After 144 years, we are now the Bennett Valley Guild
By Bill Finkelstein, treasurer, Bennett Valley Guild
If you’ve driven by our historic hall at 4145 Grange Road, you may have noticed some changes. A key word has changed on our sign on the street. Why is that? It’s because we have a new name.
We are now the Bennett Valley Guild and our historic hall, built in 1873, is now the Bennett Valley Guild Hall. We are the same organization, a California corporation C0234967 registered March 23, 1949, with the same members, the same mission, at the same location, but with a new name. Why did we do this?
In 2009, the conflict started between the National Grange and the California State Grange (now referred to as the California Guild) under President Bob McFarland over a variety of issues starting with who owns a local chapter’s property. The California Guild’s position is that the hall and assets are owned by the local members. The position of the National Grange and the new State Grange under Ed Komski chartered in July, 2014 is that THEY own the halls and assets.
This conflict could not be resolved in a peaceful manner and the National Master, Ed Luttrell, decided to expel the California organization and take it to the courts. This court action has escalated into more lawsuits.
In the interim, the National Grange Master revoked the charter of the California State Grange on April 5, 2013, kicking out our democratically-elected state organization and all its chapters. The National Master decided to form a new corporation and appointed Ed Komski as its President. This new corporation is called “The Grange of the State of California’s Order of Patrons of Husbandry, Chartered” (C3649252 registered Feb. 21, 2014). The community Granges had no say regarding this organization or its leaders.
Then, to compound the confusion, Komski created a second corporation: the “California State Grange” (C3929444 registered July 21, 2016). It’s currently not clear which of Komski’s corporations is which these days. It’s clear that no one would confuse any of his organizations with any of the Guilds.
In the meantime, the courts ruled that the word “Grange” is a trademark and belongs to the National Grange.
Our California State organization could not continue to use its original name, had to change it, and did so, to the “California Guild.” It is the same California corporation (C0210454 registered Oct. 7, 1946) with a different name. The Bennett Valley Guild nonprofit status derives from the California Guild.
The Bennett Valley Chapter is not now, nor have we ever been, a member of either of Komski’s two California State Granges. It has no jurisdiction over us, so any communication from them regarding Bennett Valley is invalid.
The active members of the Bennett Valley Guild decided the best course of action was to change our name to avoid being sued for trademark infringement and to avoid the onerous requirement imposed if we adopted Ed Komski’s new bylaws, which would give him authority to revoke our charter and strip us of our property and other assets.
The lawsuits between the National Grange and Komski’s California Grange and the California Guild are ongoing. So far, the courts are ruling in the favor of the California Guild on all matters of importance except the Trademark case. The court has affirmed in both the Federal and State Courts that the Guild is a bona fide California corporation and its officers and directors are governed and protected by the laws of our state and nation. Further the Federal court has found there is no contractual relationship between any of the Grange entities and any of the Guild chapters.
These findings have dealt a major blow to the land grab orchestrated by the National Grange and Mr. Komski, who are ruthlessly attempting to financially strangle the Guild, its officers and staff.
About the Bennett Valley Guild
The Bennett Valley Guild has been an essential part of Bennett Valley for over 144 years. Most people know that the Bennett Valley Guild Hall is an historical building built in 1873. What people may not know is that this Guild is an active organization that continues to hold monthly meetings working to “Enhance our Environment through Community Action.”
The Bennett Valley Guild has partnered with the Bennett Valley Community Association (BVCA), offering the hall for community events, meetings, and informative speakers. The BVCA also co-sponsors the Guild’s annual Bennett Valley Picnic, which is held the first Sunday in June. This year the 145th Annual Picnic will be held on June 4 from noon to 4 p.m. The picnic raises funds for the upkeep and maintenance of our historic hall. The Guild is also the site of the Bennett Valley Emergency Preparedness emergency shelter, supporting all rural Bennett Valley.
For information, please contact Bill Finkelstein, treasurer and executive committee member at 536-1026 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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