MADISON — The post commander of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars organization said Thursday that he plans to stay in office following his arrest earlier this week and allegations that he oversaw illegal gambling at the VFW.

Meanwhile, the commander of the state VFW said the organization is conducting its own investigation into the issue and hasn’t determined yet what should be done.

“The individuals that caused all this stuff don’t want me in there, but they have no say in the matter,” said Louis Padula, post commander for Harvell-Bishop Post 7865 in Madison. “It’s the members of the VFW, not these certain individuals that never even served in a war.”

Padula, 71, of Anson, was arrested Tuesday on charges of unlawful gambling, tampering with a witness and falsifying physical evidence. Padula said he was limited in what he could say about the situation after discussing it with his lawyer, but was critical of the police and other individuals that he said were trying to make him look bad.

“They’re not taking me down; they’re taking the VFW down,” he said. “They’re making it look like it’s me, but I represent the VFW.”

Ronald Smith, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Department of Maine, said the state organization could ask Padula to give up his duties as commander or turn them over to someone else while Padula’s case is in court, but it’s not something they’ve done yet.

“It’s kind of hard to give an answer as to what our protocol should be, because we’re not sure ourselves yet,” Smith said. “We have strict guidelines to go by, and right now my hands are sort of tied because he was arrested, but he hasn’t been convicted. I can’t really do too much yet.”

Padula has served as post commander for five years and has been a member for about 12 years. State police have been investigating the post since January after they received a tip alleging that illegal gambling was taking place, according to State Police Sgt. Michael Johnston. Police believe that Padula was making illegal payouts to patrons of the post who played a video poker game intended for entertainment purposes only.

Smith said the game is not common at VFW posts in Maine, mostly because each game requires a license and it can be expensive for the game and the license.

The VFW is also conducting an investigation into the issue to see if there are any other underlying issues going on at the Madison post, Smith said.

“It’s an ongoing investigation. He hasn’t been convicted, so I can’t just say, ‘You’re gone,'” Smith said.

Smith said the incident was an isolated one and that he hasn’t heard of any gambling violations at other posts in Maine.

“We aren’t the only organization that has been caught doing this. It’s been done in the (American) Legion and the Elks and a couple other organizations. It’s the person, not the organization that’s doing it,” Smith said.

Padula, however, argued that the allegations are an attack not just on him, but on the organization as a whole.

“Mr. Padula represents the organization. It’s not me individually, and it’s something they need to get straight,” Padula said, in response to a statement by police asserting that their investigation was related mostly to his actions and not the organization.

Nominations for officers were filed last month and no one else has submitted their name to serve as commander, Padula said. When asked if the allegations might change things, he said, “It might.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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