Local Chamber President and Navy Vet Resigns Over AR-15 Raffle

21-year Navy veteran Matt Leonard, current President and CEO of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in Lewiston, ME, resigned after a fallout over the chamber’s decision to raffle off an AR-15.

The Chamber sent out an email on Election Day announcing the gun raffle. The following day, they retracted and said the raffle was cancelled.

The Chamber’s board of directors was aware of a potential raffle but never fully vetted the details before the email was sent out.

Leonard explained the turn of events to the Lewiston-Auburn Sun-Journal in an interview:

Certainly, there was no intent to release that on Election Day or election week. Part of my roles and responsibility here is to have an understanding of the political environment, have a pulse. I certainly am cognizant of the fact that that was the absolute worst time to send that. It wasn’t intentional. Unfortunately, it went out, and it really struck a nerve with many of our members and members of the community.

Chamber member Joseph Cimino said Leonard approached him weeks ago to discuss the raffle and noted that other organizations have held similar events for fundraising efforts. Cimino is president of Top Gun of Maine, a shooting range and firearms store.

“They came in, they took photographs, we discussed the cost of building, what additions we would do, what we would do if somebody would want to take one of our courses if in fact they bought a firearm,” Cimino told WGME.

Chamber staff spent a month putting together the raffle and making sure it was legal. The purpose of the raffle was to raise money for the Chamber while promoting Top Gun of Maine.

After several board members expressed their concern and cancelled their chamber memberships over the news of the raffle, Leonard sent out a press release offering an apology and his resignation.

The Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has built a strong reputation of serving our community and has been a pillar in our community for decades. While this one incident does not reflect well on that reputation and history – that stain is my fault. I hope that you see that the board and our membership have taken stern and immediate actions demonstrating their continued commitment to serving our members and community in a manner that reflects best on us all.

My error in judgment, failure in leadership, and violation of trust bestowed by the board is inexcusable.

Although still pending stronger actions from the board of directors, I have submitted my immediate resignation to the board and will do everything in my power to execute their wishes in the days ahead.