By Tim Leeds
The trustees of the Eagles club in Havre has barred the auxiliary from the building in a dispute over rent, auxiliary members said today.
Claudia Viall, secretary for the auxiliary, said she received a letter from the trustees saying they'd decided June 20 that the men were taking over the kitchen and dining area at the club and all activities in them. She said the letter says the auxiliary owes rent to the club and has four months to make a payment of $2,400 in back rent.
"Basically, what has happened, the Aerie, the men, has banned the auxiliary from the kitchen and dining hall," she said.
Gerry Henderson, chairman of the board of trustees for the Eagles, confirmed that the trustees have banned the auxiliary from those facilities. He said the trustees told the Auxiliary two years ago that they had six months to pay their back rent, and that the auxiliary currently owes the Eagles $2,400.
Henderson said the issue is not a public matter and declined to comment further.
Auxiliary President Eleanor Mejie and other members said the auxiliary has never agreed to pay rent and was never presented with a formal agreement asking for rent.
Mejie said the group told the Eagles two years ago they didn't have money for rent, and that they don't have the money now. She said once bills are paid, the auxiliary will have $1,000 to stretch through the next four months.
Mejie said the short notice on the ban from the facilities has already caused problems with scheduled events. The auxiliary had a wedding reception scheduled this weekend at the club, and has plans as far ahead as the Eagles' zone meeting in Havre in September, which will include Eagles members from as far away as Lewistown. Now the auxiliary will not be able to cook for the event.
Mejie said she was given permission today to conduct the wedding reception this weekend.
"I can go in and cook, but I am being policed so that I don't take anything from the kitchen," she said. "Eagle Lodge has become prison."
Karan Evans, who had arranged the reception this weekend for her daughter Jennifer and Jennifer's husband, Francis Spring, said she and her husband, Bill, went down to the Eagles Club to talk about the situation.
"My problem with the whole thing is, I shouldn't have been involved in it at all," she said. "I feel they were obligated to the obligations they made and I shouldn't have been involved."
Auxiliary member Edna Hess said the Eagles have a provision in their bylaws allowing them to charge rent. Hess, who is a charter member from the auxiliary's founding in 1946, said no other Eagles group in the state charges their auxiliary rent. Hess, who served as the state auxiliary's secretary for 30 years, said she talked to Jim Davison, the men's state secretary, and he confirmed that.
"He think's it's just stupid," she said about the bill for past-due rent.
The auxiliary plans to hold a meeting July 11 to discuss what members will do about the situation.
"We decided we'll just sit back for a while, sit tight and see what happens," Hess said.
She said one option would be to call the grand lodge of Montana and ask for someone to come in and mediate the situation.
Viall said the Eagles are ignoring money the auxiliary has already put into the club. She said the aAuxiliary paid $6,000 for a new stove a few years ago, paid $1,000 to help pay for air conditioning, $1,300 for new dishes, and more.
Viall said they attended the Eagles meeting Wednesday night to discuss the matter, but only two of the trustees, Henderson and Don Brostrom, were there. Arnie Tyler and Miles Gillis, the other trustees, were not at the meeting.
Viall said it was made clear at the meeting Wednesday that the letter doesn't guarantee that the auxiliary can go back into the facilities if it does pay the back rent, although that was implied.
"At this point I don't trust anything," she said.
She said the decision was apparently made by the four trustees without consulting the Auxiliary or even the other members of the Eagles.
Viall said the public events the auxiliary holds at the club benefit the men's club as well. She said that while the auxiliary keeps all of the money for the dinners, the men keep any money spent in the bar.
"And believe me, for a wedding reception that's not a bad deal," she said.
Hess said they want to give the Eagles club some time to reconsider itsdecision to ban the women.
"They are so narrow-minded they can't see the asset the women are," she said. "The women are what's kept that lodge going."