation taking place that was against the law.
“They were breaking the law, and I filed a complaint against them,” said Rushia.
Whitehall Police Chief Matthew Dickinson said it is against the law for organizations to operate coin drops on a state road, and with a complaint filed, any other coin drops, including the Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company fundraiser set for Thanksgiving weekend, should be canceled.
“We have had a complaint filed against a coin drop, so we are going to have to watch for all of them,” said Dickinson.
When asked if he would file similar complaints against other organizations, Rushia declined comment, saying that he was only focused on the events of Nov. 7.
“I can’t tell you that,” said Rushia. “I made a complaint to the people that were on the street, nothing more.”
On Veterans Day, Lafayette said the donations from the coin drops, which were annually held on the Sunday of Memorial Day and Veterans Day, went to help fund several projects, including the charter for the Boy Scouts, maintaining the memorial wall, insurance for events, flags for deceased veterans and village flags, along with the Toys for Tots train, which will be in Whitehall on Dec. 5.
“That’s why these Legionnaires stood in the road, and, I’m sorry to say, hindered some,” said Lafayette.
Lafayette also said the Legion was more concerned with the situation itself than how it came about.
“We’re focused on the complaint and how that affects our members, not the complainant,” said Lafayette.