Newport Beach yacht club describes “hostile takeover” by former partner and kicks off legal battle to cease illegal suspension of facility uses and asset seizure.
NEWPORT BEACH — After several disagreements between American Legion Yacht Club (ALYC) and American Legion Post 291 in Newport Harbor erupted, the boating organization has decided to press charges. Before the dispute began, ALYC and Post 291 had formed a partnership for 52 years.
ALYC currently does not have a home due to a suspension ordered by Post 291, which has stripped the club of using any of Post 291’s facilities until further notice or ALYC complies with new bylaws. Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club allowed ALYC to use their facilities for a general meeting on Oct. 11. Members were brought up to date on the ongoing dispute with Post 291 at this time.
In a newsletter release by ALYC on Oct. 22, it states: “After the briefing many members took the opportunity to ask questions and express opinions. One of the resolution options presented was to engage an attorney to pursue legal action against the Post. This option appealed to most of the members, and after further discussion, a Flag Member made a motion to hire an attorney as soon as possible, which was seconded, and the vote was nearly unanimous, with only two members voting against the motion.”
Conflict Breaks Out
A timeline of the events was posted by ALYC on their official website that indicates the final divide was a few years in the making. ALYC makes a note on the document that “all dates are approximate.”
The event that seemed to head off the dispute occurred in August or September 2017 when ALYC purchased a 40-foot trawler to use as a race committee boat during regattas. A Post 291 executive board member approached Commodore Mike Berdine to ask when ALYC would gain permission for the purchase.
The timeline, in an entry dated for Oct. 2017, states: “Post 291 Executive Board asks then Commodore, Mike Berdine, when he was going to get their approval for the purchase of this Committee Boat. He responded that ALYC was a separate corporation and didn’t need Post 291 [‘s] approval. Commodore Berdine then followed up his statements with an email detailing his position with supporting information and documentation. This statement and email seems to have angered some members of the Post 291 Executive Board and apparently they decided that the yacht club needed to be controlled.”
Between November 2017 and April 2018, there were a series of meetings regarding bylaws and articles of incorporation. ALYC claims Post 291 said there were “many problems” with ALYC’s bylaws and the use of American Legion as a name.
A turning point came in May 2018 when it appeared both parties agreed “to set aside the past and to ‘work together’ in drafting a new set of ALYC bylaws.” However, the cooperation does not last long as, according to ALYC’s timeline. Judge Advocate Wright says “he is going to ‘write them for us and we weren’t going to like them.’”
In September, Judge Advocate Wright releases the newly drafted ALYC bylaws to Post 291 and ALYC argues that at no time was any input taken from ALYC’s board members. The draft is passed unanimously by Post 291. ALYC, in conflict, states they will not abide by the new bylaws and Post 291 makes the decision to suspend ALYC. Shortly afterwards, all ALYC sailboats are locked to the dock by Post 291 and all meetings are cancelled.
As a result, a sailing event by Women’s Sailing Association of Orange County was cancelled. Several more attempts were made by ALYC to resolve the dispute. During a board meeting that took place on Oct. 15, a decision is made to retain legal counsel.
Details of the Lawsuit
Berdine e-mailed The Log a statement, on Oct. 25, announcing ALYC may file a lawsuit against Post 291.
The release states, “The American Legion Yacht Club of Newport Beach has begun legal action against their former partner and host facility, Newport Harbor Post 291 of the American Legion, as they seek relie from a dispute that began September 6 when they were locked out of their facility and assets by Post 291.”
Post 291’s actions are described as a “hostile takeover” by ALYC in the release.
Commodore Doug Green of ALYC states, “The Post 291 executive board write new bylaws, passed them, and just told us we had to accept them as a program of the post. However, we are more than a program. We have been a partner for over 50 years, not only promoting yacht activities for our military veteran members and their families, but also extending this spirit for service and love for the sea through our many civic activities in the greater Newport Beach and Southern California.”
Green continues, “We may lack facilities, but the heart of this club is strong, and we will continue our activities this fall and into next year unimpeded.”
According to an unnamed source, Post 291 has been quiet about the dispute. The Log reached out to Post 291 for commentary, but they were unable to be reached by print time.
The latest information and updates by ALYC can be found at alyc.com.
Photo: American Legion