Atlanta Scouts Inflated Numbers

By Daniel Yee
Associated Press
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

ATLANTA, May 31 -- An independent investigation of the Atlanta area Boy Scouts 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 audit led to the resignation Tuesday of the Atlanta Area Council's executive director, David Larkin, who said he took full responsibility for his organization's actions.

The Atlanta Area Council said there were 10,238 Scouts in a program designed to increase participation by boys in the country's poorest areas in 2004, but the audit released Tuesday found that only 5,361 were registered, said Edgar Sims Jr., an attorney with the law firm that conducted the audit.

All of the false records were in the Operation First Class program. The program provides the boys' books, uniforms and other opportunities, including scholarships for camp.

The inflated numbers came about because of pressure on Scout officials assigned to inner-city areas to increase their membership numbers, which is a major criterion for an official's performance appraisal. A lack of supervision and leadership also contributed to the falsified rosters, Sims said. The false record-keeping dated to 1995, he added.

Eight Scout officials are believed to have participated in the false record-keeping, said Tom Gay, president of the council's board of directors.

The audit found that former Scouts too old to participate remained on the membership lists and that boys who had only attended informational meetings about the program were signed up as entire units, Sims said.

"There were kids signed up who were not provided a real Scouting program," said Jesse Spikes, a lawyer who participated in the audit.

In one example, an official changed the birth date of 87 Cub Scouts so they would still be young enough to participate. In another case, an official continued to report membership of a church Boy Scout unit although the church had burned down three years earlier.

Because the Atlanta council pays the $20 unit charter fee and the $10 individual membership fees of Scouts in the inner-city program, auditors estimated more than $256,000 from the council's general fund -- which includes donations -- were wrongly diverted to the national Boy Scout organization because of the inflated membership numbers.

Joe Beasley, regional director of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said in October that the 13-county Boy Scouts council was reporting twice as many black participants as were actively involved. Those membership numbers are used to help determine United Way funding.

"The Boy Scouts are needed," Beasley said. "I don't know how many boys possibly could have been saved. There are probably some boys in prison who could have not gone to prison had the money not been stolen."

Similar allegations have been made in Alabama, where the FBI is investigating whether the Birmingham-based Greater Alabama Boy Scout Council padded its membership rolls.

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