Boy Scouts bankruptcy may cost WNY councils, but no one knows how much | Crime news


Three Boy Scout Councils in western New York are required to put $ 425 million in a pot to resolve sexual abuse lawsuits under a bankruptcy reorganization plan proposed by the Boy Scouts of America.

The plan would protect 253 separately formed Boy Scout councils across the country from abuse lawsuits. But if it falls apart, some councils, including those in Western New York, could end up pursuing their own Chapter 11 bankruptcies.

Nearly 400 of the 82,500 sexual abuse lawsuits filed in the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy claim that the abuse occurred on the Western New York Area Boy Scout Councils.

The national organization has proposed that all claims be settled with $ 120 million from its own funds, $ 425 million from the 253 local scout councils, and at least $ 625 million in insurance. The court records do not reveal how much each council would pay under the current plan.

Abuse allegations against the national organization and local councils would be dropped as part of the Boy Scouts reorganization plan.

But the plan depends on the cooperation of all parties – victims of abuse, insurance companies and local councils as well as the national organization – and not everyone is on board.

A lawyer representing over a thousand former Boy Scouts describes the bankruptcy clean-up plan presented this week by The Boy Scouts of America as “woefully inadequate.”

The sides are in mediated negotiations, and if no agreement is reached, an alternative plan offered by the national organization would exclude the local councils from the deal, leaving them to fend for themselves against lawsuits in state courts or by filing their own Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases.

Both scenarios raise questions about how the Boy Scouts of America reorganization will ultimately affect Boy Scout operations in western New York, where three councils employ 239 people and own and operate seven warehouse properties valued at more than $ 6 million.

One of the biggest draws in area scouting programs is the opportunity for children to visit places like Camp Merz, a 350-acre facility on the shores of Lake Chautauqua near Mayville, and Camp Scouthaven, which spans 400 acres on Silver Lake in Freedom to camp.

Councilors could be forced to sell or mortgage real estate to pay the proposed national BSA bankruptcy settlement or to settle lawsuits in state courts.

Boy Scouts Camp Scouthaven on Crystal Lake in Freedom, Friday June 11, 2021.

Derek Gee

Court documents filed by the Boy Scouts of America last month warned that their alternative plan, which provides support in the event that prosecutors reject the preferred reorganization plan, would result in bankruptcies of local councils in states, including New York, the statute of limitations has allowed sexual abuse lawsuits from many years ago.

The Greater Niagara Frontier Council, which has 6,000 Boy Scouts in Erie and Niagara counties, has been linked to 258 abuse allegations filed with Boy Scouts of America. The Allegheny Highlands Council, which includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua counties, has been identified in 79 claims. The Iroquois Trail Council covers the eastern portion of Niagara County as well as the counties of Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming. It was named in 61 lawsuits, according to federal court papers.

Scott Miller from Hamburg is one of 82,500 former scouts who have filed allegations of abuse with the national organization. He also filed a lawsuit against the Child Victims Act in the Erie County’s Supreme Court, citing the Greater Niagara Frontier Council, Boy Scouts of America, and the United Methodist Church, which sponsored the Scout Troop, as defendants.

Boy Scout Scott Miller

Scott Miller, then 10 years old, while Boy Scout Troop 518 traveled to Washington, DC in 1973. Miller alleged in a lawsuit under the Child Victims Act that he was molested by his Boy Scout leader in the mid-1970s.

Photo courtesy Scott Miller

At least 38 former Scout volunteers have been charged with child sexual abuse in around 60 Child Victims Act lawsuits filed in state courts in western New York, The News found.

Miller said what the Boy Scouts have suggested so far does not show any real accountability.

“It just adds salt to the wounds,” Miller said. “They keep trying to manipulate a way to remain viable, and their viability is more important to them than all the lives that have been destroyed.”

In the event of a lawsuit, the Boy Scouts’ bankruptcy claims would cost an estimated $ 2.4 billion to $ 7.1 billion, according to an analysis by business consultancy Bates White. The criminal justice committee, which represents abuse survivors, has argued that the amount of damage was worth more than $ 100 billion.

What’s on the table so far is $ 1.1 billion.

Seattle attorney Jason P. Amala said councils in particular should offer a lot more money in trying to settle cases.

Together, the councils have a net worth of $ 3.3 billion, according to court records. But Amala said he believes this is conservative accounting based on the book values ​​of properties that are worth much more today than they were when the communities first acquired them.

Camp Scouthaven

Boy Scouts of America Camp Scouthaven at Crystal Lake in Freedom, Friday June 11, 2021.

Derek Gee

This appears to be the case with the Iroquois Trail Council, which had a net worth of $ 1.5 million, despite the estimated value of its two camps, Camp Sam Wood and Camp Dittmer, being $ 2.2 million, according to court records.

Officials at the Greater Niagara Frontier Council in Cheektowaga and the Allegheny Highlands Council in Falconer told The News that they were not told how much is being asked of their councils.

“We don’t know what the real number will be,” said Nathaniel Thornton, chairman of the Allegheny Highlands Council. “We don’t know if we’re being asked to contribute or something like that.”

Thornton said he wasn’t sure what would happen if the councils were left out of the state bankruptcy case entirely.

“Of course we want to compensate the victims as best we can, but other than that, I don’t really have a preference for the way it’s done,” he said. “I want to be able to help and ensure that the scouting can continue. And I think these are the two most important factors that we look at. “

Gary A. Decker, executive director of the Greater Niagara Frontier Council, declined to telephone ask about the bankruptcy but said in an email that the council’s local contribution is “not yet known as it has not yet been determined” .

James McMullen, executive director of the Iroquois Trail Council, did not respond to a phone message.

If all councils deposited the same amount under the current proposal, they would each owe about $ 1.7 million.

However, bankruptcy is made more difficult by the fact that some local councils are located in states that have statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits while others do not.

Amala said he suspects councils in states that don’t have windows simply refuse to contribute, leaving councils in states like New York, New Jersey and California to get involved.

Minneapolis attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents some 800 former Boy Scouts, said the collective council’s contribution remained problematic.

“The position of the councils is so flawed compared to their exposure that it is shameful,” said Anderson.

Anderson said a tort committee and the Boy Scouts are still far apart on many issues.

“And the gap between the parties and the insurers is even wider,” he said. “At this point there is a standstill.”

If no progress is made, he added, the plaintiffs’ committee will likely ask US bankruptcy judge Laurie Selber Silverstein to present his reorganization plan for the Boy Scouts.

The committee’s plan would “allow some recovery now” and later seek additional recovery from insurance companies, he said.

Anderson said he would also prefer any reorganization plan to give survivors the opportunity to initiate lawsuits in state courts.

“The reorganization process has to take into account a distinction between state laws that makes it both difficult and complicated than any other that has taken place before,” he said.

For example, a victim from New York who has window laws can end up getting a lot more than an Oklahoma victim who doesn’t, added Anderson.

“This is a reality that we didn’t create,” he said. “It’s tough. It’s unfair. It’s unjust. But it is.”

Miller said in a lawsuit that Boy Scout Leader Hal Wright repeatedly harassed him as a boy on Boy Scout camping trips and at troop gatherings in Orchard Park.

The bankruptcy took away Miller and other abuse survivors from getting up in a courtroom and telling the world what happened, he said.

“It basically silenced us all,” he said.

Miller said local councils are as responsible as the national organization for allowing abuse.

“The way I see it, this is an organization. If we were to talk about Amazon, we wouldn’t be thinking about which distribution center does what, we are talking about Amazon. It’s the same, ”he said. “These councils are subdivisions of the great organization and they are equally responsible for the things that have happened under their supervision.”

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