By Danny Schrafel
Huntington councilwoman Susan Berland has reignited controversy that surrounded Northport-based Cow Harbor Warriors in recent years. Citing new county legislation that requires financial disclosure by veterans organizations raising funds in Suffolk, Berland abstained from a vote Tuesday to grant the group permission to use a Town park for a fundraising event, stating she will not support the veterans organization until it turns over financial documents required by that law.
Cow Harbor Warriors president Don McKay maintains his group is following all aspects of the county’s fundraising laws pertaining to veterans, and is unclear what sparked Berland’s concerns.
The councilwoman’s declaration renewed controversy that dogged the Cow Harbor Warriors after its inaugural fundraising effort in 2012. Cow Harbor Warriors aims to fulfill a mission of honoring and enabling wounded warriors from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Its request to use Crab Meadow Beach on Sept. 12 for a four-mile run as part of their third annual Wounded Warriors weekend in Northport was approved by the four remaining board members.
The weekend is the group’s primary fundraising vehicle. The 2014 event generated $75,000, which was to be divvied up amongst the Northport VA Medical Center, the Semper Fi Fund and Paws of War.
But Berland said she wants more financial documents before she’ll vote in favor of giving the Cow Harbor Warriors town permits.
“It’s premature for us to granting anything to any veterans organization until they comply with the new Suffolk County regulations,” she said.
The legislation, sponsored by Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport) and approved March 3, 2015, requires veterans agencies to report the amount and percentage of funds raised that were spent to support local veterans agencies and their families.
The legislation also prohibits any person soliciting funds for a nonprofit veterans agency to “fraudulently misrepresent” their record of military service, and allows the county to demand proof of service.
Berland said she requested those documents from Cow Harbor Warriors leadership during a meeting last year, and has yet to receive them.
McKay, who was present at Tuesday’s board meeting, said financial documents will be filed with the county by its April 1 deadline to renew their veterans fundraising permit.
The organization supports Spencer’s legislation, McKay added, and received a fundraising permit in November 2013.
“If she has any questions or concerns, I’d be more than happy to meet with her and other members of our board and discuss them with her,” McKay said. “We have nothing to hide. We are in full compliance and we are looking forward to continuing to raise funds to support veterans causes.”