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Illegal Bylaws Changes and Third Term Presidency

Page Contents:
Judge Advocate Review
More About Pratt
The Ruling
Further Pratt Comments - 1/23/02
Further Pratt Comments - 2/18/02
Stacking the Deck - Campaigning for a Third Term
Philip W. Tiemann Jr. Letter
Closing Comments
Who is Responsible?


According to KWVA bylaws, the procedure for making a change in those bylaws is to first present the proposed change to the Executive Council for a vote of approval or disapproval as to whether or not to bring it before a quorum of members at the next General Membership Meeting. Once the Executive Council has voted to present an issue to the general membership, it is mandatory that a notice of the proposed change and upcoming vote be published in The Graybeards at least thirty days prior to the next General Meeting in which a vote on the matter will be taking place.

Article III, Section 4 (Term of Office) of the 2000 KWVA bylaws states, "The President, First and Second Vice Presidents, shall have a term of office of two (2) years, with two (2) consecutive terms maximum."

On July 25, 2001, a proposed bylaws change that would eliminate term limits for all officers was presented to the KWVA Executive Council for a vote. The motion failed by a 7 to 6 vote. In spite of the failed vote, and defying existing KWVA bylaws that (then and now) call for an affirmative executive council vote on issues to be brought before the general membership, as well as call for published notice in The Graybeards, KWVA President Harley Coon (who had aspirations for a third term presidency), brought the same proposed change to the KWVA bylaws before the General Membership for a vote on the very next day, July 26, 2001.

There were 69 members present at that meeting. The proposed bylaws change was voted on and passed. However, in all ways, the bylaws change was illegal. (1) Executive Council vote on the proposed change was defeated. (2) Harley Coon sidestepped the authority of the executive council by bringing a defeated issue before the general membership. (3) Notice of vote was not published in The Graybeards--neither in the required time period, nor at all. (4) The bylaws of the KWVA require a quorum of 100 members to be present at a General Meeting before business can legally be conducted. Since only 69 voters were present at the meeting, no business should have been conducted and no vote should have been taken. By the end of the illegal general meeting, Harley Coon had pushed through an illegal bylaws change that had come about by an illegal vote.

After receiving many letters of concern over the matter from KWVA members, Judge Advocate Sherman Pratt reviewed the facts and subsequently ruled that the bylaws were, indeed, changed illegally. However, in spite of the Pratt ruling, the incumbent board president Harley Coon failed to heed the advice of the KWVA’s legal advisor and admit to the illegality of the vote. Instead, Coon ran for an illegal third term as president. The members of the executive council allowed him to proceed with his illegal campaign for KWVA president, and the judge advocate did not press the issue. Furthermore, the editor of the organization's newsletter campaigned for Coon's illegal third term, using The Graybeards as his means of communication to members who were unaware of the illegality of the bylaws change.

All business conducted under Coon’s illegal presidency is illegal, according to those members who know about, and do not condone, the illegal bylaws change.

Judge Advocate Review

Sherman Pratt is aware from numerous e-mail messages to him and through other contact from members that there is still rancor and discontent by some members of the KWVA because of Harley Coon’s disregard of the bylaws, ignoring of the Judge Advocate's ruling, and other issues. The e-mails reflect members' complaints that the election of the current president was shameful, underhanded, and in violation of the bylaws. Some write that the current KWVA board president was elected by a heavy vote because the KWVA membership was not aware of all the circumstances surrounding his running for a third term. Some consider that Mr. Coon was and is overly absorbed with the glory of being president of a nationally-known veterans association such as KWVA. Still others have written that they consider Harley Coon not to be an asset to the KWVA and that he should resign immediately.

When questioned on Coon's illegal presidency, the Judge Advocate stated that the only known practicable remedy for those who want the President removed if the Executive Council does not do so, is a civil law suit that could be costly and cumbersome and become moot anyway before it could be heard with the forthcoming expiration of the president's term in 2004.

However, not everyone agrees with Pratt’s opinion that the only known practicable remedy to the situation would be a costly lawsuit. Some KWVA members are of the opinion that the New York Attorney General’s office should be asked to step in and investigate alleged improprieties. Still others believe that KWVA members should contact news media, such as radio talk show hosts, investigative reporters within national news services, and renown television news personalities.

Actually, the answer a to what to do about the illegal bylaws change comes directly from President Harley Coon himself. In the November/December 2000 issue of The Graybeards (see page 4), Coon stated the following: "When one takes the oath of office, they swear to uphold the bylaws. When they fail to do that, the membership should remove them." He further stated, "I will guarantee the membership that as long as I am President, I will enforce the bylaws in a fair and efficient manner."

Unfortunately, the membership cannot remove their president so long as the members of the executive council (many of whom are appointed to their position because they have a friendship tie to Coon) turn a blind eye to the illegality of Coon's presidency. The matter has never been brought to a vote before the membership. The Judge Advocate remains supportive of Coon. Vincent Krepps, editor of The Graybeards, is one of Coon's greatest followers.

More About Pratt

As previously mentioned, Sherman Pratt is the Judge Advocate of the Korean War Veterans Association. A Third Infantry Division veteran of World War II, Pratt was in campaigns stretching through North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France and into Bavaria. When he was a 1st Sergeant, he got a battlefield commission in France and soon commanded Company L of the 7th Infantry that captured Hitler’s Camp David at Berchtesgaden. During the Korean War, he served as a company commander with the 23rd Infantry of the 2nd Division. He has Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, the CIB, and 15 campaign stars on two theater ribbons, plus a CIB with star. He served in Korea in 1950-51.

The following is his ruling regarding the bylaws change and the subsequent third term presidential candidacy of Harley Coon. He made the ruling on December 13, 2001, and distributed it to Harley Coon, Dick Adams, Jack Cloman, Blair Cross, Vincent Krepps, Jim Ferris, and Tom Gaffney via e-mail, and distributed it to others within the KWVA by other means of communication.


The Ruling

Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2001 22:29:04 -0500
From: sherman w pratt <>

To: President Harley Coon and Past President Dick Adams, and Sec Howard Kemp for further distribution as is appropriate.

This refers to the undated letter of Past President Dick Adams, received November 28, concerning bylaws provisions establishing eligibility of a sitting president to run for reelection. Adams alludes to the action taken by the general membership meeting on July 26, 2001, to amend the bylaws to eliminate term limitations for KWVA officers and asks "Why wasn't this By-Laws change done properly?" He elaborates on reasons he apparently thinks the changes was not done properly. In a separate telecon Adams asked me for a Judge Advocate ruling, or opinion, on his letter, and President Coon has requested me to do an in-depth study on the matter. In response to these requests the following is respectfully submitted.

Background - The Graybeards May-June 2001 issue on page 6, under a the heading "Proposed changes to the bylaws discussed at the meeting in Tuscola, IL" (in March of 2001), Jim Jones, the Chairman of the Bylaws committee wrote, "The below changes will need to be approved at the July 2001 Executive Council meeting and ratified at the General Membership meeting to become effective." The proposed changes identified by Jones included a change to Article III, Section 4 covering terms of office, to wit: The President.... shall have a term of office of two (2) years..." (dropping following language that provided for a two consecutive term maximum)

The July-August issue of the Graybeards on page 6, contained the minutes of the Executive Council at its meeting on July 25, 2001, in Crystal City VA and records under "proposed By Laws Changes" that a motion to eliminate term limitations for all officers failed by a vote of 6 yes’s to 7 no’s. In the same issue on page 7, the minutes for the General Membership meeting on July 26, record that a motion passed "To eliminate a two consecutive terms maximum requirement for Officers and Directors".

Existing Bylaws Provisions - Concerning bylaw changes, Article VII, Section 2 of the bylaws provides that any regular member may propose amendments to the bylaws to the Chairman of the Bylaws Committee "at least 30 days before the next meeting of the Executive Council" and that such proposals (1)"will be considered at that meeting and (2)then published in the Graybeards for (3)ratification by two-thirds of a quorum at the next annual meeting" (emphasis and sequential numbering supplied)

Concerning the terms of the President, the bylaws provide in Article III, Election of Officers, Section 1, Officers, that eligible members shall vote, in accordance with the procedures set forth in the bylaws, "to elect a president whose term of office shall for two years," (emphasis supplied), and in Section 4 Term of Office, A The President ....."shall have a term of office of two (2) years, with two (2) consecutive terms maximum." (emphasis supplied).

Discussion - What is involved here, it seems, is the question of whether the "two consecutive terms maximum" provision in Article II, Section 4, A has been legally and properly changed and eliminated so that our currently sitting president, or other elected officers rounding out a second consecutive term could, if he or they wish, run for a third consecutive term next year, or in following years. To answer this we must turn to the cited amendment language of Article VII, Section 2, and the above described events to see if the actions taken complied adequately and precisely with the required procedures set forth in the bylaws for bylaw changes. Under the former language the present president, or other elected officers indisputably, could not run for third consecutive terms.

The language used by the Bylaws Committee Chairman in his May June Graybeard issue identified proposed bylaws changes discussed at the March Tuscola meeting.(emphasis supplied) Jones does not state that the proposed changes to drop the two year consecutive term maximum were adopted by his committee at that time or formally presented to the Executive Committee as required specifically by the bylaws in the amendment Article. In fact, on the contrary, he expressly states that the proposed changes needed to be approved at the upcoming July meeting of the Council. Thus, at the time of that notification in the Graybeards, no firm proposal had been submitted to the Council for its consideration so the notice was not publication of an Executive Council rule change proposal before consideration by the general membership at the next annual meeting as required by the bylaws. The Graybeard notice was only an announcement of a bylaws committee discussion. An informal discussion without any specified consensus or agreement can hardly be concluded to constitute a formal position or recommendation of an association committee nor, as stated, does publication of such a discussion meet the requirements for publication of an Executive Council recommended bylaw change.. We can assume that at sometime in between the "discussion" meeting, and the next formal meeting of the Executive Council in July that proposed changes in the bylaws were in fact adopted by the bylaws committee and made ready for submission to the Council at its next meeting in July, 2001.

At the July meeting of the Executive Council, as reported, the proposed change "to eliminate term limitations for all officers (slightly different wordage but in substance the same as dropping the "two consecutive term maximum" language) was then presented to the Executive Council but it was rejected. With this rejection, the proposal died. There was then no viable proposal for a bylaws change for the Council to refer to the membership for action as envisioned by the bylaws amendment provisions. There is no express provision in the bylaws for the membership to consider a change not first endorsed and approved by the Council. Nor would an improper referral the next day at the current annual meeting, fulfill the requirements of consideration "at the next annual meeting". "Next" and "current" are not interchangeable terms..

When the proposal was brought before the general membership the following day, the members were called on to considered a proposal that had not been favorably acted upon by the Council in violation of the express provisions of the bylaws. As stated above, there is no bylaws provision for the general membership to consider a bylaw change not first considered and approved by the Council. Publication of the discussion of a proposed bylaws change by the bylaws committee does not constitute nor meet the requirements of publication of a proposed change formally and expressly adopted by the Executive Council.. Moreover, and even more procedurally defective, the general membership considered and voted on the change at the annual meeting in progress and not the next annual meeting, and without the required publication of an intervening issue of the Graybeards as is also expressly required by the bylaws. Thereby the overall KWVA membership could not have been advised and fully knowledgeable of the proposed changes. This did violence to the due process and fair play requirements of the bylaws and their amendment process.

Accordingly, the vote taken at the general membership meeting on July 26 to eliminate the two consecutive term maximum requirement for officers and directors, to include the president, was in direct and specific violation of the bylaws and therefore the attempted bylaws change abolishing term limitations of Association officers must be considered null and void and of no legal consequences.

In reaching this conclusion the Judge Advocate is not unaware of the profound impact that it likely will have on the KWVA and especially on any members who are contemplating an election bid next year. Some may be prevented from doing so while others may be encouraged to run when not opposed by incumbents.. Those considerations, however are not relative to nor do they have any bearing on this deliberation and opinion.

I am distributing this opinion before my departure for holidays in Florida on pressing family affairs so that it can be available to Executive Council members, or others, before the January Las Vegas meeting that I may not be able to attend. An opinion by a legal advisor in an organization such as the KWVA does not necessarily have the effect of a binding ruling by an outside court of competent jurisdiction and the Council should have a maximum opportunity to consider its reaction, if any, to this opinion.

Respectfully submitted.
Sherman Pratt, Judge Advocate


Further Pratt Comments - 1/23/2002
Another E-mail to Harley Coon:

From: Sherman W. Pratt
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 5:19 PM
To: [Harley Coon]
Cc: (email addresses removed)

Subject: Re: president message

Harley - Congratulations on a most inspiring and informative message concerning numerous matters of importance to the membership. It was well articulated and thought out. Your message to me did not indicate any additional distribution so do not know who else received it.

With reference to the upcoming elections and your description of the membership action at the last annual meeting to amend the bylaws to eliminate the provision concerning term limits, I feel, with no great pleasure at all, that I must state for the record, as I have done in my recent decision on the matter as Judge Advocate, that the action by the membership on that occasion was not in accordance with the procedures required by the bylaws and is therefore of no legal consequence. I explained that bylaw changes can be considered by the general membership only after they are referred to the members by the Executive Council - and that in this instance the Council did not act favorably on the proposal to change the bylaws to eliminate terms limits and therefore did not recommend or submit the matter to the general membership.

If you or others who have served two terms as limited by the bylaws persist in filing for reelection, and the chair of the election committee accepts those filings and candidates are reelected I warn you that you may be risking or encouraging the filing of law suits to contest the election of such persons. More law suits I suggest are what the KWVA just now needs less. - Sherm Pratt, Judge Advocate

Further Pratt Comments - 2/18/02
Subj: Legal issues - Terms Limits, et al

To all KWVA members interested in the following:

A few words from the Judge Advocate

In the past days I have received numerous letters - some e-mail, some snail mail = some addressed directly to me = others indirectly via info copies of messages sent to others. I have also received numerous copies of messages to me or others from suspended member Nick Pappas, who identifies himself as "ex patriot". I feel no obligation to respond to those messages coming from a former member not now in good standing. Most of the other messages pertain in one way or the other to the following questions or issues ==

a. whether the bylaws were effectively amended last year to eliminate provisions that provide for a maximum of two consecutive terms for elected officers; (former President Adams requested a ruling on this but at the Las Vegas meeting in January he did not, for reasons best known to him, pursue the matter at the Executive Council meeting)

b. whether President Coon, or any other elected office holder on a second term may now file for and run for a third term. (President Coon has announced that he will so file and at this writing I understand he has done so) and will run.

c.. whether a Korean War vet must be a member of the National Association to be eligible to join a Chapter; (here there is a dispute among Tom Gaffney, Jack Edwards and Sam Farina in Florida and Joe Vogel and others in NY or elsewhere);

d. Additionally, one writer, past newsletter editor Stan Hadden, repeats the frequently voiced charge of late that in screening what goes into the Graybeards there is a violation of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution concerning free speech or press.

e. There is also a question as to whether or not the rules on terms limits were amended several years ago when past President Adams ran for and was elected to a third term in violation of the bylaws and whether, changed in 2001 or not, if this provides a precedent allowing for third terms now or guidance on how to resolve present uncertainties.

S.W. Pratt


Historical background

Concerning paragraph e above, I also have an e-mail from member Mike Glazzy who reports that he conducted a detailed and scholarly research of the records, such as they are, and he concludes that when Adams ran for a third term it was caused by a violation of the bylaws by a chairman of the election committee, and perhaps others, whom he could not now identify. Mike concludes, therefore that Adam's third term was not allowed by the bylaws and was therefore not valid, but he suggests that at this late date nothing remedial can be done about it. I think Mike is correct in this regard.

I have discussed these early 1990 events also with member and Past Vice President Tom Maines who states he was active in the developments of that time, along with founder Bill Norris (now deceased) and some others. Maines remembers well the actions that resulted in Adams serving repeatedly in office as president. Essentially he agrees with Mike's version and feels that impropriety and irregularity was involved. In any event, it strikes me that we have enough current disputes to dissuade us from delving into the somewhat distant past to uncover more.


The 2001 attempt to change the term limits bylaws

With respect to the question of whether the bylaws concerning term limits were effectively changed last year at the annual reunion I have rendered a judgment on this last December 12 which I thought would lay the matter to rest. I am surprised that there is continued uncertainty or confusion on the matter. But apparently there are those who did not receive my opinion, (I will provide a copy upon request) or did not understand it, of who chose to disregard it. At the risk of unwanted or unneeded redundancy I will summarize here the thrust of my opinion.

In that opinion I pointed out that to change the bylaws pursuant to Article VII, Section 2 of the bylaws, any regular member may propose amendment by (1) presenting them to the Chairperson of the bylaws committee (2) at least 30 days before the next meeting of the Executive Council for consideration, and then (4) to be published in the Graybeards (5) and if adopted by the Council then referred to the membership for ratification by 2/3 of a quorum at the next annual meeting (of the membership) - in that sequential order.

Bylaws Committee Chair Jim Jones has written in a reply to Director Jim Ferris, (that he requested be sent to Elections Committee Chair Director Ken Cook), that all of the bylaws amendment requirements were met and "done properly" and that the election (to include candidates running for a third consecutive term?) "will proceed as scheduled". He wrote that the publication requirement was met by the notice in the May-June 2001 issue of the Graybeards. Jones also writes that he does not consider my opinion correct or binding.

Jones also discussed at some length the Article VII Section 1 provisions concerning amendments to the KWVA Charter but I will not respond to that since such a proposal is not now before us. No one to my knowledge has suggested Changing our Charter that is granted by New York, the State of Incorporation. We have before us only the matter of amending our own bylaws.

In my subject opinion I held that the attempt to amend the bylaws was fatally defective because (1) the notice alluded to by Jones was only that a discussion had taken place and not a clear and specific proposal to be submitted to, for consideration by, the Executive Council. I also pointed out from available records, including the minutes of the July meeting, that no specific amendments adopted by the Council had been properly published in the Graybeards following consideration and adoption by the Council. The heading on the item in the Graybeards read "Proposed changes in the bylaws discussed at the meeting in Tuscola, IL did not meet the requirements for publication of specific changes following Council consideration.". Even if, however, this deficiency were favorably resolved by concluding that the proposed bylaws change was in adequate form and could be referred to and considered by the Council, there are other aspects of the matter that are clearly in conflict with the amendment process.

First, there is a strong requirement by implication that consideration by the Executive Council means favorable consideration if the proposal is to be referred to the membership for action. In this instance the Council when considering the matter did not favorably vote it out - on the contrary the council, as reflected in the minutes reported in the next Graybeards, expressly rejected the proposed change thereby having nothing to publish or to later refer to the membership at its annual meeting. The proposed change was referred to the general membership by the President, but there is no provision for that in the bylaws. It is the Council that is authorized to perform that function.

Even more fatal is the fact that the proposed amendment was immediately referred to the membership on the following day, and not after being published in the Graybeards as a proposal adopted by the Council.. Consequently, only a handful of members then present at the meeting, and who were but a tiny fraction of the membership of KWVA knew in advance of the proposal. The rest of the 16,000 membership did not know at all of this proposed change. To amend the basic bylaws of an organization under such circumstances does great violence to the concept of fair and orderly democratic processes. Since the bylaws requirements for changing its provisions were substantially not followed, there can be no conclusion other than that the attempt to change the bylaws failed completely and the limitation on the number of consecutive terms allowed must stand.

Our President has insisted that the position of the membership must prevail over that of a dozen or so members of the Executive Council. Of course he is right on any routine matter when not in conflict with the written and adopted bylaws assuming that the views of the membership can be accurately ascertained.. Here we do not have such a situation as explained above. This is not a routine matter where there is vague or little guidance, but one that is covered with specificity and in detail in the bylaws.

Common Law and Consistency

Director Joe Pirrello also has written on this matter of changing the term limits provision. He alludes to the common law rule that one cannot profit by his own misdeeds, and he compares the conflict between Council and general membership actions in this instance to the recent conflict of actions when the Council voted to expel former member and past president Nick Pappas that was rejected by the general membership that voted only to suspend him. I do not see that there is any relevance or comparability in those two actions. In the rule change situation there were specific and detailed provision in the bylaws concerning the manner in which a bylaw provision could be amended. And it is indisputable in my view that those provisions simply were not followed. In the Pappas situation the Council and the membership in a general meeting were acting on a matter in which they had discretionary authority to reach a finding of fact, i.e., was there "just cause" for taking punitive action against Pappas as provided in the rule section applying to suspensions and expulsions. Both the council and the membership found that there was just cause for action. They differed only as to what punitive action should be taken.

I do not see any relevance either to our situation and the common law as suggested by our dedicated Director Joe Perrillo. The Common law originated in England and was adopted or accepted by most American colonies - later states - to cover situations where there was no applicable American statutory or judicial law. Common Law is rarely applied today by courts to resolve disputes because almost every conceivable situation in our litigious society is covered by modern domestic law that supersedes common law.. Blacks law Dictionary, widely relied on today, defines American Common Law as law that was adopted and in force at the time of the Revolution that "has not been expressly abrogated" (legislatively or judicially) Today it is not easy to find Common Law provisions that have not to some extend been so abrogated; thus it would be tortuous at best to rely on Common Law today to resolve any internal dispute in our KWVA.

With respect to the assertion of bylaws Committee Chair Jim Jones Judge Advocate views are only opinions and not binding he is absolutely correct. The Judge Advocate in this kind of organization does not wield the power and authority of a constitutional magistrate on a civilian court of record. He is more like the Attorney General of the U. S. or a State that advises the chief executive and the executive departments. His views can be accepted or rejected at will but often at the hazard of those who disregard the views. But surely the policy making body of the KWVA, the Executive Council, should consider carefully the views of the Judge Advocate. If they reject them outright, or substantially, then a fair question is, why have a Judge Advocate? Why not eliminate that position? Or replace the JA with one in whom the Council has more confidence? As for the views of the JA being incorrect I suggest that is a conclusion best reached by the Council, or others educated and trained in the law.

A Remedy or Partial Resolution

Having said all the above, I am impelled to point out that further action on the term limits provision is yet feasible in my view. It now seems clear, from information from bylaws chair Jones and the minutes of the Las Vegas Council meeting that, even under rather loose procedures, the change has been adopted by the bylaws committee and considered and approved by the Executive Council. Thus the change could now be forwarded to the editor of the Graybeards for timely publication and then referred to the membership for consideration at the upcoming July annual reunion.. If the membership then adopts the change it could become effective as of that time. Of course such belated action could not operated to validate any improper elections this year as described above. It could, however, be a way of sanctioning any questionable elections this year and perhaps satisfy to some extent those members who are disturbed that our president or others may be running this year illegally.

National Membership Requirements

Turning now to the question of whether membership in the national KWVA is required for membership in a chapter the answer is a clear an unequivocal YES. The fact that an effort to expressly so provide failed in rule changes last year has no bearing on the matter. That rule change attempt was not necessary or appropriate. Had it gone through it would have done no harm, but the fact is that the bylaws already so provide, and I have so ruled in several instances over the past months.

Article V, II, Section 1 and 2 of the bylaws, dealing with the formation of chapters, expressly provides that chapters may be formed by 12 or more members in good standing. A member indisputably cannot be deemed to be in good standing if his or her dues are not paid. The member would clearly be delinquent and not eligible to be one of the 12 members in good standing to petition for formation of a chapter. This qualification is also reinforced in Article II, Section 2, B, that provides that membership may be terminated when a member "becomes ineligible for membership because of nonpayment of dues". Thus, to be in good standing a member to be eligible to join others to form a chapter, or to remain in a formed chapter, the member must first be up to date in the payment of his national dues. Even if the proposed rule change requiring a chapter member to first pay national dues had been adopted, it would not have changed the existing requirement already in the bylaws, as explained here, that national dues must be paid in order to be a member of a chapter. Director Jack Edwards, in his capacity monitoring applications for membership in his chapter was absolutely correct in rejecting an application from one who had not paid his national dues.

An additional and essential element in this matter is the requirement in U. S. Tax laws under which the KWVA has obtained its nonprofit, non-tax Section 503 (c) status that requires the operations and formations of chapters or subordinate units of KWVA must conform to the practices of the national organization. Thus, if dues are required for membership in the national association so too are dues required for membership in its chapters.

Of course there is nothing in the law, KWVA bylaws or elsewhere that would prevent a group of Veterans to organize a local group and call themselves a Korean War Veterans organization, and set their own rules, dues, membership requirements, or other procedures but they would not be a part of or under the umbrella of the Korean War Veterans Association, Inc.


Freedom of the Press and Speech

The contention that the Constitution of the U. S. is being violated when the Graybeards editor refuses to publish certain matters is little less than nonsense. The First Amendment quoted correctly by Stan Hadden is a restriction on the Federal Congress - not on editors of private, non government, publications.

Refusals to print all items submitted to our editor may or may not be wise and appropriate - depending on the acceptability from many consideration including interest to readers, decency, helpfulness, truth, non-libel or slander, or whether an item is in the best interests of the KWVA - but the refusal to print items not meeting these tests certainly not be any violation of the U. S. Constitution.

I have been disturbed that our editor may have excessively rejected items for the Graybeards and felt he was being placed in an undesirable and unfair situation and have recommended a change. I urged that the editor not have the final authority alone to reject material and that in case of doubt about its acceptability it be referred to the president for further reference to the Executive Council for final decision.. Our President has told me he approved of that arrangement and I understand it is now in effect.


In Summary

So where does all this leave us? For sure we have some anguishing predicaments now before us in KWVA. If Harley or others chose to run for a third consecutive term is that in conflict with the bylaws and not permitted? I think definitely Yes, as described in my earlier opinion and above.

If Harley Coon or others do so run, wins, and are elected and take office with the concurrence of the Executive Council and the general membership at the annual meeting what can be done about it as a matter of practicability? Probably nothing. There is no machinery internally to over ride the general membership short of electing new council members or other leadership - I don’t think anyone would suggest armed rebellion or other violence. Some members as reflected in my e-mail or elsewhere are clearly much disturbed that Harley Coon may run for reelection and they have made noises about filing a law suit. That happened a while back with the Chosin Reservoir vets and the Court appointed new directors pending new elections as I recall. Such a recourse for KWVA members could be unbelievably cumbersome as an interstate matter (residence in multiple jurisdictions), very expensive with multiple attorneys in multiple states It is problematical whether a court would even entertain what it would likely perceive to be an veterans organization internal dispute among its members. Above all, such a suit would be time consuming and the questionable terms challenged would probably have expired before the cases could ever be heard and disposed of on today's saturated court dockets.

Should KWVA members be concerned if these candidates are elected? In some respects I think so. But that's a matter for the members decision. All office holders swore under their oaths when installed in office that they would uphold and obey the bylaws of KWVA and it should be a concern of any and all members when a clear violation of the bylaws occurs.

To what extent would the KWVA be harmed if non-eligible members remain in office for a third term? Probably not much. That event would not cripple the KWVA - we would continue on - most members would not even know about or object to the continued service of the subject officials. Even if some members may dislike our president for personal or personality reasons, and my e-mails establish that some do, it cannot be denied that under his term in office the KWVA has rebounded and prospered energetically and effectively from near bankruptcy and low membership.

These are complex issues and my views are sure to not please all, but I hope they will shed some light on some difficult and challenging matters and enable us to put our differences behind us and join hands in better comradeship and good feelings to work effectively for the advancement and improvement of the KWVA. We still have things to do in observing the 50th anniversary of the beginning and ending of the Korean War the struggle that marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War."

Stacking the Deck - Campaigning for a Third Term

Ignoring the ruling of the Judge Advocate, not to mention ignoring the bylaws that he had sworn to uphold when he was elected to a second term in office, Harley Coon sought and won a third term of office as board president. Immediately prior to the election, Coon and The Graybeards editor "stacked the deck" in Candidate Coon’s favor by publishing a falsified photograph in The Graybeards (see page 4, May/June 2002 issue) of his privately-owned business facility in Beavercreek, Ohio, denoting it as the KWVA’s "1st class headquarters." Members were told that it was "donated space" (which, according to a financial report in a later edition of The Graybeards--published only after the election--turned out not to be the case). In addition, testimonials favorable to Coon were published in that same issue. The testimonials were given by Gen. Ray Davis (MOH), one of Harley Coon’s influential friends (see page 7, May/June 2002 issue), Coon himself (see pp. 4 and 21, May/June 2002 issue and page 7, March/April 2002 issue), and his close friend, Vincent Krepps (see page .6, March/April 2002 issue).

From time to time, Editor Krepps has written the "Editor’s Pen"—a page in Graybeards set aside for his own personal comments. He stopped writing the column a few issues after he took over as the newsletter editor; but he resumed the column for the March/April 2002 issue of The Graybeards in order to electioneer for Harley Coon’s candidacy as illegal third-term president of the KWVA. Although the KWVA Judge Advocate had issued his ruling stating that a third-term Coon presidency was illegal, Krepps stated to the members of the KWVA in his revived "Editor’s Pen" column that, "There will be no harm caused to the KWVA by your vote of allowing President Coon a third term or even a one year extension and this has been done before for similar reasons…." Opposing views and negative comments about Harley Coon’s leadership ability were not published in the The Graybeards as the election loomed closer.

Philip W. Tiemann Jr. Letter

[KWE Note: Following is a letter from Philip W. Tiemann Jr., Commander of the Cpl. Clair Goodblood (MOH) Chapter 2, KWVA, 9 Glenwood St., Augusta, ME 04220.  It was dated 11 March 2002, and sent to Mr. Kenneth B. Cook (KWVA Nominating Committee Chairman), 1611 North Michigan Ave., Danville, IL 61834-6239.]

Dear Mr. Cook:

Each officer at the swearing in ceremony, as part of the oath of office, is asked to "uphold and protect the constitution and bylaws of the Korean War Veterans Association."  This of course, simply means that you agree to abide by the bylaws etc. of the organization and do not allow any one else to breach them.  I am sure you received this oath. 

It seems that a number of people are requesting their name be placed on the ballot for a third term.  They claim that the bylaws were changed, by due process, to allow this.  According to our national Judge Advocate, this is not true.  The bylaws, were never changed, in accordance to the proper amendment procedures as outlined in the bylaws. 

It is with this in mind, that I expect you as Chairman of the nominating and elections committee, to disallow any third term bids.  I see it as your sworn duty.  I do not see this as a personal attack on any person requesting a third term; I merely see it as upholding the bylaws of our organization.  If we do not abide by our own rules, then I see no hope for us ever receiving a national charter or any recognition as a legitimate Veterans Organization.


Member in good standing of the KWVA
Philip W. Tiemann Jr.

Closing Comments

When the votes were counted, Harley Coon received 2600 votes compared to his opponent’s 1100 votes. Considering that the membership of the KWVA totaled over 15,000 at the time, a turnout of only 3,700 voters was not impressive.

It bears to be repeated from the introductory paragraph of this segment of KWVA News: All business conducted under Coon’s illegal presidency is illegal, according to those members who know about, and do not condone, the illegal bylaws change brought about by Harley J. Coon.

Who is Responsible?

[KWE Note: The following excerpt is from a message that was posted on the KWVA Ad Hoc Yahoo Group message board by Lynnita Brown on January 24, 2004.   It lists those persons in power at the national level in the KWVA when Harley Coon began his illegal campaign to become the first (and the illegal) third-term president of the KWVA.]

Message text:

"Someone sent a message to me asking who the executive council members were at the time that Harley Coon began his illegal campaign to become the illegal president of the KWVA. Here are the answers to that question:

Coon submitted his bid for reelection to the Nominating Committee so they could determine his eligibility to run. Members of the various KWVA committees tend to be one of the best kept secrets of the organization (Coon was asked who current committee members were last year, but he failed to answer). So far, I have not been able to determine who the various council members on the Nominating Committee were immediately after Coon jimmied the bylaws just before the Year 2002 election. However, one thing is certain. The chairman of the Nominating Committee was Kenneth Cook. Cook is the check-bouncing "KWVA quartermaster" who has been a chief Coon flunky/suck-up for years.

The judge advocate at the time was Sherman Pratt. The editor of The Graybeards at the time was Vincent Krepps. The members of the executive council at the time of Coon's illegal entry into the KWVA presidency were:

- Ed Magill (resigned for reasons not shared by Coon - 1st VP position remained vacant until election) (Reference, pg. 4, January/February 2002 Graybeards)
- Dorothy "Dot" Schilling (2nd VP - appointed by executive council to replace Ed Grygier, who was ill) (Reference: pg. 7, September/October Graybeards)
- Thomas J. Gregory (Treasurer - appointed) (Reference - pg. 18, May/June 2001 Graybeards)
- Howard W. Camp (Secretary - appointed) (Reference - pg. 18, May/June 2001 Graybeards)
- Dick Adams (past president, director, & candidate for president)
- Warren Weidhahn (appointed by executive council to finish the term of George Bingham who stepped down due to illness. Bingham was voted into office at the Tuscola meeting to take the place of Director Rusty Tramonte, who was illegally kicked out of the KWVA, and thus as director, moments earlier) (References - pg. 19, May/June 2001 Graybeards, for Bingham appointment; pg. 19, March/April 2002 Graybeards for Weidhahn appointment)
- James F. Jones Jr.
- P.G. "Bob" Morga
- Theodore "Ted" Trousdale
- Kenneth B. Cook
- Larry McKinniss (voted into office at Tuscola meeting to take the place of Director Skip Rittenhouse, who was illegally expelled as a director moments earlier) (Reference - pg. 19, May/June 2001 Graybeards)
- Joseph Pirrello
- Don Byers
- Jack Edwards
- Jerry Lake
- Michael Mahoney (appointed by executive council to take John Settle's place*) (Reference: pg. 19, March/April 2002 Graybeards)

*John Settle was an extremely vocal opponent of Harley Coon.

Of those listed above, it is probably safe to assume that Dick Adams protested Coon's illegal bid for president. (If there is any written documentation that any of the other executive council members protested Coon's illegal bid for third-term president, I would appreciate a copy of the document.) ...."

The Vote
As mentioned on the first paragraph of this page, proposed changes to the KWVA bylaws must first be presented to the executive council.  If passed at that level, they are then presented to the membership after publication in The Graybeards.  That did not happen with the illegal bylaws change that allowed Harley Coon to run for an illegal third term. 

On July 25, 2001, proposed bylaws changes were brought before the executive council by James F. Jones (motion) and Dorothy Schilling (second).  The results of the motion appeared on page 6 of the July/August 2001 issue of The Graybeards.  In violation of Roberts Rules of Order, Editor Krepps failed to list the manner in which each council member voted.  However, it was noted that the motion failed 7 to 6. 

This did not stop Harley Coon in his illegal quest for office.  Bypassing the bylaws requirements, he brought the issue before the general members the next day.  Ted Trousdale was serving on the executive council at the time.  He told the Korean War Educator, "From what I can remember by being there and what the record should show is that Jim Jones, the by-laws chairman, sponsored the by-laws change and Harley presented it to the membership, giving a sob story of how much he was needed as president and how the South Korean wanted him at least through our mutual 50th anniversary.  I was on the Executive Council then, and was one of seven that voted against it at the Executive Council meeting before the membership meeting."  Objecting to the by-laws change during the council meeting (according to Trousdale's recollection) were: Ted Trousdale, Tom Clawson, Bob Morga, Dick Adams, Ed McGill, and Richard Danielson.  Director John Settle was absent from the meeting that day. 

"I remember Dick Adams objecting to the over-riding of the Executive Council," Trousdale continued.  At the general meeting the next day, Coon violated the organization's bylaws by bringing the defeated motion before the general members for a vote.  A motion was made by Robert D. Johnson, seconded by J. Humlin, and passed by a majority present to eliminate the two-term restriction for council president.  It is unclear if there were enough members present for a quorum that afternoon, but one thing is perfectly clear and not refutable:  the vote was 100 percent illegal.

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