Investors help save Santa Fe’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge

May 12, 2019

It’s been an anxious few weeks for Billy Perdue, but the president of the Santa Fe branch of the Fraternal Order of Police finally has a plan to rescue the organization from the brink of financial ruin.

“We’ve met with some private investors, and it looks like we’re going to take care of everything,” said Perdue, 35, a District Attorney’s Office investigator, as a group of local high school students worked as volunteers at the organization’s lodge Thursday, cleaning and repainting the interior.

The building has stood on a narrow street off Airport Road on the city’s south side since 1982 — for years a center of socializing for local law enforcement officers.

More recently, however, the more than half-century-old Fraternal Order of Police was beset by financial mismanagement.

Perdue, a former Santa Fe police officer, took over the troubled organization as president in 2016 with a goal of getting it back on track — but in April, the state put its lodge up for auction because of $242,000 in unpaid property taxes. That prompted Century Bank to foreclose on the property, which still had a $150,000 balance outstanding on mortgage.

Perdue set out to save the lodge, which he said is far more than a bar. It’s also a venue for fundraisers to aid those in need and the center of community service — such as the organization’s Shop with a Hero event, in which law enforcement officers take hundreds of low-income local kids on a shopping spree for a day.

His efforts paid off, Perdue said last week.

“The auction is off, and we’re going to be paying off all of our debt,” he said.

Two people with ties to the area, who asked to remain anonymous, recently agreed to offer about $360,000 in loans to help the Fraternal Order of Police weather the crisis, he said. He expects the organization’s debts to the state Taxation and Revenue Department and to the bank to be completely paid by July.

It hasn’t been easy for the Fraternal Order of Police to attract new members from among the pool of local law enforcement officers, many of whom live outside the city.

One exception is Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, a Fraternal Order of Police member who was pleased to hear the news.

“They’re doing good things for the community,” Mendoza said of the organization. “I would encourage all law enforcement and non-law enforcement to support the FOP. … It’s come a long way over the last couple of years.”

The order’s aging lodge — which has a bar, pool tables and slot machines, in addition to a spacious event hall — will continue to offer a place to socialize for current and retired law enforcement. But Perdue said the venue’s main mission is to serve the community.

That focus is what attracted the private investors to step up with funds, he said.

Along with holding fundraisers, hosting DWI offender talks and offering affordable space for weddings, graduation parties and funeral receptions, he said, plans are in the works for other types of community engagement.

The order has been involved with the annual Special Needs Prom — which has become a regional gala for children, youth and adults with disabilities — and hopes to host the main event next year, Perdue said. There are plans for a post-traumatic stress disorder work group for veterans, sponsorship of a local semiprofessional baseball team and a sand volleyball league after development of an outdoor court on the property.

Last week, the order hosted a fundraiser to benefit a community member who recently suffered a heart attack. The donations will help pay for the man’s medical bills.

“He was super humble and excited and couldn’t believe the turnout,” Perdue said. “That’s my vision for the future of this place, is to continue to give back in that way.

“It’s still the place where officers can come and be comfortable,” he added, “but it’s also a place now that we can use to help the community out, and to show the community that we’re here for them. Not only to serve and protect them, but to also take care of them, when we have the opportunity.”