How the American Legion fell into debt

Published 6:35 am Sunday, May 20, 2012

Column: Guest Column, by Roger Bakken

As much of the public is aware, American Legion Post 56 is in financial difficulty. The Post this year has initiated a fundraising campaign to help regain solvency. Some community members have asked for more details on the post’s activities as we attempt to get out of debt.

Management of Post 56 has been an issue for a number of years dating back to the mid-1980s. Taxes were not paid, gambling funds were paid improperly, and the post had to take out a loan for $90,000 in 2002-03 to cover these shortfalls.

Roger Bakken

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Mismanagement is the most significant reason for our current situation. In 2008, business started to increase with many new initiatives, but taxes were not being paid. In 2011, it was discovered by the Post 56 board that $12,500 in taxes were owed to the state for unemployment tax.

Furthermore, the post owes approximately $120,000 in back taxes and late fees to the federal government dating back to 2008. Since discovery of the tax situation in 2011, the post has remained current in taxes that it owes all government entities and has worked out a plan to pay the state government back.

Unfortunately, Post 56 does not have enough of a reserve fund to pay the federal back taxes, so we are attempting to raise money to pay off current operating debt to free up cash to pay those taxes.

People remain cautious about supporting the Legion because of our management history. It is important to know that Post 56 has new management to include a bookkeeper. We also have retained an accounting firm as an auditor, and we have also arranged for a business consultant to donate his services to study our financials and recommend best practices moving forward. One way to support the Legion is to attend its breakfasts on the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

Post 56 has served the community of Albert Lea for 93 years. Currently Post 56 has 863 members. Post 56 supports the community through funding Camp Legionville, post-prom events, American Legion Baseball, Albert Lea Figure Skating and assists in various other local fundraisers. Moreover, local organizations use the event center within the American Legion for meetings, banquets and fundraisers for minimal cost. The Legion and our building are significant assets to this community.

We would like to thank the community for its support and understanding and hope you consider attending the Armed Forces Day open house today at the American Legion Club at 142 N. Broadway. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be special brat tasting, display of several service uniforms, food for sale and silent auction items. BP will have a car wash at both locations with proceeds going to Post 56.


Roger Bakken is the commander of American Legion Post 56.