MONTPELIER — A judge is expected to ask the Hartford Elks lodge to explain why it hasn’t paid an estimated $709,000 owed to victims and lawyers in a sex discrimination case.
Judge Robert Bench said Wednesday during a hearing in the case that he plans to order officials of the lodge to appear in court.
Four women and the Human Rights Commission sued the Elks after seven women were denied membership to the then all-male lodge in 1996.
A year earlier, the national Elks organization abolished its requirement that restricted membership to men.
But the Hartford Lodge said the women were denied for reasons other than gender. A jury found the lodge had violated state law by discriminating against the women because of their gender.
The Elks have reportedly refused to pay the damage award and mounting lawyer fees since then and have recently started storing income in a safe instead of a bank account so it can’t be seized by court order.
“The corporation is in the business of hiding assets. That’s what they do,” Edwin “Ted” Hobson, attorney for the women, told the judge.
Richard Blodgett, the Hartford Elks current exalted leader, said h told Bench that he didn’t know the amount of money in the safe and said the Hartford Elks was willing to work out a monthly payment system with Hobson. That sounded like a “logical outcome,” said the judge, but he also said years have passed with the Elks making no effort to pay as yet.
“There needs to be some mechanism to bring this thing to an end in some orderly way,” he said.
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