OGUNQUIT — Rumors of financial mismanagement in an organization that honors Mainers who have died in war were “unfounded and wrong,” according to the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the founder of Run for the Fallen Maine.
“I knew the truth was on my side and I knew all the families (of fallen soldiers) believed I did nothing wrong,” John Mixon said in an interview late last week. “We were accused of the worst thing you could do to an organization.”
The settlement was reached in January, but Mixon did not go public about it. The Vietnam veteran said he has decided to talk about it now to clear up any uncertainty that remained about the organization.
Mixon, with help from a former friend named Bob Winn, founded Run for the Fallen Maine in 2008 to help families of service members with Maine ties who have been killed since Sept. 11, 2001.
Winn quit after the first year, but Mixon kept the annual Ogunquit-to-Portland run going with support from volunteers. The race has honored 82 fallen service members, and it raised more than $108,000 last year.
After Winn quit, rumors surfaced that Mixon was mismanaging money raised by the group. Mixon sued Winn, an Ogunquit selectman, and Winn’s girlfriend, Diana Allen, a member of the local school board, after rumors were traced back to them, according to documents in York County Superior Court.
Mixon was awarded an undisclosed financial settlement, although he said he sued to get an apology, not for financial gain. Court document do not disclose the amount of the settlement. Mixon said only that it was six figures.
“To us, it was not about the money, it was about our reputation,” Mixon said.
A statement that is part of the settlement agreement says questions raised by Winn and Allen about financial mismanagement “were unfounded and wrong.”
It says Mixon and volunteers worked tirelessly and Mixon spent his own money to promote an organization that has “greatly benefited scores of families of fallen soldiers, sailors and Marines.”
Winn and Allen declined to comment when reached by phone last week.
Now, Mixon and others involved with Run for the Fallen Maine are trying to put the bitter falling-out behind them and organize a scaled-down event in August. Instead of the Ogunquit-to-Portland run with a stop at each mile marker to honor a fallen service member, this year’s event will be a five-kilometer run that begins and ends at Ocean Gateway in Portland.
One of the most important aspects of the event is providing a time and place for families of fallen service members from all parts of Maine to get together, Mixon said.
He said he tried to keep the focus on fallen service members and their families even as rumors of financial mismanagement swirled around Ogunquit. “These people truly believed in us and our cause,” he said. “I couldn’t give up on them.”
But as the fifth annual Run for the Fallen approached last summer, Mixon found himself dealing with uncertainty caused by the rumors that he was mismanaging the money. At least one local organization that had donated to Run for the Fallen did not give money because of the rumors.
Run for the Fallen Maine took in just over $108,000 last year. About $32,000 is left for this year’s race. The rest went to scholarships, costs to put on the event — including a lobster feed for 500 people — and financial assistance to families for needs that aren’t covered by programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
As part of the lawsuit, Mixon provided personal financial records and his organization’s records, according to court documents.
Gordon Lewis of Ogunquit, a board member with Run for the Fallen who knows Mixon and Winn well, said the rumors and the lawsuit were hurtful in a town where “everyone knows everything that’s going on.”
“I’ve had friends of mine in town who said they couldn’t donate anymore because of their concerns the funds weren’t being used properly,” Lewis said. “That places a cloud over all the wonderful volunteers you recruit to put on an event this size. We had to rise above that and focus on our mission to honor families and the names of our fallen heroes.”
Lewis said some of the families were angry when they heard the rumors.
“People were angered by it all and disappointed this was said,” Lewis said. “Some felt it was unpatriotic.”
Lorna Harris of Patten attends the Run for the Fallen each year in honor of her son, Spc. Dustin Harris, a member of the Army’s 172nd Brigade Support Battalion who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on April 6, 2006.
She heard a little bit about the lawsuit but wasn’t concerned that the rumors were true. She was more upset by the idea that last year’s race was supposed to be the last.
“We knew the type of person John is. He’s willing to do so much for fallen soldiers and their families,” she said.
Mixon said he has decided to keep the event going because families of fallen service members “are still suffering” and it’s important for the organization to keep helping them, often with donations for services they cannot otherwise afford, he said.
“I get back 10 times what I give,” he said. “It’s overwhelming when I think about it.”
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: