RUMFORD — A Dixfield man who launched a crusade last year to outlaw smoking at the largest Eagles club in Maine was recently expelled from the club after a trial.

Steve Swan said he was escorted from the club in his cowboy hat “throwing the peace sign” as a room full of members cheered his expulsion on Jan 23.

He’s appealing that expulsion from the Rumford Fraternal Order of Eagles, sending a six-page brief to the national organization, the Grand Tribunal of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Wisconsin.

“Even if I’m unsuccessful on appeal, my next step is to go to a real court and see what happens,” Swan said Tuesday afternoon. “I even offered at mediation to stop if they would outlaw smoking during entertainment, and they said forget it.”

Club Secretary Ed Provencher on Tuesday confirmed Swan’s offer and the club trustees’ refusal to accept it.

“Steve was willing to submit that he did things wrong if we would ban smoking during entertainment, and we told him no because he had damaged us too much,” Provencher said. “Besides, we can’t even do that, as club members made the vote.”

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Provencher said he believes the Grand Tribunal, which has the Eagles’ final say, will deny Swan’s appeal.

“He used language that was very detrimental to its members and officers and the club in general that had nothing to do with what he was bringing up with the smoking vote, even during the trial, that was against our policies,” Provencher said.

“You just can’t do that to the officers, members and the club,” he said. “But the Grand Tribunal could say, ‘Hey, you guys screwed up. Put him back in the club.’ But I don’t think so. Everything we did was right to the state standard.”

On Jan. 7, the club notified Swan they were going to place him on trial for willfully violating club rules. He was charged with making slanderous statements about other Eagles club members and its officers.

After the trial on Jan. 23, the club’s Trial Committee deliberated for about 20 minutes and unanimously found Swan guilty on all counts. He was expelled from the club.

The club guard, Randy Gallant, offered to escort Swan out the back door so he wouldn’t have to face a packed house of members. Swan told Gallant he wanted to go through the crowd and out the front door, so Gallant escorted him.

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“I was wearing my cowboy hat like I always do,” Swan said. “And when we walked through the club’s crowded bar/social room, all of the approximately 75 members in attendance cheered the fact that I had been expelled from the club.”

He added, “They all started cheering and clapping and I acted like a rock star, throwing the peace sign with my hands. I played it up for everything it was worth. It was funny.”

Background

Swan said Tuesday and in his appeals brief that his membership in the Rumford club cleared on Sept. 24, 2014. Soon afterward, he ran afoul of the club’s rules when he took to social media, rather than taking it up with Eagles leadership, to protest the club’s Oct. 8 vote of 102-45 to allow smoking to continue.

Provencher said Swan should have brought his concerns to the trustees.

“We honestly gave him every opportunity to do it right and he did it his way and that was the wrong way,” Provencher said.

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Swan next alleged that the outcome of the vote was rigged because it was held in a smoky barroom, which, he said, would preclude participation from any members who are nonsmokers or have breathing problems. Additionally, he said there were smoking members present at the time of the vote, so any nonsmoking member would face scrutiny and possible intimidation.

Eagles President Becky Gallant, board of trustees Chairman Ed Fontaine and Trustee John Perry, Provencher and club officer Randy Gallant, Becky’s husband, have previously said the vote wasn’t rigged and that smoking members didn’t intimidate anyone.

Provencher said Tuesday that the club has always held its balloting at the back of the bar’s social room and that members can vote by absentee ballot if they don’t want to enter the club.

So Swan took to Facebook after the vote, starting a Petition for a Smoke-Free Eagles. He also began sending news releases about his efforts in third-person style and letters to the editor to local newspapers.

He initially said smoking members had “hijacked the club,” and then later accused club officials of corruption and perpetrating massive fraud on nonsmoking members by not informing all 1,500 members of the vote and that they could vote by absentee ballot.

Provencher disagreed. He said they properly notified members of the vote, placing an ad in the local newspaper, posting notice in the club, on Facebook, Twitter and other social media and by word of mouth.

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“If every member came in and voted, we would be nonsmoking,” he said. “It would probably be a 75-25 (percent ratio), but the thing is they don’t vote. What am I going to do — go to their houses and drag them here?”

Provencher said they only received four or five absentee ballots.

Continuing his crusade of trying to force a revote in September, Swan complained to the Attorney General’s office and the Maine Center for Disease Control.

Provencher said an official from both investigated Swan’s complaint, “and they were well-satisfied with how we handled things.”

In response to Swan’s written attacks on the club, members and officials, the trustees suspended his membership on Nov. 11 for 90 days for violating the rules by speaking ill of club officials and members by referring to them as “terrorists” and “bullies.”

Swan said he never received a copy of the rules or notice of his impending suspension.

Provencher said Tuesday that they did give him a copy of the rules, but not copies of club by-laws, its constitution and Swan’s oath which cannot leave the club per policy. He said Swan could have come by his office and viewed them.

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