January 25, 2020

Lawsuit Involving Essex Veterans Memorial Hall is Withdrawn

ESSEX— A lawsuit against the Essex Veterans Memorial Hall Inc. that was filed last December has been withdrawn after a Middlesex Superior Court judge held settlement conferences with the parties. The lawsuit filed by local lawyer Michael Peck included the town because the town remains a fall back owner of the Essex Veterans Memorial Hall property located in the Centerbrook section.

Peck, a veteran and Chester resident, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Michael Bergeron, a town resident who is a Gulf War veteran. Peck claimed in the suit that Begeron had been improperly banned from the property, including a club area where alcoholic beverages are sold, and from local veterans activities. The lawsuit also claimed Essex Veterans Memorial Hall Inc. had lost, and never regained, its status as a non-profit tax exempt organization, and that a majority of the EVM club members are no longer U.S. military veterans.

The town-owned property was donated to returning World War II veterans in 1946 for use as a meeting hall for local veterans organizations. The building has served as a meeting hall for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and occasionally other veterans organizations for more than 60 years. The separate club has been in operation during this time for sale of alcoholic beverages to members and their guests.

Peck said this week he withdrew the lawsuit at the end of July after three settlement conferences directed by Middlesex Superior Court Judge Edward Domnarski, who is an Essex resident. Also participating in the sessions was Richard Palladino, an Old Saybrook lawyer retained by EVM Inc. in response to the lawsuit. Peck said town attorney David Royston declined to participate in the sessions.

Peck said the settlement did not result in reinstatement of Bergeron as a club member, but did clarify the legal status of the property and various procedures that are required of EVM Inc.. as a tax exempt not-profit veterans organization. He said EVM Inc. has regained its 501C18 status as a tax exempt organization, and has also  pledged to strive to ensure that at least 75 percent of club members are veterans.

After a review by the state Liquor Control Commission, the EVM club retains its liquor license. The club is planning its annual Pig Roast, which is open to the public, for Saturday Sept. 13.

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