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     Every adult Scouting volunteer who has worked on the BSA district level is well aware of the "problem" of paper units. (To volunteers, it's a problem, to BSA, it is not.)
     As a former Unit Commissioner and District Camping Chairman, I ran into paper units all the time. When these units were brought to the attention of the District Executive (professional Scouter), he would always explain that he could not do anything. In fact, he desperately did not want to clean up his roll of units, as his job security was based on increasing unit membership, not decreasing them. A District Executive who failed to show an increase in his units would find himself looking for another job real fast.
     BSA, Inc. was not (and is not) primarily interested in the quality of the program the youth are receiving. Their focus is on the numbers of units and youth in the program. For example, it took me four years to disband an Explorer Post which had ceased operations in 1969, but it's charter was being renewed every year by the former Explorer Advisor. When the post was finally disbanded in 1984, the "youth members" on the charter were married with children of their own.
     The current federal investigation into BSA's fraudulent practices is long overdue. Below are several articles which provide background on the Dallas investigation, as well as past investigations over BSA's long history.

Boy Scout roster inflation getting grand jury scrutiny: Officials say faulty membership procedures have been changed

01/05/2003
By TODD BENSMAN / The Dallas Morning News

A federal grand jury is examining evidence and hearing testimony from government witnesses about allegations of membership fraud in the Boy Scouts of America's large Dallas franchise, several people involved in the proceedings said.

The development comes more than 32 months after federal agents raided the offices of the Circle Ten Council. The agents acted on whistle-blower information that some of the organization's salaried recruiters, with their boss's knowledge, fraudulently inflated membership rosters for a minority Scout program to boost charitable donations.

Scouting officials have repeatedly denied criminal wrongdoing. They have said that faulty membership accounting procedures led to some irregularities and have since been changed. In 2000, Circle Ten said it served 70,000 North Texas children and was considered the fifth-largest of 324 Scout franchises nationwide.

An attorney for the organization said that the grand jury has made contact and that Circle Ten responded to its requests in an appropriate and timely manner.

"We're not in a position to discuss what's happening," said Circle Ten's attorney Bob Davis.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment, citing federal laws that forbid disclosing the activities of grand juries.

Dale Draper, a former Circle Ten Scout recruiter and one of the original whistle-blowers whose testimony the government has requested, said authorities who contacted him recently said they were working to obtain criminal charges.

Mr. Draper, now a volunteer scoutmaster working as a commercial drafter near Salt Lake City, declined to describe other details of his discussions with government authorities.

"I'm glad to hear it because it needs to be cleaned up for the good of the Scouts and for the good of those who want the Scouting organization to operate cleanly and honestly," Mr. Draper said. "It's been so long, I feel like some people may think they've gotten away with it."

Acting in part on information provided by Mr. Draper and others involved in Scouting, U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigators seized boxes of documents and computer hard drive data from the Circle Ten headquarters on Harry Hines Boulevard during an April 7, 2000, search.

'Ghost troops'

At the time, past and present Scout employees and volunteers said senior Scout executives ignored repeated complaints that long -expired "ghost troops" padded membership rolls by as much as 30 percent, mostly in an inner-city program geared to serve poor minority children.

They said ranking Circle Ten executives, under pressure from the national headquarters in Irving, pressured them to keep the expired troops to continue showing membership growth each year. The numbers were then used to justify higher financing requests from parents and from major charitable organizations, such as the United Way.

A review of some Circle Ten rosters from 1999 and 2000 found that several troops listed as active had never formed, in some cases years after recruiters came to south Dallas schools and gathered the names of prospective members.

One troop had not existed for 12 years, while some children listed in membership rosters had grown up and had children of their own. The members of one expired Scout troop were shown as living at the address of an apartment complex that had been bulldozed years earlier.

Ex-executive testifies

Among those who have testified that ranking Scout executives pressured them to count as active "ghost" Scout troops was Raymond Montgomery, a 30-year salaried executive who was suspended without pay after the federal investigation became public, his attorney Bill Alexander said. Mr. Montgomery no longer works for Circle Ten.

Mr. Montgomery, who has not been charged with any crime, handled much of the recruiting for the minority Scout program in some of Dallas' poorest neighborhoods.

Mr. Alexander declined to outline his client's testimony to the grand jury. In earlier interviews, Mr. Alexander has said Mr. Montgomery kept phony Scout troops on the membership rolls at the direction of his supervisors and with the knowledge of the organization's most senior executives.

Those executives, he said, included Scout Executive Billy Gamble, who retired in November 2001 after 25 years; Director of Field Services Espie Randolph, who still heads all Scout recruitment activities; and Charles "Pete" Peterson, the council's southern service area director during the period in question.

All three retained attorneys once the investigation began.

An attorney for Mr. Gamble did not return phone calls last week. But in previous interviews he has denied responsibility for or knowledge of any criminal accounting irregularities.

Attorney David Lewis, who represents Mr. Randolph, said that his client's job was to keep the heat on the recruiters working for him but that he was unaware whether his subordinates were creating and counting bogus troops.

"This is not the Cosa Nostra. These are incredibly principled, good people," Mr. Lewis said. "Knowing what the accusations are, he certainly would not be the person who created the bogus numbers. If it happened, it didn't come from his level."

Circle Ten officials have expressed a desire to see the investigation end, complaining that the organization's credibility remains at issue until the matter is resolved. Circle Ten officials say they have used the 2 years since the raid to clean up membership rolls and accounting procedures.

Internal documents show that the organization purged 25 percent of its membership rolls after the federal investigation began.

Boy Scouts' rolls decline by 25% - Thousands dropped after inquiry

02/25/2001
By Todd Bensman / The Dallas Morning News

The Boy Scouts of America's large Dallas chapter has purged thousands of purportedly active youth participants from troop rosters since a federal investigation of allegations of membership-counting fraud began last year, according to internal documents.

The Circle Ten Council, raided by the U.S. Postal Service last year as part of a mail fraud investigation focusing on whether inner-city membership rolls had been padded with "ghost scouts," had insisted that any irregularities were rare.

But council documents show that Circle Ten this year has revised its membership numbers downward by about 25 percent after coming under pressure from at least one major charity for an honest accounting. That's almost 12,000 fewer traditional Scouting members than the council claimed in fund-raising materials used to solicit donors last year.

The percentage of Scouts eliminated from the rolls of the 11-county Circle Ten Council was high in lower-income urban areas of Dallas that fund-raising solicitations had emphasized and that have drawn scrutiny from federal investigators.

The council's revised membership figures show a decline of more than 40 percent in areas such as South Dallas and Oak Cliff. In the Mustang district, which includes parts of south Oak Cliff and Wilmer and Hutchins, the list of active troops dropped from 56 to 19.

The new Circle Ten numbers seem to support the original 1999 whistleblower allegations that led to the Postal Service investigation. At least two Circle Ten whistleblowers said urban Scouting membership had been inflated by at least 30 percent.

Reasons for decrease

Circle Ten officials released a prepared statement Thursday acknowledging the dramatic losses but also offering three explanations for them. The primary reason for the smaller number of Scouts was negative national publicity after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June to uphold the organization's right to exclude gays, the council said.

Circle Ten Council was considered the fifth largest of more than 320 nationwide. Until recently, it claimed 74,000 Scouts and boasted of strong annual growth.

"Unfortunately, we're in a period where Scout numbers are suffering across the country from the national publicity," council president Bobby Lyle said last week.

National membership numbers, however, do not show dramatic losses. The Boy Scouts of America's national headquarters in Irving reported a net national gain of slightly less than 1 percent in its "traditional" Scouting programs - uniformed boys who take the Boy Scout oath and form troops sponsored by schools and churches.

The Circle Ten statement did not specifically address the decline in its urban Scouting program but noted a difficulty in recruiting adequate numbers of adult volunteers "in various areas."

The Circle Ten statement said the lower membership numbers also were because of a "special effort to verify the accuracy of the membership records." The statement said a review had been conducted in recent months by dozens of executive council board members.

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, after disclosures that the council was under federal investigation and reports questioning its inner-city numbers, in May privately pressed for a reconciliation of membership numbers, according to internal United Way documents.

The new numbers come during the post-Christmas charity allocation season as Scout councils across the nation renew funding requests to charities such as the United Way, which often base giving on membership claims.

The charity has given Circle Ten more than $11 million since 1991, including $1.1 million last year. United Way officials said they would continue giving despite the questions raised by the investigation.

Don Campion, United Way senior vice president, said the charity is determining its latest Circle Ten allocation and won't comment further.

"It really would disrupt our process to talk about any of the information that we've been gathering in our process," he said.

Despite reporting a drop in the number of traditional Scouts, the council is still claiming net growth for 2000 because of an unprecedented membership drive in an after-school program called "Learning for Life," for which school districts pay. The council says a 12,900-child gain in that program has offset traditional membership losses, increasing the council membership overall to 74,800.

But watchdogs and even Boy Scout officials say such total figures can be misleading because Learning for Life and traditional Scouting are dissimilar programs.

The Boy Scouts of America, in touting past national membership figures that exceeded 6 million, this year began separating the two numbers because some school districts did not want to be seen as supporting the gay-exclusion policy and threatened to withdraw funding. The Boy Scouts now claim 3.4 million traditional Scouts.

"They aren't members. They're participants," Boy Scouts national spokesman Gregg Shields said of the after-school program. "You don't have to take a membership oath to be in Learning for Life."

Adjusting the figures

The Circle Ten Council also had been merging the two figures in its fund-raising campaign literature to reach the 74,000 statistic, including 29,000 inner-city youths, even though Learning for Life generates its revenue from school districts and does not depend on donations.

The revised numbers show that traditional Scouts stood at about 40,000 in December and that the number of minority Scouts has been adjusted from about 13,000 to 8,500.

Some watchdogs caution that donors should not consider membership totals that include Learning for Life.

"They include them when they want to make statements about being a large organization and they exclude them when they want to talk about their membership policies," said Merril Hirsh, an attorney representing two gay men in a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts before the D.C. Commission on Human Rights.

In Dallas, meanwhile, the yearlong federal mail fraud investigation of the Circle Ten Council is continuing, according to Postal Inspector Jim Mathine.

Scouts' controversy similar to '70s flap - Group says it's serious about resolving charges of padded membership rolls

06/04/2000
By Todd Bensman / The Dallas Morning News

The newspaper accounts describe allegations that top Boy Scouts of America executives faked membership to boost funding, that thousands of Scouts were "phantoms" and that some inner-city troops listed on Scout reports didn't exist.

The year was 1974. The city was Chicago.

The Boy Scouts' scandal in the city where American scouting was born in 1910 rocked the organization more than a quarter-century ago. It triggered the resignations of top national officials and spawned reforms designed to guard against such abuses. 

That's why Keith Monroe is so dismayed by what he has heard lately from Dallas, where the Circle Ten Council has come under scrutiny amid whistle-blower allegations similar to those that shook Chicago.

Mr. Monroe, a Los Angeles author who recently delivered a manuscript of the official Boy Scouts' history to national headquarters in Irving, said Chapter 24 of the unpublished Other Men's Sons details the scandal. He said the episode remains so sensitive within the Scouts that executives singled out Chapter 24 for special editing last year.

"It would be really amazing to me to know there was much of it going on now," Mr. Monroe said in a telephone interview. "They were supposed to be checking the validity of the membership. We all thought this sort of thing had been wiped out."

Interviews and a search of news archives show that allegations of membership inflation have been a recurrent theme with the Boy Scouts since the 1970s Chicago scandal. Allegations similar to those in Dallas and Chicago also were reported in Los Angeles in 1991 and Jackson, Miss., in 1994.

And although their accounts could not be independently verified, at least a dozen current and former scouting employees and volunteers in councils from California to Florida say they also have witnessed or participated in the padding of membership rolls.

A spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America headquarters, which claims nearly 6 million youth and adult members in 320 councils nationwide, did not respond to several interview requests for this story. But previously, spokesman Greg Shields said the Boy Scouts are "dedicated to operating in an honest and ethical manner."

"We take any charges of membership irregularities seriously," Mr. Shields said.

Current and former employees of Circle Ten, which serves 11 North Texas counties and one in Oklahoma, have told The Dallas Morning News that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is investigating allegations of "ghost" units and faked membership numbers, especially in inner-city areas. Investigators have declined to comment on the probe.

Whistle-blowers allege that the Boy Scouts have pressured salaried Circle Ten executives and volunteers to inflate the local council's membership by as much as 30 percent in order to keep contributions flowing from the United Way and other groups. Circle Ten says it serves 18,000 adults and 75,000 children, 29,000 of them minorities from an inner-city program.

Circle Ten leaders, including president Bobby Lyle, have acknowledged some irregularities, disciplined one employee and launched an internal investigation. But they say the problem is not widespread. National Boy Scouts officials in Irving also have said the allegations regarding Circle Ten are isolated.

The current and former scouting employees and volunteers said the pressure they've experienced goes beyond membership expectations. 

"The intense pressure for numbers extends to fund-raising as well," said Stewart Mayers of Athens, Ga., who worked as a paid scouting professional in Arkansas and Oklahoma during the 1980s. "The annual fund-raising drive, referred to as Sustaining Membership Enrollment in the 1980s, was openly referred to by scouting professionals as Save My Employment."

Headquarters faulted

Mr. Mayers and others say the conditions that gave rise to alleged membership inflation can be traced to the Scouts' national headquarters and a corporate culture that they say emphasizes production, membership numbers and money.

"The name of the game is money. It's always 'get the names and get the money,'" said Ardis Russell, a Mississippi accountant who blew the whistle on alleged membership fraud uncovered in a council near Jackson in 1994. "It's a national problem, and the Boy Scouts of America knows it."

Alden Barber, who led the national organization during the 1970s, said in an interview recently that Scout leaders are like the leaders of any group dependent on donations. But he said the internal pressure to succeed is not synonymous with ordering wrongdoing.

"You are always going to find people who are dishonest in an organization as big as the Boy Scouts," Mr. Barber said. "It's easy to make an allegation; it's another to prove it."

Edward Dunn, a former scouting professional in Ohio who said he was forced to resign five years ago after failing to meet membership quotas, said the problem is not scouting itself but the group's leadership.

"Oddly enough, scouting works, but the professionals are screwing it up," Mr. Dunn said.

Mr. Monroe, the author commissioned to write the organization's history, said local membership scandals within the Scouts were reported periodically starting in the 1920s. One high-profile case in the late 1950s led to the firing of a Scout leader in Cleveland.

Those involved in scouting in recent years say the alleged practices now in question can be traced to "Boypower 76," created under Mr. Barber's leadership in 1968 to boost enrollment that sagged amid changing social attitudes toward established institutions such as the Scouts.

The plan was aimed at raising $65 million and recruiting 2 million new Scouts, a third of them minorities, by 1976. According to Mr. Monroe, Boypower 76 also tied raises, bonuses and promotions to meeting membership and donation quotas.

Mr. Monroe said the program resulted in an organizational makeover. Salespeople were hired, along with managers whose backgrounds were more likely to include an MBA than an Eagle Scout badge.

"The pressure I always knew about came from national; they're the ones who really influenced the councils; they were the ones who got the real heat," said Mr. Monroe, who said Mr. Barber first commissioned him to write the history in the early 1970s.

He said the book project was delayed after the scandal and then revived several years ago by current Scout leadership.

Chicago investigation

A four-month investigation by the Chicago Tribune, the results of which were published in 1974, assessed that Scout professionals had padded their membership rolls with minority children who didn't exist or with thousands of troops that were left on the rolls long after they became inactive. The newspaper said it also found that the beefed-up numbers were used to justify funding requests from federal anti-poverty efforts and from charities such as the United Way.

Boypower 76 was abandoned after the scandal. Mr. Barber - who told the Tribune in a 1974 article that, "Some of our people cheat, quite frankly" - resigned in 1976.

In his brief interview with The News, Mr. Barber said he resigned for reasons unrelated to the allegations, and he defended Boypower 76 as a program that was necessary at the time.

"I'm not classifying it as a success or as a failure," he said. "I think it made a contribution. There were some things wrong with it, probably."

According to Mr. Monroe, several national reforms were implemented after the Chicago allegations, including spot checks and audits of membership rolls and annual reapproval for troop charters, all aimed toward verifying that Scout troops and Cub packs were legitimate. 

"There was such a revulsion of that whole business concept," Mr. Monroe said. "I thought they wiped the whole thing out." 

In 1991, whistle-blower allegations surfaced that the Boy Scouts' Los Angeles Area Council claimed at least 45 nonexistent troops that purportedly included 1,800 Latino youngsters in a minority inner-city program. At the time, the council said it had 70,000 members.

A subsequent audit by national headquarters confirmed the allegations, said Joey Robinson, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Area Council. One Scouts professional resigned and another was fired after the investigation, he said.

Mr. Robinson said membership there now hovers at about 41,000 members. He said new accounting rules and other safeguards were implemented after the 1991 allegations, and he added that scouting officials are happy with the smaller numbers because they know the figures are accurate. The new requirements include monthly checks to verify each newly established troop, Mr. Robinson said.

"If you follow the guidelines, you won't get in any trouble," Mr. Robinson said. "If you don't, it's grounds for termination, and I mean you're out of here. You're fired right there on the spot."

In 1994, whistle-blowers in the Boy Scouts' Andrew Jackson Council in Vicksburg, Miss., alleged that they were ordered to inflate membership numbers involving minority children and parents, according to records and interviews with those involved.

Brian Paul Freese, a salaried district executive for the council in 1994, wrote in his resignation letter that he had been threatened with termination for refusing to create fake units and pay their registration fees to national headquarters with diverted funds. The national office receives $7 annually for each registered Scout.

Mr. Freese could not be reached for comment.

Phil Gee, a Scout volunteer who was among those who blew the whistle on the alleged practices, said local and national Scout audits found 6,000 inactive Scouts on the rolls. The council's numbers were reduced from 14,000 to 8,000 after all the "ghosts" were purged, Mr. Gee said.

Current leaders of the Mississippi council were attending a scouting conference and unavailable for comment last week.

Inquiry called vital

Despite the pain caused by the scandal, Mr. Gee said, the investigation was vital to maintaining the health of scouting in his area. He said Circle Ten will ultimately benefit from whatever the federal investigation determines.

David Rice, a volunteer and salaried Scout professional in Northern California dating to the 1950s, said the national organization needs to open its membership rolls to routine outside audits to eliminate any wrongful practices that remain.

Mr. Rice and other current and past Scout professionals say membership
rosters are tightly held, even within the organization.

"I think if national is going to really be honest about cleaning this up, they ought to have an accounting firm come in," said Mr. Rice, who recently left the organization after criticizing its policy forbidding gay Scout leaders. "If they don't do that, then national really isn't interested in straightening out this membership mess."

Scout exec admits rolls falsified - Official signed rosters under orders , lawyer says

05/24/2000
By Todd Bensman / The Dallas Morning News

A local Boy Scouts of America official suspended amid whistle-blower allegations of membership inflation acknowledges he signed bogus troop rosters for years but says he acted at the direction of his bosses in the Circle Ten Council, his attorney said.

Raymond Montgomery, a 30-year salaried executive for the Boy Scouts council that includes 11 North Texas counties, confirmed that he is the man disciplined last week by ranking council officials for "improper conduct" found in an internal investigation.

Attorney Bill Alexander, who represents Mr. Montgomery, said his client is being set up to take the fall for those above him.

"This poor ... [guy] is a throwaway, and I am not going to let them throw him away," Mr. Alexander said. "He was hired help. He just did what he was told, and I am not going to let them make a scapegoat out of him."

Mr. Alexander said Mr. Montgomery included phony Scouts and troops in membership rolls but was only following instructions from those who outranked him, including William Gamble, a 25-year Circle Ten Scout executive.

Mr. Gamble referred a call for comment to council president Bobby Lyle, who did not return a telephone call but faxed a statement that praised Mr. Gamble's long career.

"Mr. Gamble has devoted his entire adult life to the Boy Scouts of America," the statement said. "He is an Eagle Scout who has served the Boy Scouts of America for over 41 years. He believes in the values of the Boy Scouts, and we think the facts will bear this out."

The Circle Ten Council, one of the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America's largest franchises, says it serves up to 75,000 youths.

Current and past Circle Ten employees and Boy Scout volunteers have told The Dallas Morning News that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is investigating allegations that the group maintained false membership rolls that were used to solicit donations. Federal investigators, who took records from the Circle Ten headquarters last month, have declined to comment.

The current and past employees who have talked with investigators say the alleged problems have occurred in at least eight of the council's 25 districts. They say that the inflated numbers involved mainly minority neighborhoods and that membership numbers were used to keep millions of dollars in donations flowing from parents and charitable groups, including the United Way.

Mr. Montgomery, who declined to be interviewed at length, was suspended with pay pending the outcome of the federal investigation. The Oak Cliff resident is one of about 30 midlevel administrators, known as district executives, who are responsible for meeting Circle Ten recruitment and fund-raising goals.

Mr. Montgomery oversaw Scouting in some of southern Dallas County's poorest neighborhoods.

Since postal inspectors seized volumes of Circle Ten records April 7, Mr. Gamble and Mr. Lyle have acknowledged some membership count irregularities but said they were not widespread.

In memos to staff members and in interviews, the ranking executives said they were never aware of any wrongdoing.

Mr. Alexander declined to provide details about his client's role in approving bogus membership rosters, saying he did not want to release information that could damage his client in a federal criminal case.

He did say that the practice of falsifying minority membership was expected by the three executives directly above Mr. Montgomery: Mr. Gamble, Circle Ten second-in-command Charles "Pete" Peterson, and director of field services Espie Randolph Jr.

Mr. Montgomery "can't write a check, can't buy anything, can't make a move without their approval," Mr. Alexander said.

David B. Lewis, an attorney representing Mr. Peterson and Mr. Randolph, declined to comment Tuesday.

Mr. Montgomery is not alone in his contention that Mr. Gamble and other executives have long been aware of the alleged membership inflation and did not act to fix the problem.

Dave Walker, a volunteer Scout administrator who oversees the welfare of Scout troops in North Dallas, Farmers Branch and Carrollton, said he first complained directly to Mr. Gamble in 1996, when he discovered "ghost units" - disbanded Scout troops or Cub packs listed as active - throughout his territory.

"I said, 'We'll have to drop these ghost units off the rolls,'" Mr. Walker recalled saying to Mr. Gamble at Circle Ten offices. "Billy would not allow me to do that. He'd say: 'You can't. Your job is not to drop units.'"

Mr. Walker said he and other volunteers, frustrated by the continuing problem, confronted Mr. Gamble at a 1998 meeting.

"We wanted a councilwide adjustment" in troop numbers, Mr. Walker said. Mr. Gamble "was angry. He stated explicitly that we cannot drop units. But we were saying: 'The units aren't there. We don't have the boys. We don't have these numbers.'"

About the same time, field supervisor Dale Draper wrote a letter to national Boy Scout leaders calling attention to the alleged membership inflation and demanding that it be corrected. Two weeks later, Mr. Draper and other Scout officials said, Mr. Gamble told employees that an investigation had revealed few irregularities.

National Boy Scout officials, who preside over an estimated 6 million members nationwide, have said little about the federal investigation and continuing allegations of membership fraud in the local council.

Boy Scouts spokesman Greg Shields said this week that the national organization was satisfied with Circle Ten's 1998 audit, which found "a small number" of irregularities and led to some accounting changes. He said the national office did not plan to intervene or call for an independent audit.

"We rely on the councils to adhere to the procedures," Mr. Shields

Government investigates Scouts' membership figures - 12-county group accused of inflating rosters

05/14/2000
By Todd Bensman / The Dallas Morning News - Front Page

Federal authorities are investigating allegations that the 12-county Circle Ten Council of the Boy Scouts of America has inflated membership rosters by up to 30 percent and left inactive troops on its lists to keep millions of dollars in charitable donations flowing, according to current and past employees, volunteers and internal documents.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigators seized boxes of documents from the Circle Ten headquarters on Harry Hines Boulevard during an April 7 search. Authorities have refused to discuss the raid or the investigation.

Circle Ten Scout executive William Gamble, who is credited with nearly tripling membership in the 25 years he has led the council, and council president Bobby Lyle initially refused to discuss the whistle-blower allegations. The council is a franchise of the national Boy Scouts of America, headquartered in Irving.

"I wouldn't dare get in the way of this investigation," Mr. Gamble said Tuesday. "I'm going to let the authorities do their job. We're not going to do this in the newspaper."

Mr. Lyle then released a statement Friday acknowledging the investigation and saying that an unidentified employee had been suspended.

"We have recently uncovered information which leads us to believe that an employee may be engaged in improper conduct, and that employee has been suspended," Mr. Lyle said. "Circle Ten Council is committed to the principles of Scouting and will continue its evaluation until it is satisfied that those principles are being followed throughout its organization."

Council officials, through their attorney, did not elaborate on the statement.

David Biegler, a member of the council's board of directors, stressed that the allegations are unproven.

"The prevailing thought is anyone can make an allegation, and you hate to see an institution such as the Circle Ten Scouts judged on a single allegation," Mr. Biegler said.

'Terrible, just terrible'

Three volunteer administrators, one current Boy Scouts employee and a recently departed Scout manager told The Dallas Morning News that Mr. Gamble and other executives pressured them to retain the names of adult leaders and children who either never participated in Scouting or had become inactive.

Don Galipp, a volunteer Scouting chairman of the Wisdom Trail District, which serves parts of Oak Cliff, Duncanville and Lancaster, said he has been able to verify only 54 of 91 listed Scout troops he inherited when he took over two years ago.

He said Circle Ten officials told him to leave the membership lists as he found them.

"It's terrible, just terrible," Mr. Galipp said. "I feel that what is going on is not the Scouting way. We want it cleaned up."

A News review showed that 10 rosters listed some adults and children who said they were never members or had not been for years. The rosters represent only a small fraction of the council's troops and packs. 

In one case, that of Troop 947, council documents from November 1999 indicate that Allen Chapel Church in Oak Cliff has sponsored the group for 25 years. But Pastor J.R. Allen said the church has no troop. 

Alvis Thompson Jr., listed as Troop 947's scoutmaster on the roster, said the group disbanded 12 years ago. Three of the six Scouts on the 1999 roster listed home addresses at an Oak Cliff apartment complex. The complex was bulldozed after a windstorm in 1996.

Former council employee Dale Draper, who raised his concerns in an August 1998 letter to Boy Scouts of America national officials, said Troop 947 is typical of "ghost units" that pepper Circle Ten district rosters. In his 1998 letter, he estimated that "about 25-30% of Circle Ten Council's membership and units are bogus."

Mr. Draper and others said much of the problem they allege involves Circle Ten's inner-city Scouting program, which boasts 28,000 members, and involves the listing of bogus names and addresses.

"What's been happening is a perpetuation of years and years," said Mr. Draper, who until March 1999 worked as a salaried Circle Ten administrator overseeing one of 25 districts in the council. He and others said superiors pressured them to keep inactive troops and members on the rolls.

"Production gets you promotions and pay raises, and that's a quote from the office," said Mr. Draper, of Farmers Branch. "There's no excuse - no excuse for dropping units [Scout troops or Cub packs]. We were all told that, the whole professional staff. There is always that pressure, and it comes all the way from the top."

The ghost units, Mr. Draper and others said, helped boost total membership that has been used to justify funding requests from parents, corporations, civic groups and charities interested in helping inner-city youths. The local United Way, using formulas based in part on raw membership numbers, has given the council more than $10 million since 1991.

Sources of funding

Those interviewed said the pressure to keep membership growing has been enormous in recent years as the council sought to fund basic operations while more costly construction projects were under way.

The United Way provided 17 percent of Circle Ten's $7.9 million ooperating budget for 2000, according to council brochures.

Circle Ten serves Bryan County in southern Oklahoma and 11 North Texas counties: Dallas, Collin, Ellis, Navarro, Henderson, Kaufman, Van Zandt, Rains, Hunt, Rockwall and Grayson. It boasts membership of 73,000 Scouts.

A fund-raising brochure lists 1,800 sponsoring churches, schools and community groups. In the brochures, Circle Ten bills itself as the nation's fifth-largest Boy Scouts franchise and as having the nation's fastest-growing membership. It has a full-time paid staff of about 50 people and a payroll that equals nearly half the council's operating budget.

According to United Way records, Circle Ten reported that total membership, including Scouts and their adult leaders, grew from 131,000 in 1996 to more than 144,000 this year.

Gary G. Godsey, president of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, said the group has no choice but to rely on the veracity of the organizations it funds. He said he would be disappointed if the allegations against Circle Ten proved to be true, but he wouldn't rule out continuing funding.

Mr. Godsey said raw membership numbers still are used to calculate United Way donations to Circle Ten, but he added that the funding formula has been changed in recent years to shift emphasis away from those numbers.

"Their current status with us is outstanding," Mr. Godsey said. "At this point, we believe in the program. We believe it's doing great things in the community."

A more significant portion of Circle Ten funding - nearly 25 percent - comes from parents and small community groups responding to direct solicitations. Mr. Galipp and others said they have given dozens of fund-raising speeches to civic groups based on a prepared script that Circle Ten encourages them to use.

One such script obtained by The News, from 1998, asked donors for money based on a formula that used a membership total of 70,000 Scouts. The script asked donors for at least $85 each, the amount said to be needed to support each Scout.

Dave Walker, a volunteer who heads a Circle Ten district that includes parts of North Dallas, Farmers Branch and Carrollton, said membership figures are used in the talks.

"We talk about the 30,000 inner-city boys and Rocky Mountain Highs [camping trips]," he said.

One funding effort, the "Friends of Scouting" campaign, is in progress. The goal for this year's campaign, which includes small group presentations, breakfasts with corporate leaders and mail solicitations, is about $2 million, the volunteers have been told. 

Confronting officials

Circle Ten has spent millions of dollars in recent years to upgrade its area camps and facilities. Projects include a 114-foot-long water slide  and a swimming pool big enough for canoe training at Grayson Camp on Lake Texoma. This year, the council is putting the finishing touches on "Cub World," a camp in Duncanville that includes giant castles, pirate ships, and space and American Indian theme villages.

Mr. Draper wrote in his 1998 letter to national Boy Scouts officials that he was coming forward with his allegations only reluctantly. Mr. Walker, Mr. Galipp and others, including the current employee, said they have confronted ranking Boy Scouts officials separately.

"First of all, let me say that the lid I am about to take off the Circle Ten Council is not one that I do with ease," Mr. Draper wrote. "But fortified in the belief that the course I have chosen is the right one and the best for Scouting in the Dallas, Texas area, it is time to be proactive, do what's right, and let the consequences follow."

Mr. Draper concluded that what he called "bogus" membership "flies in the face of what Boy Scouts of America stands for - integrity, Scout Oath and Law, and all that is needed in this society."

About two weeks later, Mr. Draper received a two-sentence reply letter from Ronnie Holmes, assistant regional director of operations for the Boy Scouts' southern region.

"We take your letter very serious and I will follow up immediately," Mr. Holmes wrote.

Neither Mr. Holmes nor Boy Scout officials at the organization's national headquarters in Irving returned telephone calls for this story.

Mr. Draper and the current Boy Scouts employee, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said council executives told about 40 employees during a meeting about two weeks later that an internal audit found few irregularities and that they should forget the matter.

Instead, the two said, they quietly gathered evidence during the balance of 1998 and brought it to the Dallas Police Department's fraud unit in June 1999.

Former Police Chief Ben Click told The News that he referred the matter to federal authorities because he sat on Circle Ten's board and the department sponsors an active troop, and he wanted to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest.

Mr. Draper said he has given documents to authorities and has been interviewed by the Postal Inspection Service. The investigation has since expanded to include volunteers. Mr. Walker said he was interviewed Wednesday morning and handed over membership rosters.

The troop rosters checked by The News included that of Troop 814. Circle Ten records from last October listed 63 boys and scoutmaster Zulma Ramirez, an Oak Cliff mother.

Contacted recently, Ms. Ramirez said she's not involved in Scouting. 

"No! No! That's like fraud," she said when told she was listed as scoutmaster. "There's not a troop. I shouldn't be listed."

Similar stories

Council literature claims more than 18,000 adult leaders involved in Scouting. Like a number of other adults contacted who are listed as Circle Ten troop leaders, Ms. Ramirez said she attended a Boy Scouts recruiting meeting two years ago and filled out applications for herself and two sons. She said she has continued to receive Scouting-related mail, but no Scouting official ever contacted her. It's unclear whether Troop 814 exists. No other adults listed as members could be reached. Many phone numbers and addresses were omitted from the rosters.

Yolanda Barner, another area mother, told a similar story.

A 1999 roster shows that Ms. Barner is cubmaster for Pack 197's 19 Cub Scouts, including her son. Ms. Barner, however, said the pack never took hold after an initial meeting and was abandoned about December 1998. A February 2000 roster shows that Pack 197 grew to 21.

"It really wasn't a positive experience," she said. "We didn't last very long."

Bessie Johnson is listed in 1999 as a leader of Cub Pack 003 and its 13 members. A February 2000 membership lists 28 members for Pack 003. 

She said she and her son attended one meeting last year and filled out applications.

"We've been trying to locate who's in charge," Ms. Johnson said. "We're not active at all."

Mr. Draper said he gave federal authorities information that Hassell Elementary was listed as a current troop sponsor. The school near Fair Park was demolished in 1990. He and the current Boy Scouts official said they also found one Scout on the rolls who is now 30 years old and has a family. At the man's old home address, his elderly mother told whistle-blowers that she wondered why she was still receiving Boy Scouts material in the mail after all these years.

Despite such stories, Scouting is alive and well in some parts of southern Dallas, supporters say.

For 30 years, scoutmaster Thomas Lipscomb has run one of the black community's largest and most prominent troops. He boasts that Troop 167 has produced almost 90 Eagle Scouts over the years. The troop is used in many of Circle Ten's recruiting advertisements.

Asked about Circle Ten's claim that 28,000 Scouts participate in the inner-city program, Mr. Lipscomb said the number seemed high. But he added that keeping a troop healthy and active in the inner city is a constant struggle against poverty and peer pressure.

"A lot of minority leaders just don't have the time because they're working," he said. "It's a dedication, especially for minorities because we have so many distractions."

Another Scout leader, Mark Baker, said the recruiters came to Daniel Webster Elementary School in Oak Cliff, where he teaches, last November and made Cub Scouts out of 19 very appreciative first-, third- and fourth-graders. He said Pack 648 has met nearly every week since it was established. The Cub Scouts have been on four campouts and have taken a number of out-of-town trips.

"I enjoy it very much, and the kids benefit overwhelmingly," Mr. Baker said. "It's not just recreation, either; it's education, memorizing,  drilling."

 

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