Police Investigate Possible Financial Malfeasance at Elks Club

  • Pam Goude deals out pop open cards at 50 cents a piece to Mark Eisener at the Elks Club bar in Lebanon, N.H. Friday, April 7, 2017. "This is our livelihood," said Goude of the tickets which raise money alongside alcohol sales at the club. The club is facing financial trouble after some funds have gone missing. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon Police are investigating an alleged misuse of funds at the Lebanon Elks Club which makes its home in a former dairy barn on Heater Road in Lebanon, N.H., Friday, April 7, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ron Clogston, of Wilder, sits at the Elks Club bar in Lebanon, N.H., Friday, April 7, 2017. "Since I quit drinking I just com in, have a soda, open a few tickets then leave," said Clogston. The club was founded in 1959 and now may faces financial trouble as Lebanon Police investigate the loss of funds in a possible theft or fraud. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, April 07, 2017

Lebanon — The Lebanon Police Department is investigating a suspected misuse of funds at the Lebanon Elks Club, and the lodge itself is trying to figure out just how dire its financial situation is.

Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello said the Elks reported the situation to police in February and his department launched an investigation into “the loss of monies from the Elks and what seems to be a theft or fraud-type situation.”

Mello declined to further comment on the investigation other than to acknowledge that charges may be filed.

Meanwhile, the Elks are trying to get a full understanding of their finances, according to the March newsletter published on the club’s website.

“We continue to work diligently to understand and investigate the complete impact of our financial state,” Exalted Ruler Scott Merrihew said in the newsletter. “In an attempt to prevent rumors and misinformation, it has been determined that, at this time, it would be inappropriate to reveal our financial information until a full investigation has been completed.”

Merrihew asked for patience.

“It is our full intention to reveal all information to our members at a time when we feel we have a full financial picture,” he continued.

A message left for Merrihew on Friday wasn’t returned, but member Tom Dupree said many people involved are upset by the situation.

The Elks have operated out of a big red barn off Heater Road in Lebanon since 1959.

It would be a shame if the club’s financial situation forced it to lose the longtime meeting space, said Dupree, a former board member and trustee.

“If you saw the founding fathers, they were all great Lebanon businessmen and people. There is a lot of history in that building,” said Dupree, who has been a member for more than 30 years.

Dupree declined to comment on the specifics of the financial situation, but said it isn’t a secret that the club hasn’t paid its taxes and met other obligations for a few years.

Lebanon Tax Collector Susan McBain said the club owes $291,900 in taxes and fees since 2013. Three separate liens have been placed on the property.

The Elks property is valued at $2.6 million, according to Lebanon assessing records.

The Elks generate revenue from membership dues and costs associated with renting out the hall. They also sellpull-tabs and hold fundraisers, among other things.

If the Elks were forced to vacate their building, the loss to the community would be “tremendous,” Dupree said.

“It would change the whole landscape of what is over there (on Heater Road) and the things that we do,” Dupree said. “We do a lot of things for the community.”

Elks Chaplain Pam Goude, who was bartending at the lodge on Friday afternoon, struggled for words when asked what the club would do if it lost its building. 

“We’d about cry,” said Goude, who has worked at the lodge since 2006, and on and off before that.

The club has provided a meeting space for several different groups for decades, and has held Christmas parties and fundraisers for such groups as senior citizens and veterans.

Later this month, Lebanon High School will use the building as a shelter for an evacuation drill, Goude said.

The lodge has two main floors. The first is primarily for members and includes a bar, game tables and a function room. The second floor provides a banquet space that often is rented out by the public for weddings, parties and conferences.

The lodge currently has about 560 members, an amount that increased when Hartford’s lodge closed in 2015, Goude said.

Lodge Secretary Brian Ryea Sr. also was at the lodge on Friday afternoon. He said closing would be tough on a lot of people.

“I don’t want to lose this place,” Ryea said. “My hope is we aren’t going to.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.