The only remaining VFW post in the Glove Cities will close its doors immediately, following a membership vote Wednesday night.
The Gloversville post must close because it is insolvent, a legacy of its former treasurer and commander, said current Commander Kevin Jones. “Everybody is sad. The truth of the matter is, financially, we could not continue to function any longer,” he said.
Jones said the post owes in excess of $50,000. “We can’t pay that off,” he said.
The post, which numbers about 200 members, will transfer its membership to VFW Post 8690 in Broadalbin, the next nearest post. It will also sell the headquarters at 20 Third Ave. and its contents, perhaps at auction, he said.
“We may well have to declare bankruptcy,” he said.
About 25 members attended Wednesday night’s meeting. Jones said the vote to close required a two-thirds majority of those present. Jones said the meeting as “very emotional,” and added: “We had a number of guys there who signed the original charter when it was created after World War II.”
The Gloversville and Broadalbin VFW posts were the last ones remaining in the county. The Johnstown VFW post consolidated with the Gloversville post several years ago.
The decision was painful, especially for longtime members such as Paul Downing, 82. The Korean War veteran literally helped build the post, laying bricks for its foundation decades ago.
Reached at his home Thursday, Downing said: “I was involved with the post. I was part of building it. We had the good people in there and a lot of bad people.”
The “bad” ran the post into the ground financially.
The post’s troubles stem from actions by former Treasurer and Commander Ralph VanAlstyne Sr. He pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny in Fulton County Court last November, admitting to stealing more than $70,000 from the local VFW’s bell jar gambling operations. He also pleaded guilty to two additional grand larceny charges in the same court appearance for stealing from two other Gloversville organizations with which he was affiliated: the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 122, from which he stole $65,679, and the American Legion Harold Wilmont Post 137, from which he stole $50,917.
His pleas were in full satisfaction of a 14-count indictment alleging that he stole at least $200,000 from the three organizations between January 2005 and December 2008.
VanAlstyne could have faced 15 years in prison on the most serious count if convicted. Instead, he will serve two to six years in state prison under the plea agreement.
He is eligible for parole in June 2013.
None of the money has been recovered. Authorities said VanAlstyne liquidated many of the assets and a lot of it went to third parties. He also spent it on himself and his family, officials said. Authorities have placed a $36,000 lien on the 11 Almond St. home VanAlstyne once owned. He transferred its title several years ago to his daughter.
Jones said the VFW post has records that show VanAlstyne deposited nearly $20,000 of VFW money into his own account and that he cashed about $80,000 in VFW money in checks under his own signature.
The VFW post is suing NBT Bank, which held the accounts, for violating the account holder’s agreement by allowing VanAlstyne to cash checks without two signatures, as was required. The bank denies wrongdoing.
VanAlstyne is supposed to pay $400 to $500 per month to the organizations after he is released from prison. Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira has said she does not expect VanAlstyne to make restitution anytime soon and she encouraged the three organizations to purse civil remedies.
Jones said that despite being a nonprofit, the post has to pay bills like any other business. It operated games of chance and had to pay fees to the state Racing and Wagering Board; it was subject to sales tax for its canteen; and it had to pay workers’ compensation insurance for its volunteers.
Under VanAlstyne’s tenure, the post did not pay its bills to state agencies and others, subjecting the post to numerous fines and penalties.
“The same guy who took the money did not pay any of the bills,” Jones said.