Attorney Rees Lloyd
April 4, 2012
There has been a positive step taken, even if much-delayed and incomplete, in the scandal involving a convicted child sexual molester serving as a high ranking appointed officer in a California American Legion children and youth program, about which NewsWithViews.com has reported. (See, my columns of March 15 and 25, 2012; also available at Facebook/Rees Lloyd Law.)
Convicted child sexual molester Chester L. Petty, 45, of Hemet, CA, has been ordered removed as Ass't Adjutant of the statewide California Sons of the American Legion (SAL), a children and youth program of the Legion, by order of Hugh Crooks, the current Commander of the American Legion Department of California.
Crooks' order is contained in a letter on Department of California American Legion letterhead dated March 27, 2012, and served on the SAL Commander on March 28. It removes Petty from all offices in the SAL Detachment, and, among other things bars Petty from any further access to the records of the children enrolled in the SAL program.
I am informed that the SAL leadership is complying, albeit reluctantly, with the direct order of t he Legion Commander to remove Petty, although that leadership has been recalcitrant in removing Petty, even to the point of allegedly informing the Legion Department that Petty had resigned when he had not. (See, my NewsWithViews.com column of March 25, 2012.)
The Commander's order does not remove Petty as a member of the SAL, but only as an officer.I am informed that Petty has continued to refuse to resign from the Legion children and youth program, but he is no longer a member in good standing of any Post's SAL Squadron. Therefore, for that reason alone, he may no longer have the right to hold any office at any level of the SAL, participate in any Post's SAL or other children and youth program activities, or even wear the SAL uniform cap or other regalia, unless and until he is accepted into some Post's SAL Squadron.
Petty is a non-veteran who pleaded guilty to seven (7) counts of sexual molest of a 16-year-old boy in Hawaii, according to public records from the State of Hawaii Criminal Court, Second Circuit District Court in Case No.'s 2p101252 thru Case 2p1011258.
The Hawaii Civil Court imposed restraining and protective orders on Petty in a civil action brought against him by the boy and his mother in Carren Martin on behalf of Sean King vs. Chester L. Petty, Case 2DA00-1-0429, according to court records, which include the declaration testimony of the boy as to what was done to him by the 5' 10," 320-pound Petty.
As part of his plea-bargained sentence upon pleading guilty to seven criminal sexual assaults on a minor, Petty was ordered to register as a sexual child molester on Megan's List. He is on the California Megan's List.
The internal Legion controversy over convicted child molesters being allowed to serve as officers in a Legion children and youth program has gone on with increasing intensity ever since the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the largest countywide daily newspaper in Riverside County (population 2.7-million), publicly revealed that Petty was a convicted sexual molester on the California Megan's List on September 24, 2010. (See for that story: www.PE.com, archives, "Chester Petty; or Facebook/Rees Lloyd Law.)
Petty had joined the San Jacinto Post 848 SAL Squadron as an adult in 2009 without making the required disclosure to Post 848 that he was registered on Megan's List. After the Riverside Press Enterprise, followed by the Valley Chronicle (on Oct. 1, 2010), made Petty's status as a convicted child molester on Megan's List a matter of public knowledge, Petty made false statements to a number of people as to why he was on Megan's list, saying that all he did was push the boy in the chest trying to protect the mother from attack by the boy.
However, Petty otherwise refused to cooperate with Post 848's efforts to investigate the facts pertaining to the Press Enterprise news report. Instead, Petty had a lawyer send a letter threatening to sue the Post 848 Judge Advocate and Commander for harassment if they did not cease to investigate. (Post 848 retained me and I responded to the threat by inviting him to sue me, as I intended to fully investigate.)
When Petty refused to meet with the Post 848 Executive Committee, the Post, by vote of the membership, after consultation with and agreement by the then Department Judge Advocate Charles Waters that the Post had a right to do so in its sole discretion, severed its relationship with Petty and withdrew his privileges to be in the Post or on its property, in order to protect the children.
Post 848, along with Riverside Post 79 and Temecula-Murrieta Post 852, and ultimately District 21 by vote of delegates representing some 6,000 members in 22 Posts in Riverside County, in order to protect the children in their children and youth programs, adopted the Zero Tolerance Resolution To Protect Children.
The Zero Tolerance Resolution establishes as the policy of each Post, District, or Department that adopts it, that no convicted child molester shall be allowed, approved, or authorized to serve as an officer or otherwise participate in an American Legion children and youth program. Post 848, and then District 21, also called upon the Department to remove Petty from his position as Assistant Adjutant of the SAL Detachment.
However, under Department Commander Mark Foxworthy, who was elected in June 2010 to serve until the end of the June 2011 Convention, and Foxworthy's appointed Assistant Judge Advocate (now JA) immigration lawyer John Bartos, and the politically-connected but now admittedly corrupt Past National Commander Bruce Thiesen, the Department not only did not aid the Posts and District and respond positively to Post 848's and District 21's call for action, they reacted negatively, even threatening to sue Post 848 and District 21. (As to PNC Thiesen's admitted but unremedied corruption, and the Thiesen-Foxworthy-Bartos actions against Post 848 and District 21, see my columns on NewsWithViews.com of March 15 and 25 , 2012; available at Facebook/Rees Lloyd Law.)
More particularly, as the internal controversy intensified, Bartos, although only Foxworthy's appointed Ass't JA, without notice to Post 848 or me as its attorney, issued a purported legal opinion, apparently to Foxworthy, that Post 848 acted wrongly in terminating its relationship with Petty for dishonesty regarding his status on Megan's list. (I state this upon information and belief because Bartos has refused my request for a copy as attorney for Post 848. To date, I have never seen it. Bartos informed me he considered it privileged because he wrote it for Foxworthy.)
Bartos did this even though the Post 848's action terminating its relationship with Petty was approved in advance by Bartos' superior, Department Judge Advocate Charles Waters. Further, Waters later confirmed to me that he did not know his subordinate Bartos had written such an opinion, had not been consulted, and did not approve or authorize any action to be taken by Bartos pertaining to the Petty matter.
Bartos, for whose acts Foxworthy is ultimately responsible and culpable, also wrote a letter to District 21 Commander Fred MacKensie threatening that if District 21 did not cease to enforce the Zero Tolerance Resolution, District 21 could be sued civilly or prosecuted criminally. Bartos erroneously cited as a basis for such suit or prosecution a California "Civil Code" (sic) section which does not in fact exist. (District 21 has declined to knee-bend to lawyer Bartos' diktat, as pompous as it is inept.)
The controversy intensified further when Thiesen-Foxworthy-and Bartos, combined to wrongfully kill Disrict 21's "Zero Tolerance Resolution" in the Resolutions Committee at the 2011 California Convention. Thiesen chaired the committee as Foxwrothy's appointee. Bartos issued another inept purported legal opinion as Foxworthy's Ass't JA, urging the Resolution be killed in committee.
Thiesen-Foxworthy- and Bartos, thus, prevented the Zero Tolerance Resolution from going to the floor for a vote by the delegates. This they did in blatant violation of the Department's own Constitution, Art. 9, Section 8. It commands that the Resolutions Committee has authority only to assign resolutions to appropriate commissions for review "without recommendation."
Thus a policy of allowing, approving, and authorizing convicted child molesters to serve as officers or otherwise participate in California children and youth programs was established and maintained as de facto Department policy by Thiesen, Foxworthy, and Bartos, who combined to block reversal or repudiation of that policy by depriving Legion members of the right to on it.
The ongoing internal controversy escalated dramatically on or about January 14, 2012, when Petty sent out a notice by e-mail that he had been promoted to the position of Acting Adjutant by the SAL program Commander Robert Ortega, upon the resignation of then-Adjutant Don Bedell.
Don Bedell, technically Petty's former superior as SAL Adjutant, is a former Commander of the District 21 SAL. He is the brother of Robert Bedell, who has been the high-ranking California SAL representative to National SAL offices and positions. Both of the Bedells, along with Mark Severance, also a longtime, high ranking SAL officer at the California and National levels, have from the beginning opposed Legion District 21's actions and strongly supported the convicted child molester Petty to serve as Ass't or Acting Adjutant with access to the childrens records without notice to their parents. They have also supported the policy which has authorized Petty to represent the California SAL at National Conventions and National Meetings involving children and youth, without disclosure to other participants that Petty is a convicted child molester.
These acts and policies of the SAL leaders in California disgrace not only themselves and the SAL, but the Legion which the SAL exists to serve and support, not the other way around.
"We Lead By Example," the proud slogan of the SAL, is rendered an ironic and ludicrous absurdity by the scandal the SAL leaders – aided and abetted by Thiesen-Foxworthy-and Bartos -- have created by foisting on the children of the SAL children and youth program, and their unsuspecting parents, a convicted child molester.
As Acting Adjutant, the highest appointed office in the SAL, convicted child molester Petty would no longer be subject even to the nominal supervision of his longtime supporter Don Bedell. Instead, Petty, would have unfettered access in his sole discretion not only to the children in Posts statewide, but access to the personal records of every child in the state enrolled in the SAL Program.
Therefore, at that point, with all efforts at internal reform blocked by Thiesen-Foxworthy-and Bartos, who protected Petty, the controversy exploded, and became public for the first time since the Riverside Press-Enterprise revelations of Sept. 24, 2012, by publication of my columns on NewsWithViews.com on March15, and March25, 2012. (Facebook/Rees Lloyd Law)
The Thiesen-Foxworthy-Bartos policy of allowing, approving, and authorizing convicted child sexual molesters to serve as officers or otherwise participate in California Legion children and youth programs still remains in effect, but there are some positive developments.
First, District 21 Commander Fred MacKenzie authored a "No Confidence Motion in Bruce Thiesen, Mark Foxworthy," due to the Thiesen-Foxworthy-Bartos policy allowing and protecting convicted child molesters in the SAL. District 21 delegates voted to adopt the No Confidence Motion. MacKenzie served the motion on the Department just before the Department Executive Committee meeting of March 9-11, 2012. Although not acted upon at the DEC, it remains viable.
At that meeting, the DEC, primarily because of the efforts of District 21 Commander Fred MacKenzie, did vote unanimously that District 21's Zero Tolerance Resolution must be sent to the floor for vote by delegates at the 2012 Convention in June. This repudiates the actions of Thiesen-Foxworthy-and Bartos in blocking a delegate vote in violation of California Constitution Art. 9, Sec. 8. at the 2011 Convention, as described above.
Now, Department Commander Hugh Crooks has issued an order removing Petty as Ass't Adjutant and other offices in the SAL by his letter dated March 27, 2012.
As a life member of Riverside Post 79, a Past Commander of District 21, and author of the "Zero Tolerance Resolution To Protect Children," I am gratified that California Legion Commander Hugh Crooks has issued an order removing convicted child sexual molester Chester L. Petty from his offices in the SAL children and youth program. It is a positive step and I commend him for it.
I view the action as an important step, even if partial and long delayed, toward reversing and repudiating the misbegotten and God forsaken policy of Thiesen-Foxworthy-and Bartos to allow, approve, and authorize convicted child sexual molesters to serve as officers or otherwise participate as officers in our California American Legion children and youth programs—and to do so without notifying the parents of the children.
Every member of the California Legion, and the National Legion, should be aware of the fact that the Thiesen-Foxworthy-Bartos policy is almost exactly identical to the case in Oregon in which a $20-million judgment was rendered against the Boy Scouts of America for knowingly allowing a convicted child sexual molester to work with the boys—without notice to their parents. The jury awarded the 37-yyear-old plaintiff, who claimed he was groped when he was 11, $2.7-million in compensatory damages, and $18.5-million in punitive damages -- because the BSA didn't notify the parents.
It must be recognized that the Thiesen-Foxworthy-Bartos policy of authorizing adult convicted child sexual molesters to hold office or otherwise participate in the SAL children and youth program is a dangerous as well as disgraceful precedent. It must be reversed and repudiated.
Therefore, the effort to protect children in our Legion from harm -- and Posts, Districts, and the Department from liability for that harm -- must continue. It is my hope that at the California Department Convention in June, that the delegates will vote to adopt our District 21 Zero Tolerance Resolution To Protect Children, which would end this problem once and for all by establishing as Department policy that convicted child sexual molesters shall not be authorized to serve as officers or otherwise participate in our children and youth programs. Ultimately, that resolution should be adopted officially as National American Legion policy, even if it has been the de facto policy throughout American Legion history until California's adoption in practice of the contrary Thiesen-Foxworthy-Bartos policy.
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The mission of our Legion children and youth programs is to serve the needs of children and youth, and their parents. Period. The mission is not to serve the needs or wants of adults convicted of criminal sexual assaults on children and youth-- no matter how nice and charming those convicted child molesters may appear to be (how do you think they attract children in the first place?); no matter how helpful and efficient they may be at clerical or other duties when there is a dearth of volunteers or talent; nor how politically connected those convicted child molesters may be to Legion or SAL politicians in high places, including National officers.
Edmund Burke famously said centuries ago that: "All that is is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent and do nothing."
Burke's words reach us across the centuries. Honorable California Legionnaires need to stand up against, speak out against, and act to reverse and repudiate the despicable policy of Thiesen-Foxworthy-and Bartos to inflict convicted child sexual molesters on our children, and to demand adoption of the Zero Tolerance Resolution To Protect Children at the 2012 California Convention in June, which would end this disgrace once and for all.
1- Convicted Child Molester Case in California Legion Youth Program Deepens, 3-25-12
2- Corruption, Convicted Child Molesters, In California Legion, 3-13-12
© 2012 Rees Lloyd - All Rights Reserved
REES LLOYD is a longtime civil rights attorney and veterans activist whose work has been honored by, among others, the California Senate and Assembly, and numerous civil rights, workers rights, and veterans rights organizations. He has testified as a constitutional expert at hearings before the U.S. House and Senate representing The American Legion.
He has been profiled, and his work featured, by such varied print media as the Los Angeles Times and American Legion Magazine, and such broadcast media as ABC's Nightline and 20/20, Fox News In The Morning, and, among others, by Hannity. His writings have appeared in a variety of national, regional, and local newspaper, magazine, and other publications. He is a frequent radio commentator, and a sought after speaker.*
[*For identification only. The views expressed here are solely Rees Lloyd's and not necessarily any person, entity or organization he may otherwise represent. ]