As chief executive officer for the state's largest Boy Scouts of America council, Brad Allen is the Puget Sound region's main enforcer of...
As chief executive officer for the state’s largest Boy Scouts of America council, Brad Allen is the Puget Sound region’s main enforcer of the organization’s zero-tolerance policy on sex abuse.
But years before he was hired in 2006 to head the Chief Seattle Council in Seattle, Allen was at the center of a sex-abuse scandal in Idaho involving a serial molester named Bradley Stowell, a Scout-camp swimming instructor who has admitted molesting as many as two dozen boys.
The case has resulted in a series of lawsuits that have cost the Boy Scouts hundreds of thousands of dollars, and prompted changes in Idaho law. It has become a cause célèbre in Idaho for critics who accuse the Boy Scouts of failing to police sexual abusers in their ranks.
The Chief Seattle Council’s board of directors said it has complete confidence in Allen’s leadership, though its president conceded he was unaware when they hired him that Allen was involved in lawsuits over the Idaho case. Allen has repeatedly declined interview requests.
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Paul Steed, the father of two of the molested Idaho boys, says the case makes Allen unfit to lead a council with 47,500 youth members in King County and four other counties around Puget Sound — about half of all the Boy Scouts in Washington.
“He had the prime chance to catch Stowell one-third of the way into his career abusing boys,” said Steed, of Pocatello, Idaho. “What absolute shortsightedness to put Stowell in charge of the waterfront.”
A “judgment call”
Allen, a 53-year-old Utah native, is an Eagle Scout, as are all six of his sons. He has spent all but one year of his professional life working for the Boy Scouts.
Before moving to Seattle, Allen, who is Mormon, spent six years as the national Boy Scouts’ chief liaison to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest sponsor of Scout troops in the U.S.
Criticism of Allen has focused on his response to a tip he received in 1995, when he was director of a Scout council in eastern Idaho, that Stowell had molested a 6-year-old boy seven years earlier.
The Boy Scouts’ operating manual at the time called for Allen to immediately remove Stowell from the camp, add his name to a national file of ineligible volunteers and call the police if he found the allegation credible.
In what he later described as a “judgment call” in testimony for a lawsuit, Allen didn’t check with police, child-welfare officials or the tipster himself. Instead, he accepted the word of a local Mormon church leader, who vouched for Stowell’s fitness for the Boy Scouts.
Allen also relied on Stowell himself, whose mother was on the board of the local Boy Scout council: “I told him there was no problem,” Stowell testified years later. “It was an isolated incident and that I was over that.”
Stowell had never been charged with molesting the 6-year-old. He had cut a deal with Idaho child-welfare authorities to get counseling and write the boy an apology, according to court records.
Allen let Stowell keep his job on the waterfront of Camp Little Lemhi, and told a fellow Scout official that there was “no basis to the allegations,” according to sworn testimony.
Stowell then molested at least four more young Scouts before his arrest in 1997. Now serving 14 years in prison, he has admitted to at least 24 victims in all.
“Devoted to Scouting”
The Boy Scouts have settled three lawsuits by Stowell victims — all with confidential terms. A fourth suit, by Paul Steed’s sons, is pending.
During one of the suits, a judge in Idaho singled out Allen’s “cursory investigation” as “reckless.” The judge said a “cultural atmosphere of ignorance and naiveté exists to such an extent that the very purposes of the organization are ignored for personal reasons, resulting in circumstances where youths who should be protected are preyed upon.”
Del Bishop, president of the Chief Seattle Council board of directors, said they chose Allen from a short list provided by the national Boy Scout office. In a statement, Bishop said Allen “has devoted his life to Scouting and to serving youth and families.”
But Patrick Boyle, the author of “Scout’s Honor,” about sex abuse in Scouting, notes that “in the Stowell case, you had a Scout executive in the 1990s doing what the [Boy Scouts] said it wasn’t doing anymore: doing a superficial investigation and concluding on his own there’s nothing to it.”
“This guy [Allen] appears to do exactly what BSA said was not happening anymore,” he said.