The sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Boy Scouts of America and forced it into filing for bankruptcy should have no ill effects on the organization’s local activities, area leaders say.
The 110-year-old institution filed for Chapter 11 protection on Feb. 18 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the State of Delaware amidst 275 sexual abuse claims against BSA leaders across the country, and another possible 1,400 claims. Between 2017 and 2019, BSA paid out $150 million in settlements and legal fees related to the claims.
The organization has reeled over the past several years from countless accusations by former Boy Scouts of sexual abuse at the hands of troop leaders. The numerous allegations have reportedly contributed to a marked decline in BSA memberships nationwide.
Kenneth Panico, who heads local BSA Troop 8 through Christ United Methodist Church in Wauseon, said he could not comment. Michael Ruby, a representative of BSA Pack 3263 through St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Archbold, referred questions to the Black Swamp Area Council.
Colin Earl, assistant scout executive for the BSA Black Swamp Area Council, said neither the council nor the organization’s Chinquapin District, which encompasses much of Fulton County, is included in the bankruptcy proceedings. He said no changes are expected in local BSA operations. Scout membership in northwest Ohio was 5,520 in 2019, a dip from 5,722 in 2015.
“We have maintained a financially balanced budget for six consecutive years and continue to focus on sustainability for Scouting’s long and bright future,” Earl said in an email response.
He noted that Boy Scouts in the Black Swamp Area Council contributed 19,329 volunteer hours in 2019, including 1,376 service hours provided in Fulton County. On March 14, the annual Scouting for Food event will collect perishable food items for donation to local families and food pantries.
A former Eagle Scout and a BSA professional for 11 years, Earl said the safety of children in the program is the top priority. He noted mandatory youth protection training and criminal background checks for employees and volunteers, and the ban on sole adult interaction with members.
“We remain as committed as ever to delivering Scouting’s unparalleled experiences to young people throughout our communities,” he said.
Erica Dutcher, senior district executive for the Chinquapin District, did not return several calls for comment.
BSA has initiated a 24-hour Scouts First Helpline at 1-844-SCOUTS1, and an email address, email@example.com, to report suspected abuse or inappropriate behavior.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.