- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2005

The District is one of a number of cities participating in a Boy Scout initiative called ScoutReach that an Atlanta auditing firm recently determined was inflating minority tallies in that city’s membership totals.

But officials with the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America say there is no reason to believe that enrollment fraud is occurring in the District or in any of the nation’s other 310 Boy Scouts councils.

“This event has been difficult and painful, but it reminds us of our moral compass,” said Gregg Shields, spokesman for the National Council.

An independent investigation of the Atlanta Area Boy Scouts Council found that the organization inflated its number of black Boy Scouts by nearly 5,000 in a program for inner-city youth — including 200 Scout units that did not exist.

The council claimed there were 10,238 Scouts in a program designed to increase participation by boys in the country’s poorest areas in 2004, but an audit conducted by an independent law firm and released Tuesday found that only 5,361 were registered.

Auditors said the inflated numbers came about because of pressure on Boy Scouts officials assigned to inner-city areas to increase their membership numbers, which is a major criterion for an official’s performance appraisal. The numbers of Scouts in a council is also used to determine United Way funding.

Another investigation, into whether Boy Scouts leaders in the Greater Alabama Council inflated enrollment, is ongoing.

Mr. Shields said that Scouting officials have revised procedures to prevent any kind of membership fraud. The procedures include internally auditing local Boy Scouts councils and validating memberships.

He said he does not believe the incident will affect fundraising or recruitment efforts.

Mr. Shields said the council does not keep numbers on how many children nationally are part of the ScoutReach initiative. He said the initiative is an effort to reach out to at-risk youth, minorities, urban and rural families, poor families and others who may not have the opportunity to participate in Scouting. The program provides books, uniforms and other opportunities, including scholarships for camp.

A spokesman for the National Capital Area Council did not return a phone call yesterday seeking comment, nor did the team leader of the council’s ScoutReach staff.

Richard Lee, a member of the council’s ScoutReach committee, said he agrees that the situation in Atlanta is isolated and unfortunate. But Mr. Lee, who has been involved in fundraising for the Boy Scouts for about seven years, said any time there is negative news about the Boy Scouts, it makes fundraising that much more difficult.

“There are some repercussions, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “A lot of folks look at this in a negative way. It’s unfortunate because Scouting is a good thing. It helps young men.”

According to the Boy Scouts of America, the mission of the ScoutReach initiative is “to recruit strong adult leaders and to develop solid relationships with chartered organizations in urban and rural communities nationwide to ensure that culturally diverse youth have the opportunity to join the Scouting program.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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