A federal judge is leaving national officials of the American Legion in charge of Legion operations in Oklahoma.
The well-known patriotic veterans organization took over the Oklahoma headquarters in March because of financial losses blamed on embezzlement. National officials ousted or fired all the state Legion officials.
Those removed state officials then sued, seeking to get their positions back.
U.S. District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti ruled Tuesday against the removed officials, refusing to put them back in control.
The judge ruled it is in the public interest to allow the American Legion to pursue its reorganization plan for Oklahoma.
National officials intend to release their control of Oklahoma operations once new state leaders are chosen in July, a retired Maryland Legion official told the judge at a hearing in Oklahoma City last month.
Tom Davis, the former Maryland Legion adjutant, was hired in March to oversee the reorganization effort in Oklahoma.
Davis testified funds from national headquarters have been used to pay the many overdue bills and unpaid federal taxes.
“We had to stop the bleeding,” Davis said.
The embezzlement losses in Oklahoma are as high as $500,000 to $1 million, national Legion officials said in March.
The removed state officials complained the American Legion went too far, ousting and firing them unfairly and illegally. The removed officials contend they had developed a plan to resolve the financial problems.
In a footnote to his order, the judge agreed that the American Legion’s “conduct here is not devoid of the appearance of heavy-handedness.”
“However, faced with an urgent situation in which the Oklahoma Department admittedly lacked basic financial operational controls, and administratively was in disarray, it cannot be said that the national organization acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, or hastily in protecting the interest of Oklahoma members and the image of the overall organization,” the judge wrote.
No one has been charged yet over the missing funds.
A former Legion adjutant, though, has been charged over missing rifles.
The former adjutant, David Austin Kellerman, 43, of Mustang, was charged in January in Canadian County District Court with embezzlement. His attorneys have said he has done nothing wrong.
He is accused in the felony case with taking ceremonial World War I and World War II rifles from Legion posts and selling them.
Kellerman was the state adjutant from September 2003 to December 2011, court records show.
He remained active in the Legion in 2012 and 2013, serving as an assistant to his successors.