Drum & bugle corps files for bankruptcy

NASHUA – The Spartans Drum & Bugle Corps, a Nashua institution that dates back to the 1950s, has filed for bankruptcy protection, according to records filed in United States Bankruptcy Court.

The Spartans organization filed November 24 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which provides protection to an organization, allowing it to continue operating as it reorganizes.

A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 21 in Manchester, where comments from debtors and other interested parties will be heard. The status of the bankruptcy and the Spartans’ reorganization will also be reviewed.

The Spartans, a nonprofit organization, was established in 1955 and has developed a reputation as a prestigious musical performance group, winning numerous national awards. Among its most recent major performances was at the Presidential Inaugural Parade in 2005.

There was no answer at Spartan Hall Friday afternoon. There is a “for sale” sign posted outside of Spartan Hall, at 73 West Hollis St.

It’s unknown in what form, if any, the Spartans will continue. Peter LaFlamme, executive director of the Spartans, did not return a phone call Friday.

In court filings, the Spartans were portrayed as an organization with substantial financial problems.

The Spartans received notice Dec. 4 that Bank of New England had scheduled a foreclosure sale on Spartan Hall, according to a report filed by attorney Todd Fahey, who was appointed by Hillsborough County Superior Probate Court to review the organization’s financial status.

As of November, the organization still owed approximately $811,000 on the property and was in default on payments dating back to August. The amount required them to cure the dedefault stood at $39,528.33, according to the report.

Fahey describe the Spartans’ debt situation as “dire.” Citizens Bank was owed nearly $140,000 in unpaid credit-card costs, according to court documents.

“Absent substantial debt forgiveness, an infusion of cash to satisfy this debt, or a discharge of most (or all) of the Corps’ debt in bankruptcy, it does not seem likely that the Corps will have the means to pay its debts and return to solvency,” Fahey wrote. of most (or all) of the Corps’ debt in bankruptcy, it does not seem likely that the Corps will have the means to pay its debts and return to solvency,” Fahey wrote.

Fahey cited a lack of revenue as one of the causes for the organization’s financial woes, including a “several hundred thousand dollar” drop in the revenue of its bingo operation over the past two years.

Revenue from tuition and the organization’s coach line service was also suffering, according to the report.

The bankruptcy filing came after the state’s Charitable Trusts Unit, a division of the Attorney General’s office, filed a petition Oct. 27 to remove the Spartans board of directors in October, according to records in Hillsborough County Superior Probate Court.

In the filing, the state alleges that the Spartans board of directors failed to properly manage and oversee the organization’s finances.

Among the state’s allegations was that the board failed to properly audit expenses, implement adequate oversight of spending and allow use of credit cards without adequate documentation.

Paul LaFlamme Jr., a member of the board of directors and nephew of Peter LaFlamme, filed a response in court, in which he stated that he and other members of the board (Paul LaFlamme Sr. and Mark Hodgkins) had pressed for reviews of the organization’s finances.

Paul LaFlamme Jr. claimed those requests were “consistently and inexplicably rebuffed by the other members of the board.”

Fahey’s report indicated feelings of vitriol among the board of directors – many of whom are related – and substantial division about how to operate the Spartans organization.

“It is unclear whether this divisiveness contributed to, or resulted from, the Corps’ current state, but some board relationships (some of which are family and extended family) seem at – or near – toxic levels,” he wrote.

In 2002, the Spartans paid the city of Nashua $45,000 in back taxes. In 1998, the Spartans lost more than $500,000 worth of equipment in a fire.