Blue Star mothers at odds

First Posted: 5/9/2008

LIMA - A local veteran support group has gone to court to prevent its supervising state and national groups from suspending its chapter.

Blue Star Mothers of America Inc. and its Ohio chapter informed the Lima Blue Star Mothers in an April 10 letter its chapter was suspended for holding an illegal election and ongoing financial problems. Local members dispute the allegations and have sought help from the court to keep the benefits of membership while the dispute is worked out.

The local group gained a temporary order against the suspension last week, and Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Reed extended it Friday for 14 days.

Blue Star Mothers of America, a national nonprofit group whose members have or had children serving in the military, dates back to 1942. Congress chartered the group in 1960.

The larger organizations believe Reed, or any court, has no jurisdiction in the dispute, said Michael Rumer, attorney for the Ohio and national Blue Star groups.

Courts have consistently ruled they have no role in matters involving private voluntary associations, Rumer said. Such private groups organize themselves through bylaws and charters.

"If you don't want to follow those, so be it," Rumer said, "Just don't use the national group's name."

Lawrence Huffman, attorney for the local Blue Star Mothers, said his clients needed the court to intervene because they would have suffered harm before the full merits of the case could be heard.

The extension of the court order allows the local group to continue using their chapter name in activities such as volunteering at a local food pantry and marching in the Memorial Day Parade.

Reed plans to rule on the jurisdiction question next week.

In 2005, the local and national chapter had a dispute about whether the local group was running a food pantry without proper tax documentation.

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