The American Legion will celebrate on March 15-17, the anniversary of its creation in 1919 in Paris by GI’s awaiting repatriation home after winning WWI. It is now the largest wartime veterans organization in the world with some 2.4-million members in more than 14,000 Posts. The American Legionnaires have brought honor to themselves and to the Legion by their service to America in war and in peace through its many programs fulfilling the Legion’s Four Pillars of service to national defense; to veterans; to traditional American values, and to children and youth. (See the American Legion’s many programs at www.Legion.org.)
But that honor of the Legion and its millions of members who contribute so much to the nation, is at risk of being unfairly sullied and tainted by two defining, and linked, controversies –or scandals– in the Department of California:
The unremedied corruption of Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen; and the knowing appointment of a convicted child sexual molester to top position in the Sons of the American Legion, a children and youth program of the Legion.
Unremedied Corruption of Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen
One defining controversy is the failure to remedy the now admitted corrupt acts of one of its highest officers, Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen, in his relations with the corrupt Vantage Marketing, a firm which attempted to take over the Department’s lucrative fundraising contract.
The Department Executive Committee at its March, 2008, meeting, as a result of an investigation initiated by District 21, found Vantage Marketing guilty of “five years of unethical business practices,” using Thiesen as its agent, advocate, or lobbyist. Among other acts, Vantage offered a free “European Riverboat Cruise” for Thiesen and his wife, which Thiesen accepted, in whole or in part, valued at an estimated “$10,000,” each. The DEC found Thiesen had an undisclosed “conflict of interest” in his relations with Vanage.
The DEC banned Vantage Marketing from doing business with the Department for “ten years” as a remedy for its corruption. However, no remedy was imposed on Thiesen, then, or to date. No remedy has been imposed even though Thiesen, after four years of denials and evasions, finally pleaded guilty to two counts of “neglect of duty” in his relations with Vantage Marketing in a legally binding if politically-concocted and collusive so-called “Stipulated Settlement” engineered with Thiesen by then-Department Commander Mark Foxworthy, aided by Foxworthy’s Ass’t Judge Advocate John Bartos at the March, 2011, DEC meeting.
Thus, there is no question that Thiesen is guilty – he has pleaded guilty by stipulation. But no remedy has been imposed. Thiesen has not even been required to repay the more than $3,000 he received from the Department treasury for per diem and other claims while he was in a conflict of interest with Vantage Marketing.Therefore, Thiesen’s corruption is unremedied. That will continue to disgrace the Legion until remedied. It must be remedied as the problem with corruption is that it is corrupting. Like unremedied cancer in a human body, which begins with a single bad cell, unremedied corruption in an organizational body, corruption will spread, corrupt, and ultimately become fatal, even to a great organization like The American Legion.
Convicted Child Molester Is Adjutant Of Sons of the American Legion
The other, linked, defining controversy is the astounding fact that the Department of California has knowingly allowed, approved, and authorized a convicted child sexual molester, Chester L. Petty, 45, of Hemet, CA, to serve as the top appointed officer of the Sons of the American Legion (SAL), a children and youth program of the Legion.
This is astounding , in my opinion, in that as SAL Acting Adjutant, convicted sexual child molester Chester Petty has not only access to the children in the program, but he has also unsupervised access to the personal records of every minor in the program, i.e., the name, age, address, phone and/or social media contact information of every minor in the SAL program.
Equally astounding is the fact that the parents of the children in the SAL have not been informed by the Department that the adult SAL officer Chester L. Petty who has access to their children and to the records of their children as Acting Adjutant, is a convicted child sexual molester.
The risk of liability that this creates to Posts, Districts, Areas, and the Department itself, is enormous, in my opinion. In a recent case in Portland, OR, a jury ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay $2.5-million in compensatory damages, plus $18.5-million in punitive damages, for a total of $20-million on a claim by a former Boy Scout that he was molested (more than 20 years earlier) by a convicted child molester that the BSA allowed to serve as an adult supervisor of the boys without informing the parents that he was a convicted child molester. The facts are almost identical to the policy of the California Department under Past Department Commander Mark Foxworthy, his Ass’t Judge Advocate John Bartos (who is now the Judge Advocate), and Bruce Thiesen.
The True Facts About Chester L. Petty’s Child Molestation Convictions
Chester Petty is a non-veteran member of SAL who joined the San Jacinto Post 848 SAL by and through the service of his now late father. He did not disclose in seeking SAL membership, which is intended to serve children and youth, that he was a convicted sexual molester who is required to be registered on Megan’s List. Petty quickly sought election to higher office. He became Adjutant and then Commander of SAL Squadron 848. He was also active with the SAL Detachment, which is statewide, and at some point became the Ass’t Adjutant. Although not a businessman or otherwise employed, and reportedly on some form of (non-military) disability, Petty became active in the San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce by way of Post 848’s membership in the Chamber, and was elected president.
The Riverside Press Enterprise, a daily newspaper which covers all of Riverside County and parts of San Bernardino County, broke a story on Petty on September 24, 2010, reporting that “The San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce board president [Chester Petty] resigned Thursday at the request of the board’s president-elect after she confirmed that his name and photo are posted on the Megan’s Law Website for a child molestation conviction.” The Valley Chronicle published a similar story on Petty.
Although Petty immediately resigned from the Chamber, he refused to resign from the SAL, or to cooperate with Post 848’s efforts to investigate and determine the true facts. Petty responded to requests for him to provide information by having a lawyer send a letter to the Post 848 Commander and Judge Advocate threatening to sue them for “harassment” if they did not cease to try to investigate the facts. Petty threatened to sue also a retired Air Force Colonel in Florida who brought the Press-Enterprise story to the attention of the National SAL at Legion Headquarters.
Post 848 retained me. I responded to Petty’s attorney by demanding he cease his threats to sue the Post 848 officers and told him to sue me instead as I intended to investigate.
Petty had told some people then, and, I am informed, he has represented to a number of people since, that he really shouldn’t be on Megan’s list at all. He has claimed that all that happened was that he was attempting to help a co-worker at the hospital in Hawaii where he worked to deal with her recalcitrant teenage son. Petty has claimed that the boy became obstreperous and was attempting to attack his mother, and Petty merely pushed the boy in the chest to protect the mother. He claimed that was deemed an assault on the boy, resulting in him being required to register on Meghan’s List.
Petty Was Convicted Of Seven Counts Of Sexual Molestation Of A Minor
The truth is very different. According to certified court records I obtained from the State of Hawaii Criminal Court, Chester L. Petty was convicted by guilty plea on seven (7) counts of “sexual assault” on a boy of sixteen, in Case 2p101252 thru Case 2p1-011258. Petty first pleaded “not guilty” then changed his plea to guilty in all seven cases. He was sentenced to one-year-probation on condition that he register as a sex offender, undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation and comply with the recommendations of the psychologist. Among other things, he participated in a 12-step sex-addiction program.
The Minor And Mother Sued Chester Petty For Restraining Orders
Court records further prove that, far from protecting a woman from her violent son, that mother filed a civil action in Hawaii Family Court against Chester Petty for a restraining order protecting her son from Petty, as well as herself and the man with whom she lived. A temporary restraining order was granted, followed by a “protective order” protecting the boy and the mother from Petty following a hearing.
The records in that civil action, Carren Martin on behalf of Sean King vs. Chester L. Petty, Case2DA00-1-0429, include the declaration testimony of the boy Petty sexually molested. The boy was 16, small and slight. Petty is 5’10” And weighs over 300 pounds. The testimony of the boy against Petty is as follows (Petition for Temporary Restraining Order filed Sept. 21, 2000; page 2):
“ I lived with Chester from the ending of August 2000 until this last incident on September 15, 2000.
“On September 15, 2000 Chester pushed me over in my bed while I was asleep and pinned me down while rubbing my penis.
“September 14, 2000 Chester woke me up the same way as Sept. 15, 2000. Later that day, Chester put lotion on my penis area against my will.
“September 12, 2000 Chester demanded that I masturbate in front of him. I had to lie and tell him I already did in order to let him allow me to go to bed.
“September 11, 2000 Chester forced me to sit on the couch next to him by grabbing my arm and pulling me towards him. He told me to masturbate in front of him or else he would not let me sleep. Some time during this day, Chester forced me to kiss him on his lips by holding my head still.
“September 10, 2000 I refused to sleep with Chester in the same bed and he began to slam things around in the house.
“September 9, 2000 Chester would give me angry looks because I refused to sleep with him in his bed.
“I lived with Chester for not even a month and he has done this to me. He has forced me to walk around in my boxers or walk around naked. Whenever I did something he did not like, he would come up into my face and grab me. He has told me that everything I own (including my body parts) is his until I graduate. He calls me stupid on a daily basis and tells me ‘shut my hole’ when I say something he didn’t like. He has also told me, ‘If you ever run away, he’d put an electronic anklet on my ankle.’ In many of these incidents, I have pulled away, but Chester always pulls me back. His size alone intimidates me. I am asking this court to protect me from Chester.”
District 21 Acts To Protect Children Blocked By Foxworthy-Thiesen- Bartos
The facts set forth above are the true facts of Chester L. Petty, convicted child sexual molester who was the Ass’t Adjutant of the SAL children youth program and was approved and protected in that role by PDC Mark Foxworthy, his Ass’t Judge Advocate John Bartos, and Bruce Thiesen.
Petty is now the Acting Adjutant, with even greater powers over the children in the program, including complete unsupervised access to their persons and records. Current Commander Hugh Crooks has the authority to veto Petty’s promotion to Acting Adjutant. Crooks’ choice is to follow the lead of his Judge Advocate John Bartos, and protect the convicted child molester Chester Petty, as did Foxworthy and Thiesen, or to protect the children in the SAL and the Legion itself.
District 21 has made strenuous efforts to protect the children in the SAL from the risk of harm. Those efforts have been impeded by Foxworthy, Thiesen, and Bartos.
First, Post 848 of District 21, acted to terminate its relationship with Petty when he refused to cooperate with a reasonable investigation after the Press-Enterprise made public county-wide and farther that Petty is a registered sex-offender on Megan’s List. More particularly, the Executive Board of Post 848 requested Petty to meet with them to discuss the Press-Enterprise story and the facts. Petty flatly refused to meet with the Board, defying the Post’s request.
As the Post’s attorney, I contacted the then-Department Judge Advocate Charles Waters, who was John Bartos superior officer, Bartos being merely his assistant.
I discussed with JA Waters the facts and what were the rights of Post 848, or any Legion Post, in dealing with the SAL. Waters agreed that there are eight essential principles governing the relationship between a Post and the SAL. Essentially, a Post may terminate its relationship with any SAL member, or officer, or the entire SAL Squadron, in the sole discretion of the Post. There is no right to a trial, as there is if a Legionnaire is removed, because SAL is a program serving the Legion, not the other way around.
Based on the principles agreed upon by Department Judge Advocate Waters, the Executive Board, after Petty refused to meet with the Board, voted to suspend its relationship with him. He was sent a notice of that fact and that his privileges to be on the Post property or in the Post were terminated. JA Waters was informed of the action, and agreed it was the right of the Post to do so. Petty made no appeal.
However, without any contact or consultation with the Post, John Bartos, Assistant JA under JA Waters, independently wrote an opinion, apparently to or sought by then-Commander Foxworthy, and without attempting to get any information from the Post or me as its attorney, claiming that Post 848 had “mishandled the trial” and purportedly voiding it. In fact, there was no “trial” as none was required, as JA Waters, Bartos’ superior, had agreed.
It remains the position of District 21 position, based upon the “eight principles” governing the rights of Posts vis-à-vis the SAL Program, as agreed upon by the Department’s own duly appointed Judge Advocate Charles Waters, that a Post, or District, may in its sole discretion terminate its relations with any SAL Squadron or other unit, or any member, in the Post’s sole discretion. Period.
“District 21 “Zero Tolerance Resolution To Protect The Children”
To protect the children in the SAL and all other Legion children and youth programs, District 21 voted to adopt a “Zero Tolerance Resolution To Protect The Children,” which I drafted.
The “Zero Tolerance Resolution” affirms a policy of the District to protect the children from risk of harm by providing that convicted sexual molesters shall neither serve as adult officers of, nor participate in, the Legion’s children and youth programs. The “Zero Tolerance Resolution” was sent to the Department Adjutant to be voted upon by delegates at the 2011 Department of California Convention as to whether it should be accepted or rejected as the policy of the Department.
The process at convention is for a resolution to be submitted first to the Resolutions Assignment Committee, which assigns the resolution to an appropriate committee or commission for review. That reviewing committee presents the resolutions assigned to it to the convention delegates with motions to accept or reject each resolution. The decision on resolutions is then made by vote of the Convention, the highest authority and sovereign of The American Legion, not Legion officers.
The Department of California Constitution provides at Article 9, Section 8 that the powers of the Convention Resolutions Committee are extremely limited: “All resolutions shall first be presented to the Resolution Assignment Committee, which said committee shall classify and assign such resolutions to the several appropriate committees without recommendation.” (Emphasis supplied.)
Further, in 2008, the policy was established that after a resolution was assigned to a committee for review, the committee could not reject it for defect of form, or opposition to substance. Instead, the reviewing committee cannot kill a resolution in committee but must take it to the convention floor for a vote with a recommendation to adopt or to reject.
At the 2011 Department of California Convention, all the above were violated by the combined efforts of Foxworthy, Thiesen, and Bartos.
First, Foxworthy, as presiding officer, appointed Thiesen as Resolutions Committee Chairman, even though Thiesen only three months earlier had stipulated he was guilty of two counts of “neglect of duty” in his corrupt relations with the corrupt Vantage Marketing.
Bartos, without notice to District 21 or me as author of the resolution, wrote a memorandum of opinion to the Resolutions Committee urging them to reject the “Zero Tolerance Resolution,” although the Committee has no power to do so, but only the ability to “assign such resolutions to the several appropriate committees without recommendation.”
Thiesen, as Resolutions Committee chairman, citing Bartos’ memo urging rejection, then caused the “Zero Tolerance Resolution” to be rejected at the Resolutions Committee level, thus preventing the delegates from voting on it.
When objections were made by District 21from the floor, Foxworthy, as presiding officer, allowed the rejection to stand.
All of this was done in arrogant abuse of authority by Foxworthy-Thiesen-and Bartos in complete, indisputable violation of Article 9, Section 8 of the Department Constitution, and the policy adopted in 2008 forbidding committees to kill resolutions in committee and commanding that resolutions must be taken to the floor for vote.
Such is the depth to which American Legion democracy sank in the autocratic regime of PDC Mark Foxworthy, who is now seeking election as National Executive Committeeman as the “chosen one” of the corrupt PNC Bruce Thiesen, who is still acting as a shot–caller and power broker due to his connections to the National Legion hierarchy as a Past National Commander.
John Bartos Protects Convicted Child Molester, Threatens To Sue District 21
John Bartosso so full himself for being “a lawyer” that he has arrogantly attempted to arrogate onto himself grandiose powers through a series of misbegotten purported legal opinions constituting, in my opinion, naught but legalistic flatulence, brings to mind Shakespeare’s line “On what meat has this our Caesar fed that he has grown so great?”
under a non-existent California statute, such is the excellence of Bartos’ thought.
Bartos takes himself so utterly seriously as as a “lawyer” above mere mortal non-lawyers, that he not only authored the legal memo urging rejection of the District 21 “Zero Tolerance Resolution” by the Resolutions Committee which is so utterly in violation of Article 9, Section 8 (which he does not even mention in his woefully wrong legal opinion), he has exhaled other extraordinary legalistic flatulence in his efforts to shield the convicted sexual molester Chester Petty rather than protecting the children in the SAL from him, and the Posts from economic liability.
Among other things, Bartos’ has shockingly opined in his official JA capacity that non-lawyers who serve as Judge Advocates for Posts, Districts, etc., may be guilty of felony criminal conduct under California law.
Bartos also sent a letter to threatening to sue District 21 over its “Zero Tolerance Resolution” policy – under a Civil Code statute that does not exist.
Bartos apparently issued the threat to sue District 21 on his authority. There is nothing in his letter that his threat was authorized by th Department Commander or the DEC.
JA Bartos: Non-lawyer JA’s May Be Guilty Of Criminal Conduct
For example of Barto’s arrogance and emission of legalistic flatulence, in a letter responding to my complaint to the Department that Bartos usurped the authority of the Judge Advocate when he purported to author an opinion claiming Post 848 erred in terminating its relationship with Chester Petty, even though his superior, JA Waters, had agreed Post 848 acted properly, Bartos puffed himself up to pronounce that he, as a lawyer, was in a superior position to the officially appointed Department JA Waters, because he, Bartos, is a lawyer, while JA Waters, who holds as Ph.D, is not “a lawyer.”
Bartos then expressed the really shocking opinion that non-lawyers serving as Judge Advocates may be “committing a felony under California law,” i.e., practicing law without a license.
That is shocking since from its inception in 1919 to today the American Legion has required that every Post have a Judge Advocate. All but a few of the hundreds of thousands of Judge Advocates who have served have been non-lawyers. If Bartos’ opinion is other than the legalistic flatulence I believe it is, California would be bereft of Judge Advocates and all the non-lawyer JA’s currently serving are at risk. It is an utter arrogant absurdity by JA Bartos.
Bartos Threatens To Sue District 21 – Under A Non-Existent Civil Code Statute
For further example, Bartos wrote a demand letter to District 21 Commander Fred MacKenzie ordering him and District 21 to “cease and desist” enforcement of the “Zero Tolerance Resolution.” Bartos threateningly warned of possible civil lawsuits or “criminal charges under the provisions of California Civil Code §290.46(h)(2).”
This is perhaps the most illustrative if not illustrious example of the pompous lawyer Bartos’ legal excellence, or lack thereof. For, alas, “California Civil Code §290.46(h)(2)” cited by Bartos, does not in fact exist.
Conclusion – It Is Time Take A Stand Against Corruption
These two controversies – or scandals — are linked, in that the persons primarily responsible for the corruption of Thiesen going unremedied, i.e., Past Department Commander Mark Foxworthy (2010-2011), an autocratic, ambitious Legion Politician clinging to PNC Thiesen’s political coattails for National office, and Foxworthy’s appointed Ass’t Judge Advocate (now Judge Advocate), John Bartos, are also the persons, along with Thiesen, who are the most responsible for the convicted child molester Chester Petty being allowed to serve as Ass’t Adjutant of the SAL children and youth program and now Acting Adjutant, as set forth above.
Disrict 21, “Fighting District 21,” has played a leading role in fighting against the unremedied corruption of PNC Bruce Thiesen, and fighting against allowing convicted child sexual molesters to serve as officers or otherwise participate in the SAL or any other Legion children and youth program.
To date, despite calls from respected Legionnaires for the membership to “take a stand against corruption,” the Department has failed to remedy Thiesen’s corruption or to disallow convicted child molesters from serving as adult leaders or participating in children and youth programs. These efforts have been frustrated principally by PNC BruceThiesen, PDC Mark Foxworthy, and JA John Bartos.
Therefore, I urge all Legionnaires to respond to the call to take a stand against corruption and for the integrity of the American Legion Department of California . The soul of the California Legion is at stake.
Take a stand for the integrity of our American Legion: Demand that the corruption of PNC Bruce Thiesen be effectively remedied. Demand that the “Zero Tolerance Resolution To Protect Children” be handled in accordance with Article 9, Section 8 of the Department of California Constitution and be sent to the floor so that the delegates may vote on it at the Department of California Convention 2012.
FOR GOD AND COUNTRY FOREVER; SURRENDER TO TYRANNY—AND CORRUPT LEGION POLITICIANS – NEVER!
[Rees Lloyd, an Attorney, is a Life Member of American Legion Riverside Post 79, and a Past Commander of District 21 (Riverside County, California and a member of the Victoria Taft blogforce.]
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