An Oregon lawyer Thursday will post a searchable database of 1,250 Boy Scout volunteers from across the country accused of sexual abuse between 1965 and 1985.
For more than 80 years, the Boy Scouts of America has maintained a confidential list of “Ineligible Volunteers” — adults tossed from Scouting because they’re suspected of pedophilia and other offenses.
Some people call them the “perversion files.” And the Scouts have fought hard to keep the records a secret.
On Thursday, some of those files will be opened broadly to the public, when an Oregon lawyer posts a searchable database of 1,250 accused Scout volunteers from across the country. It is an unprecedented glimpse into the magnitude of sexual-abuse allegations surrounding an organization that prides itself on a squeaky-clean image.
“The stories in those files are real little boys and real stories of abuse,” Portland attorney Kelly Clark said. “And when the public sees these stories in black and white, I think the level of understanding and frustration about sexual abuse in Scouting is going to be significantly elevated.”
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In a prepared statement, the Boy Scouts said the confidential list was a way to keep Scouts safe: If a child molester was kicked out of one troop, he couldn’t simply go to another, although some tried.
The organization has since strengthened policies, as well, with rules barring one-on-one time between Scouts and volunteers, mandatory reporting of suspected abuse, and criminal background checks.
“In certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient,” national President Wayne Perry said in the statement. “Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.”
Clark’s online database will include the name, troop, date of the accusation and a brief description. Click on the links and you’ll be able to see some 15,000 pages of the Scouts’ documentation, with the names of victims redacted.
The database contains the names of 22 “ineligible volunteers” from Washington.
The files cover a period from 1965 to 1985. Updated versions of the list continue to be the subject of court battles and are in the hands of other attorneys.
The Seattle Times has reported on a number of those cases over the years, including one involving two brothers, Tom and Matt Stewart. They were molested for years by their Scoutmaster, who was never charged because the statute of limitation had expired. An out-of-court settlement was reached between the Scouts and the brothers.
The various “ineligible volunteer” lists were obtained mostly as part of the litigation process. But much of Clark’s information had sat for 20 years in the garage of an East Coast journalist whose 1994 book, “Scout’s Honor,” recounted the history of sex abuse in Scouting.
“Years ago, you had to go to an attorney’s office or you had to come to my house — and I mean that, because people did it — and look through the files and copy them,” said journalist Patrick Boyle. “Now you can go online. … I think a lot of victims are going to go back and punch in a name and find out if the guy who abused them was caught.”
Anticipating Clark’s database, Timothy Kosnoff and Jason Amala, Seattle attorneys who also have sued the Scouts, made some of their files available, as well.
There was the case of Assistant Scoutmaster Richard Dilley, who worked with a troop in Greece until he was forced to leave in 1984 after abuse allegations surfaced. He later turned up in Seattle and was convicted of molesting teenage Scouts.
There was the case of Michael L. Hicks, of Yakima, who was convicted three times of sexually abusing a child before being removed from Scouting in 1990.
And the case of the Boeing executive forced to resign from Scouting after being charged with indecent liberties in 1987. He was ordered to undergo sex-offender therapy and have no contact with children for two years.
In these cases, the Scouts learned of the abuse through authorities or newspaper accounts. But sometimes the allegations came directly to Scouting officials from a boy in a local troop. Back then, times were different, too.
The Scouts “didn’t know what to do about this,” Boyle said. “They held their nose, closed their eyes and made these guys go away — sometimes reporting to police, sometimes not, sometimes telling the parents, sometimes not.”
The way Clark and the other plaintiff’s lawyers see it, the Scouts have had an enormous repository of information on the behavior of child molesters — how they slip into a youth organization, ingratiate themselves and access kids.
“They knew almost better than anyone how to protect kids,” attorney Amala said. Yet they “waited until the mid-1980s to change their ways.”
Clark’s list is becoming public after a long Oregon court battle between the Scouts and a victim that ended with a jury verdict of nearly $20 million. The list was a trial exhibit.
Normally, that’s available to the public after a case closes, but the Scouts asked the judge to seal it. Ultimately, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled it should be open to the public.
“What we hope comes out of it is that not only the Scouts but other youth organizations learn the lessons that are in these files,” Clark said. Looking through the 15,000 pages, he sees patterns.
“If you see the same thing happening year in year out,” he said, “you can’t just sit there and make a list. If your program isn’t working, you make changes.”
Clark is now representing a client alleging abuse in 2004 in Texas. The Scouts have been ordered to turn over a current list of “Ineligible Volunteers,”but Clark said they plan to appeal.
“Our goal would be eventually to bust down that door in Texas and get the same thing for the modern files,” he said.
News researchers Miyoko Wolf, Gene Balk, and Justin Mayo contributed to this report.
Maureen O’Hagan: 206-464-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org