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Members allege the American GI Forum has been shilling for Boeing, Big Oil, and AT&T

Photo: Photo illustration by Chuck Kerr, License: N/A

Photo illustration by Chuck Kerr

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Peter Vallecillo in his home office.


“I informed the GI Forum leadership that I would not have anything to do with the organization, not with the current leadership. I retired at the grade of Colonel, had a distinguished career, and didn’t want to be involved in anything that wasn’t right,” he told the Current. “There were some dealings that I knew were unethical, possibly illegal. I just didn’t want to be associated with that.”

 

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Albert Gonzales, the group’s national commander, says he’s dismayed by the in-fighting and ongoing legal battle. “We’re obviously saddened they took us to court on the issue, that we couldn’t sit down and mediate our internal differences within the organization,” he said.

Both he and Morales appeared before a San Antonio district court judge in August as Vallecillo and others tried to force the national Forum to recognize their new Texas chapter – a judge ruled the court didn’t have jurisdiction over such internal matters. They’ll head back to court early next month for another lawsuit, one brought on by numerous national board members alleging, among other things, that AGIF leadership failed to give up financial records and follow through on internal complaints.

As a 501c(4) nonprofit organization, Gonzales says AGIF leaders can advocate as they please. He defended Morales’ ties to Boeing, and the oil and gas industry, saying the AGIF spoke up in each case because, broadly speaking, both industries employ veterans. The Forum was pushing for a tax policy that encourages increased domestic oil production, Gonzales said, adding, “We’re against war for oil.”

“Our connection with the American Petroleum Institute is the same type of relationship we’ve had with folks like [General Motors], Ford, Coors. For the organization to raise money, to be able to advocate at the national level, we create these relationships,” he said. “It’s not a tit-for-tat, like to say, ‘Oh we’re going to come in and we’re going to give you X amount of dollars and then you guys come in and lobby for us with these Congressmen.’ That’s not what we’ve done.” Gonzales claims national and Texas AGIF leadership was weary of Vallecillo and others asking for account details. “The fact is they’re not auditors. I’m not sure what they were trying to determine,” he said. “One of the things they were asking for was for all sponsor names — we have no idea why they would want that unless they were trying to take those names so they can start soliciting for their own organization.”

Among those working to sever ties with current Forum leadership is the founder’s daughter, Cecilia Garcia Akers. She said she is working with Vallecillo and the roughly dozen other local members supporting the formation of a new Dr. Hector P. Garcia American GI Forum Organization of Texas.

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