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Order may allow embattled bingo hall to reopen

A bingo hall, closed nearly three months ago because of a dispute over money, might reopen in a few weeks. Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Stanley Mills issued an order to have the bingo hall turned over to a group of three trustees during a hearing Friday.

In essence, the order will allow the building on 3235 Madison Street in Elfers to reopen for bingo and other activities.

Mills ordered the building turned over to trustees who would oversee its operations and make monthly financial statements to the court.

The two parties to the financial dispute, the Polish Legion of American Veterans (PLAV) and the United Property Owners (UPO), each must submit to Mills the name of a trustee by Friday and the name of a neutral third party by June 21, according to Lee Ellen Acevedo, the attorney representing the PLAV.

If either side fails to meet the deadline, the building will revert to the other, Acevedo said.

The order is part of an on-going feud between the PLAV and the UPO that has resulted in a civil lawsuit and criminal charges against two former PLAV members.

Charges of grand theft were lodged in March by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office against former PLAV members and United Property Owner officers Eugene Gromek and Michael Palak.

The pair is accused of signing the building, land and other assets valued at nearly $750,000 over to the UPO. They also are accused of taking $26,000 from post cash and checking accounts.

Pasco sheriff's detectives say former post commander Gromek and former financial officer Palak set up United Property Owners as a shell corporation.

They signed the post building and land over to UPO last April 12. The two face a criminal hearing in July.

Lee Hart, who is representing Gromek and Palak, said his clients were satisfied with the judge's order Friday.

"The result is trying to get . . . the building opened again for the benefit of the bond holders," Hart said. "That is what my clients have wanted to do."

A separate civil suit filed by PLAV contends that UPO members told bond holders who wanted to cash in early that the money wasn't available, Acevedo said.

They also changed the door locks on the bingo hall and forcibly removed the PLAV people, she said.