Nonprofit gets OK for Suffolk vet fundraising

Cow Harbor Warriors' President Rocco Donnino, left, addressed Cow Harbor Warriors' President Rocco Donnino, left, addressed the allegations of misappropriation of funds, brought by the Northport American Legion, to the press at the Crab Meadow Golf Course in Northport. (March 27, 2013) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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A local nonprofit has been given the green light to raise funds for veterans in Suffolk County after coming under a cloud of suspicion over permits and financial records.

The Northport-based Cow Harbor Warriors were issued a one-year permit by the county last week that allows them to raise money for county veterans.

"We submitted everything that we submitted all along," said Rocco Donnino, a founding member of the Cow Harbor Warriors. "Our financial records, our mission, who attended, where our donations went. The Suffolk County Veterans Agency looked at everything."

In April the Northport American Legion Post 694 raised concerns about the legal ability for the Warriors to raise funds for county veterans because it lacked a permit.

Post 694 had suspicions about how money was raised and spent last year by the Warriors surrounding a weekend of sports competitions, food and fun for tri-state area veterans and their families.

The Suffolk County Veterans Services Agency confirmed the need for such a permit and said the Warriors' nonprofit status did not grant it an exemption to raise such funds.

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The Northport-based Warriors immediately applied to the county for the permit.

A statement released Tuesday on behalf of VFW Post 1469 and Post 694 by John Cooney, spokesman for Post 694, said, "We are glad the CHW complied with the law and can now legally raise money for veterans in Suffolk County," the statement said.

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In the spring, Post 694 recommended to the village of Northport that it withhold permits the Warriors had requested so it could host a 2013 fall weekend of activities for wounded veterans, until certain demands were met. Post 694 officials wanted to see bank statements, checks and invoices from the 2012 event.

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The Warriors declined to hand over the documents to Post 694, saying they were being "bullied" into responding to allegations that were unfounded. Eventually the clock ran out on the Warriors' plan to host a 2013 weekend, as they awaited the county permit.

Thomas Ronayne, director of the Suffolk County Veterans Services Agency, said the requirement for the permit was put on the books in 2011 by the county legislature to provide a level of protection to those giving and raising money for veterans.

"The permit is not a endorsement," he said. "It's like a driver's license. It says they simply satisfied the requirements set forth in the legislation."

Donnino said they are moving ahead with plans for a Cow Harbor Warrior Weekend in Northport next year.

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