scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: Government investigates Scouts' membership figures (1/2)
Mike Montalvo (mike_montalvo@YAHOO.COM
Sun May 14 2000 - 06:55:37 CDT
Question: Did Scouting numbers reported by BSA to Congress include
Learning for Life?
Government investigates Scouts' membership figures
12-county group accused of inflating rosters
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
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
"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
Council officials, through their attorney, did not elaborate on the
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
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
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
operating 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
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
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.
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