Boy Scout Bankruptcy May Cost WNY Boards, But No One Knows How Much | Crime News
Three Scout Councils in western New York State will have to pour into a $ 425 million jar to settle sexual abuse complaints, as part of a bankruptcy reorganization plan proposed by the Boy Scouts of America.
The plan would protect 253 separately formed Scout Councils across the country from prosecution for abuse. But if it collapses, some boards, including those in western New York state, could end up suing their own Chapter 11 bankruptcies.
Almost 400 of the 82,500 sexual abuse complaints filed in connection with the Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy allege the abuse occurred within Scout councils in western New York State.
The national organization offered to settle all claims with $ 120 million of its own funds, $ 425 million from the 253 local Scout councils and at least $ 625 million in insurance. It is not clear from court documents how much each council would pay under the current regime.
Prosecution of allegations of abuse against the national organization and local councils would cease as part of the Boy Scout reorganization plan.
But the plan relies on the cooperation of all parties – abuse survivors, insurers and local councils, as well as the national organization – and not everyone is on board.
The parties are in negotiations with mediation, and if an agreement is not reached, an alternative plan proposed by the national organization would exclude local councils from the agreement and leave them to fend for themselves, against lawsuits in the courts of state or by filing their own Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
Both scenarios raise questions about how the reorganization of Boy Scouts of America will ultimately affect scouting operations in western New York State, where three councils employ 239 people and own and operate seven valued camp properties. over $ 6 million.
One of the biggest draws to the area’s Scouting programs is the opportunity for kids to camp at sites such as Camp Merz, a 350-acre facility on the shores of Lake Chautauqua near Mayville, and Camp Scouthaven, which includes 400 acres on Silver Lake in Freedom.
Boards could be forced to sell or mortgage properties to help pay for the proposed national BSA bankruptcy settlement or to resolve lawsuits in state courts.
Court documents filed by the Boy Scouts of America last month warned that its alternative plan, which is a safeguard in the event abuse claimants reject the preferred reorganization plan, would lead to bankruptcies of local councils in the states, including New York, which have statutes of limitations. allowing prosecution of sexual abuse cases from many years ago.
The Greater Niagara Frontier Council, which has 6,000 scouts in Erie and Niagara counties, was linked to 258 abuse complaints filed with the Boy Scouts of America. The Allegheny Highlands Council, which includes the counties of Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua, has been identified in 79 claims. Iroquois Trail Council includes the eastern portion of Niagara County, as well as the counties of Orleans, Genesee, and Wyoming. He has been named in 61 claims, according to Federal Court documents.
Hamburg resident Scott Miller is one of 82,500 former Scouts who have filed abuse complaints with the national organization. He also filed a complaint under the Child Victims Act in the Erie County State Supreme Court, naming the Greater Niagara Frontier Council, the Boy Scouts of America and the United Methodist Church, which sponsored the Scout troop, as defendants.
At least 38 former Boy Scout volunteers have been charged with sexually abusing children in more than 60 lawsuits in New York state courts, according to The News.
Miller said what the Boy Scouts have come up with so far shows no real responsibility.
“It just adds salt to the injuries,” Miller said. “They keep trying to manipulate a way to stay viable, and their viability is more important to them than all the lives that have been destroyed.”
If challenged, claims filed in the Boy Scouts bankruptcy would cost between $ 2.4 billion and $ 7.1 billion, according to an analysis by economics consultancy Bates White. The tort claimants committee, which represents abuse survivors, argued that the claims were worth more than $ 100 billion.
What’s on the table so far is $ 1.1 billion.
Seattle attorney Jason P. Amala said the councils, in particular, should offer a lot more money if they were looking to settle cases.
Collectively, the councils have net assets of $ 3.3 billion, according to court documents. But Amala said he believed it was prudent accounting based on the book value of properties that are worth much more today than when the boards first acquired them.
This appears to be the case with the Iroquois Trail Council, which listed net assets of $ 1.5 million, even though the combined appraised value of its two camps, Camp Sam Wood and Camp Dittmer, was $ 2.2 million. dollars, according to court documents.
Officials from the Greater Niagara Frontier Council in Cheektowaga and the Allegheny Highlands Council in Falconer told the News they were not told how much their councils would be asked to provide.
“We don’t know what the real number will be,” said Nathaniel Thornton, executive of the Allegheny Highlands Council. “We don’t know if we’re going to be asked to contribute or something like that.”
Thornton said he was also not sure what would happen if the boards were left out of the national bankruptcy case altogether.
“Obviously we want to compensate the victims in the best possible way, but other than that I don’t really have a preference on how it will necessarily be done,” he said. “I want to be able to help and I want to make sure that Scouting can continue to survive. And I think those are the two most important factors that we look at. “
Greater Niagara Frontier Council executive Gary A. Decker declined to be interviewed by phone about the bankruptcy, but said in an email that the council’s local contribution “is not yet known because it has not been determined “.
James McMullen, the executive of the Iroquois Trail Council, did not respond to a phone message.
If all boards paid the same amount under the current proposal, they would each owe about $ 1.7 million.
But bankruptcy is complicated by the fact that some local councils are in states with statutes of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits, while others are not.
Amala said he suspected that councils in states that did not have windows were simply refusing to contribute anything, leaving councils in states such as New York, New Jersey and California to take care of it. pay.
Minneapolis attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents about 800 former Boy Scouts, said the collective council’s contribution continues to be problematic.
“The position taken by the boards is so deficient in relation to their exposure, it’s shameful,” Anderson said.
Anderson said a panel of tort plaintiffs and the Boy Scouts are still very distant on many issues.
“And there is still a wider gap between the parties and the insurers,” he said. “At this point, there is a dead end. “
If progress does not accelerate, he added, the tort claimants committee will likely ask U.S. bankruptcy court judge Laurie Selber Silverstein to submit his reorganization plan for the Boy Scouts.
The committee’s plan would allow “some clawback now” and would require additional clawback later from insurance companies, he said.
Anderson said he would also prefer any reorganization plan to give survivors the opportunity to move forward with lawsuits in state courts.
“The reorganization process will have to take into account a difference between state laws that makes it difficult and complicated, at the same time, like no other before,” he said.
A victim, for example, from New York, which has window legislation, may end up receiving much more than a victim from Oklahoma, which is not the case, Anderson added.
“It is a reality that we did not create,” he said. “It’s hard. It’s unfair. It’s unfair. But that’s how it is.”
Miller has said in a lawsuit that Boy Scout Leader Hal Wright repeatedly assaulted him on Scout camping trips and at troop meetings in Orchard Park when he was a boy in the mid-1970s.
The bankruptcy deprived Miller and other abuse survivors from standing in a courtroom and telling the world what happened, he said.
“It silenced us all,” he said.
Miller said local councils are as responsible as the national organization for authorizing abuse.
“The way I see it, it’s an organization. If we were talking about Amazon, we wouldn’t be thinking which fulfillment center did what, we are talking about Amazon. It is the same, “he said.” These boards are subunits of the big organization and they are also responsible for things that have happened under their supervision. “