Alabama enrollment
scandal takes away
from scouts’ honor

The Hawaii organization says it
uses independent auditors to
prevent such problems here

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. » Boy Scout volunteer Tom Willis knew something was wrong when he saw that 20 youngsters on the list for a Scouting program all had the same last name: Doe.

Willis said it appeared someone was listing fake members to boost enrollment, perhaps to bring in more funding from agencies like the United Way or to make paid Boy Scout recruiters look better.

"It was just so blatant. They didn't even try to make up names," said Willis, a dentist from Decatur and a former Eagle Scout who serves on the board of the Greater Alabama Boy Scout Council, which runs scouting programs in northeastern Alabama.

Now the FBI is investigating whether the council padded its membership rolls. It is just the latest investigation around the country into whether the Boy Scouts have inflated their numbers.

The FBI refused to comment. The council said on its Web site early this month that Scout officials were cooperating with investigators and conducting an internal audit.

"Let me assure you that your executive committee considers these allegations to be very serious and is taking necessary and appropriate action," said council board chairman Randy Haines, a banking executive.

In Hawaii, Rees Falkner, scout executive and chief executive officer of Aloha Council Inc., said the local Boy Scout organization has independent auditors and the Boy Scouts of America does periodic audits. The local group is required to perform member validation to assure membership is correct and valid.

"We have checks and balances," he said. "We're servants of the community and we recognize we need to be above board in every possible area.

Falkner had not heard about the mainland incident.

"It's very unfortunate when things like this happen," he said last night. "That taints the entire movement.

"I don't recall this happening very often. It strengthens our resolve to make sure we're really watching to assure that our membership is accurate."

Greg Shields, a spokesman at the Boy Scouts' national office in Irving, Texas, said the organization has numerous policies meant to ensure the accuracy of its membership rolls, and is "dedicated to the accurate reporting of membership."

Yet longtime scout volunteer Larry Cox said he got used to seeing paperwork from council headquarters in Birmingham that listed the names of youngsters who had dropped out of scouting or had never been part of the organization.

The problem, Cox said, is with a few people at the council office, not the volunteers who lead activities such as camping trips and Pinewood Derby car races.

"They always said it was because our paperwork had problems, but we knew it wasn't," Cox said. "It seemed to be very broad."

Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.

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