- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

Funding tied to

blacks on rolls

ATLANTA

The United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta is reviewing its funding of the local Boy Scouts after concluding Scout officials have inflated black membership claims to boost financial support.

“The numbers are hugely inflated,” said United Way President Mark O’Connell. The agency is the single largest financial supporter of the Boy Scouts of America-Atlanta Area Council.

Scouting officials, Mr. O’Connell said, have reported that nearly half the 46,000 Scouts in metro Atlanta are black. “It doesn’t come close to representing the spirit of the truth,” he said after a review of the records.

The United Way’s funding decisions have been based in part on minority-participation data provided by Scouting officials.

Charges of inflated claims were raised last fall by Joseph Beasley, southeast regional director of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. He said misrepresenting minority membership is most pronounced in inner cities, specifically Atlanta.

The United Way, which has given the local Scouts more than $15 million since 1994, is awaiting the results of an audit of the Scouts’ membership figures. The Atlanta Area Council has hired a law firm to do the audit, which has been under way since last fall.

The Atlanta Area Council oversees 18 Scouting districts in a 13-county region. Officials have refused to comment on the council’s status with the United Way.

The FBI is looking into accusations of membership inflation involving a Boy Scout council in Alabama. Membership rolls in Tampa, Dallas and Oregon also have been questioned.

Mr. Beasley and others say the practice of inflating minority membership has helped generate nearly $10 million in funding for the Scouts over more than a decade.

“We want the truth to come out. We think something is amiss,” said Mr. Beasley. “We believe in the Boy Scouts, but we want them to get their act together.”

Mr. Beasley said he was awaiting a response from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta on whether it will investigate local Scouting practices as a possible violation of federal racketeering laws.

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