A CONVERSATION ON THE CODE OF CONDUCT

I was asked to write a brief article on the conduct of members and guests of the American Legion Family. It is important to note that the basic code of conduct is congruent throughout the 55 departments of the American Legion. The expectations of all members and officers is grounded in our values which are predicated on the founding purposes, the of the American Legion.

Members and officers of all organizations within the American Legion Family are expected to act with honesty, integrity, loyalty, and openness in all their communication, business, and transactions as representatives of the American Legion family. Our organization should promote an environment that values fairness and commitment to the organization’s founding principles and demonstrates respect for others.

The Post and its units should be knowledgeable of and comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, including but not limited to: complying with laws and regulations related to human resources, financial accountability, taxation, fundraising, trademark protection, and licensing.

The Post has the right to expect that all decisions made by the committees, officers, staff are made objectively and in the best interest of the organization. To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest and impropriety by those who could benefit directly or indirectly from any action. A clear understanding that the Executive Committee does not usurp the authority of the membership, but focuses on the operations and routine budgetary and philanthropy of the Post.

In fundraising all elements shall take care to ensure that all means and materials for solicitation accurately and correctly reflect its mission and use of solicited funds. Donors and prospective donors through our transparency will have full confidence in our American Legion Family and the causes they are asked to support.

The American Legion has a history of inclusiveness and diversity. The Post recognizes the value of the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of its membership. The organization promotes an atmosphere of mutual respect for the worth and dignity of its members, those eligible to become members and those we serve.

Any member may report a violation of ethical conduct or actions contrary to the governing doctrine of the American Legion (e.g. someone stealing American Legion funds or stealing from another member at the Post) without fear of retaliation. The Post Adjutant and Judge Advocate will consider all inquiries and complaints about actions of members and officers to be strictly confidential. The initial query will determine whether or not the issue warrants filing a complaint or report of a possible violation of the Code of Conduct.

Article XIII – Discipline of Post Members notes: Each Post has the power to discipline its own membership as such, subject to the restrictions of the National and Department Constitution and Bylaws.

If for example, a member or officer Mr. John Doe, is seen on 1 October 2020 at 8:000PM, is witnessed taking Legion property without permission from the Post premises and placing in his car and subsequently leaves the property and said property is not returned upon demand of the Post Commander. John Doe, based on his own actions would be formerly charged with dishonesty and conduct unbecoming a Legionnaire. No member shall lose their membership until given a fair trial by the Post in accordance with due process. An individual as in this exemplar if found guilty is subject to suspension (30 days – 1 year) through expulsion from the American Legion.

Any member who has been so disciplined has the right to appeal to the Department Executive Committee, whose decision on appeal shall be final. Said appeal must be in writing and filed with the Department within thirty (30) days after the action appealed from is taken, provided however, if the punishment is suspension or expulsion from The American Legion, the accused may also appear personally before an Appeals Committee named by the Department Commander; which Committee shall report its findings and recommendations to the Department Executive Committee.

Why a Code of Conduct? It is as simple as pointing to the Preamble of our Constitution: For God and Country, we associate ourselves together for the following purposes:

To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism; to preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in all wars; to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation; to combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses; to make right the master of might; to promote peace and goodwill on earth; to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy; to consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness. Each of the 10 clauses of the preamble are

brief, but they have a world of meaning. Without holding ourselves to a high standard of conduct … it simply highlights hypocrisy, which if allowed to exist undermines the organization. People not only judge us by the words we use, they make judgements on the actions of the individuals within organization. A key note from Military Leadership is that the standard which is allowed to slide is the standard that is being set.

It is because of our four pillars and the code of conduct we follow that the American Legion is an unparalleled force in the United States for the betterment of society. It is why we expect the best within our ranks and address problems proactively vice reactively, to ensure the health and perpetuity of the American Legion.

Respectfully submitted,
Ken “Radar” Huddleston
Judge Advocate, Jeff Davis Post 18
Director, American Legion Riders
2619 Centreville Road
Centreville, Maryland

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