Veteran says he was barred from club after filing complaint
ELYRIA — A Korean War veteran said he has been barred from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1079 on South Abbe Road after complaining to the state health department last month that the club was allowing its members to smoke in the building.
Richard Bungard, 75, served in an Army tank battalion in 1952 and 1953, but last month the lifetime VFW member was told to leave Post 1079 on two separate occasions, he said.
“It was during dance night on Friday, June 15. I walked in and Commander John Victor called me aside and he jumped all over me asking me if I had reported the post about the smoking ban,” Bungard said. “I told him that I had, and then he started yelling at me and told me that I was no longer a member.”
After the altercation, Bungard said he went to the bar to try and order a Pepsi and was told by the bartender that she could not serve him because he wasn’t a member.
“I was really angry, so I did yell at her and I got upset, but it was just so ridiculous,” Bungard said. “I’ve been a member at that post for 36 years, and they are going to throw me out because I was obeying the law?”
On Friday, Victor said Bungard was overreacting and that he had only been suspended for 30 days because he yelled at a bartender. When asked why Bungard yelled at the bartender, Victor said he did not know.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t there,” Victor said, before saying that no one had any business looking into the way he runs his club and hanging up. Victor did not respond when he was asked if the club was allowing members to smoke at this time.
National VFW spokesman Jerry Newberry said local clubs are allowed to run fairly autonomously but that suspensions from the club need to go through the state and national headquarters and that there is no documentation on Bungard.
State Quartermaster Robert Funk said, however, that Bungard likely had been banned only from the local VFW canteen, over which the state department does not have jurisdiction. That’s not the message Bungard said he received, however.
“He didn’t say anything about a suspension or anything like that,” Bungard said. “He told me I wasn’t allowed there at all and that I couldn’t come back and not just the canteen. I’m not allowed to any events period.”
The state law passed in November banning smoking in public places includes a portion on retaliation, according to Jay Carey, a spokesman for the State Health Department. If the club is found to have retaliated against Bungard, it could face up to a $1,000 fine.
David Oakes, environmental health director for the Elyria Health Department, said he sent out a notice of violation to the club this week concerning the alleged retaliation and continued smoking. He said his department will follow up on the investigation.
That might not be enough for Bungard, however, who said if the matter is not completely resolved soon, he might look to file a suit against the post.
“I want John Victor to stop lying about what happened. I want to be back in the VFW. I want them to stop smoking and I want Victor removed from office,” Bungard said. “This is a disgrace.”
Contact Joe Medici at 329-7152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bruce Bishop / Chronicle
Richard Bungard, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1079 in Elyria, is in a dispute with the club.