Negotiations between the City of Delray Beach and the Black veterans’ group, American Legion Post 188, have reached a boiling point.
In January, 2022, veterans claimed the city locked them out of their American Legion Post and took their building.
The city said it made a settlement offer, if accepted would have extended them a 99-year lease agreement of the property at 196 NW Eighth Ave.
The Legion would be responsible for renovations, maintenance and upkeep of the building.
If they made their renovation deadlines, after five years the city would consider deeding the property to the Legion.
“We tried. We said we would we made a good faith extremely diplomatic offer but that offer expired,” Deputy Vice Mayor Rob Long said.
The offer expired at 5 p.m. Tuesday during which the Legion’s attorney Michael Brown provided a counteroffer.
In it Brown asked that the city pay for his fees, which he didnt give a number on, causing that counteroffer to be denied.
“To our community members who have repeatedly told us to do the right thing, maybe save that lecture for Mr. Brown. In my opinion he derailed that resolution from happening tonight,” Long said. “Essentially he’s asking us to agree to a blank check funded by taxpayer dollars.”
Brown told WPTV reporter Joel Lopez the counteroffer wasnt out of the ordinary and said it would be unethical to discuss attorneys’ fees at this point because the case hadnt been resolved for his clients.
“We’re ready to fight, it’s time to go to court,” Andrea Bruton, the second vice president of American Legion Post 188., said. “For them to not want to pay our attorneys’ fee is fallacy. Had you not illegally taken that building from us, we wouldn’t have had to hire an attorney.”
Bruton said the Legion owns the building but the city owns the land, and the group has been at a loss as theyve been locked out for nearly five years.
Weve had to have our meetings in local churches, weve lost money and lost income being able to rent our building out,” Bruton said.
The city now plans to begin negotiations on the building with the nonprofit EJS Project, which is a youth mentorship program that has been in Delray Beach for about 10 years.
In the negotiations they plan to have an addendum to offer the Legion a subleasing agreement.
“My goal was for the legion to have full ownership of that property and now it looks like it might go another direction but that doesnt mean that the Legion won’t have a home still in Delray Beach,” Delray Beach Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston said. “My hope is that these two organizations will partner together. They’ve had many conversations in doing, so it was just a matter of who is taking the lead.”
The history of the site with the veteran group goes back to 1946, and now the group plans on taking the battle to court.
“Some of us have fought in wars and then we have to come home and fight against our government too? Really? Were veterans, Bruton said. “I was hoping it was going to be over tonight but as you can see it wasn’t.”