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Northport delays vote on Cow Harbor vets group fundraiser

The Northport-based Cow Harbor Warriors do not have a county permit to raise money for veterans and its nonprofit status does not grant it an exemption to raise such funds, according to the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency.

Because the group lacks that document, trustees at a raucous meeting Tuesday night in Northport Village Hall delayed granting the Cow Harbor Warriors separate permits for its September recreational weekend for tri-state area wounded veterans until the fundraising issue is ironed out. The county's position was outlined in an email sent to the village Tuesday.

Rocco Donnino, a founding member of Cow Harbor Warriors, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, said Wednesday the group has already contacted the county.

"From my understanding it's not a permit; we just need to be listed," Donnino said. "We'll make sure we're qualifying for anything that is necessary and we have no problem doing that. We're already on it."

Northport Village Trustee Tom Kehoe said the county is very specific when it comes to nonprofits raising money in the name of veterans. "After they have gone through the registration and the vetting with the county and we get a green light, they can come back," he said.

In recent weeks, the Warriors have said they are being bullied after publicly coming under fire from the Northport American Legion Post 694, which is recommending against the town and village granting any permits for the fundraiser. John Cooney, post spokesman, said members are concerned about the Warriors' accounting, and lack of support for local veterans and discrimination against vets not in the Wounded Warrior Project surrounding a weekend the Warriors held last year for wounded veterans.

The post has asked to see bank statements, checks and invoices from the group for 2012. The Warriors have released a profit-and-loss sheet and said they raised about $164,000, but resisted turning over the requested documents because they have not yet filed taxes and want a certified financial review of their records.

Tuesday night's meeting was filled with veterans of World War II through the current conflicts. About 30 people spoke, mostly in support of the Cow Harbor Warriors.

Village trustee Henry Tobin said he would like the Warriors to address other issues before granting permits for road closures for a race and beach access. The issues are to get the Town of Huntington to sign off on the event; get the town's veteran advisory committee to give its approval; reconsider the date of the event; and reconcile with merchants and residents who said they felt "bullied" by the group's fundraising requests last year.

"Right now many of those things are unrealistic and should not apply," Doninno said. "They are discriminating against our event because they are getting pressure from the American Legion."

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