The Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department is investigating allegations that the Traverse City Beach Bums withheld proceeds from the Grand Traverse Area Veteran Coalition.
Prosecutor Bob Cooney sent the request over earlier this week after a member of the coalition, George Champlin, filed a complaint the week prior.
According to Champlin, proceeds from a Welcome Home Fourth of July game and jersey auction in 2012 and 2013, and proceeds from patriotic hats, shirts, and other gear were supposed to go to the coalition, but they never saw any of the money.
â??The 2012 Iâ??m not sure why we didnâ??t get any money from them,â?? said Champlin. â??2013 they said itâ??s because the coalition did not support the Beach Bums.â??
John Wuerfel, owner of the Beach Bums, says they never made any money to give to the coalition, and that after paying for the jerseys, hats, a fly over from a B-17 Bomber and other expenses, that they were actually "in the hole" after both games.
Wuerfel says there was confusion over the agreement that the veteran coalition would receive â??net proceedsâ?? from the two games.
â??By the time we paid for jersey shipping, the design work on them, and get them in here and staffed the tables to do it and everything there wasnâ??t any (net proceeds),â?? said Wuerfel.
Champlin says that when he and Wuerfel arranged the special night at the ball park, the fact that the coalition would get just net proceeds was never discussed.
Wuerfel remembers it differently.
â??We had no contract with the coalition,â?? said Wuerfel. â??They didnâ??t pay to sponsor a night. They didnâ??t do any of that. We had just told them that if thereâ??s any net proceeds off of the jersey auction after itâ??s all said and done, thatâ??s what they would get.â??
Champlin says to his knowledge, the coalition was never offered the option of signing a contract to sponsor the night.
â??We just took them on their word,â?? said Champlin.
The situation came to light a couple of months ago when Champlin and his wife, Sue Champlin, treasurer for the veteran coalition, saw on the Beach Bums website that there was an advertisement saying that during the 2012 Welcome Home Celebration, "Proceeds from the jersey auction as well as from the sale of Beach Bums patriotic hats and t-shirts went to the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Coalition," via the website.
The website also read that during the 2013 Welcome Home -- 4th of July Celebration,â?? The Beach Bums players wore special patriotic jerseys that were auctioned off following the game earning almost $3,000 for the local Veterans' Coalition," via the website.
â??Itâ??s not about the money,â?? said Champlin. â??Itâ??s about people using veterans and I wonâ??t stand for that no matter who it is. Using on the backs of veterans to try to further themselves, theyâ??ve already paid the ultimate sacrifice so they need to be honored now and supported now for what theyâ??ve done.â??
Wuerfel says he thinks that information was passed on to an intern to post on the website, and admits that it was an error on their part. He says the dollar amount that was posted did not take into account the expenses that they were required to pay for during those games.
â??I will say online where it said the proceeds go to them, I understand fully how they could misunderstand that as that total amount went to them and not the net income, which I had told George net income,â?? said Wuerfel.
The statements were removed from a portion of the Beach Bums' website. However, as of Wednesday, they could still be seen on another section. They were all removed by Friday.
Wuerfel says heâ??s a huge veteran supporter and wants to work the situation out.
â??This is a misunderstanding,â?? said Wuerfel. â??Iâ??d like to get together with George, just get it all straightened out. We love the veterans and thatâ??s where weâ??re coming from here.â??
Champlin says if it is proven that the Beach Bums did not withhold any money from the coalition that heâ??d like to let the situation go.
7&4 News asked the Beach Bums to see the financial report from the two games in 2012 and 2013 on Friday but was told that they werenâ??t available right away.
Wuerfel says he and his wife, Leslye are willing to write a check to the coalition, but say theyâ??d like to see it go to a specific group and not into the coalitionâ??s general fund.
The Grand Traverse Area Veteran Coalition consists of about 6,000 members that are made up of around 32 organizations that are members and about 20 organizations that are considered associate members.