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Records show scope of Boy Scouts sex abuse allegations on LI

Across New York State, 5,178 sex abuse claims

Across New York State, 5,178 sex abuse claims have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America, its local councils, and sponsoring organizations Credit: AP/Christopher Millette

More than 350 allegations of child sex abuse have been filed against the Suffolk and Nassau county councils of the Boy Scouts of America, according to court filings released last week as part of the Scouts' proposed bankruptcy plan.

The records quantify, for the first time, the breadth and scope of the alleged abuse of boys by Scout leaders and volunteers on Long Island and across the state. The allegations stretch as far back as the turn of the 20th century, with the first claim dating from 1905.

The Tort Claimants Committee, the bankruptcy panel charged with representing the interests of abuse survivors, reported 185 claims of sex abuse have been filed against the Medford-based Suffolk County Council and 175 claims were made against the Theodore Roosevelt Council, one of the nation's oldest Boy Scouts organizations, based in Massapequa.

Across the state, 5,178 claims have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America, its local councils and sponsoring organizations — a number legal experts believe is low because many victims have died or declined to come forward with their allegations.

The claims going back decades were made possible when New York's Child Victims Act opened a window for lawsuits from child sexual abuse victims that were previously barred by the statute of limitations.

"It's a breathtaking number of abuse victims on Long Island, but when you step back and look at the Boy Scout bankruptcy nationally there are close to 85,000 claims," said Michael Pfau of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, which represents 1,000 men, including 17 from Long Island, who allege they were abused by Scout leaders and volunteers. "That is a shocking number … To have almost 400 abuse survivors file claims [on Long Island] is a testament to how horrible the problem was."

In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America declined to comment on the Long Island allegations but said the proportion of abuse claims correlates with areas that have higher concentrations of Scout programs.

"The number of claims related to historical instances of abuse filed in our Chapter 11 case is heartbreaking, and we steadfastly believe that one instance of abuse is too many," the statement said. "The Boy Scouts of America is committed to fulfilling our social and moral responsibility to equitably compensate victims who suffered abuse during their time in Scouting, while also ensuring that we carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities for years to come."

The statement said the "vast majority" of abuse claims predate their "Youth Protection" program that was put in place to safeguard Scouts. The program was originally put in place in the 1980s, before receiving updates in 2003, 2008 and then again in 2018.

The protection measures include criminal background checks and training for adult leaders and staff, mandatory reporting of allegations of abuse to law enforcement and banning adults from one-on-one interactions with children.

The bankruptcy reorganization, submitted to a Delaware court last week, calls for 253 local councils to contribute a combined $300 million to a trust to help settle the sexual abuse claims. In exchange, the Scouts want the court to dismiss hundreds of pending lawsuits against the organization and its councils, and to grant them immunity from future suits.

The plan, which would allow for the continued operation of local troops and national adventure camps, did not stipulate which councils would contribute to the fund.

Pfau called the proposal "woefully inadequate," arguing it would pay victims an average of just over $6,000 — hardly enough, in most cases, to reimburse the cost of therapy.

"It’s unacceptable and it’s not realistic," Pfau said. "And it’s not going to happen."

Local councils in New York hold more than $80 million in assets, including $13.3 million by the Theodore Roosevelt Council and $1.3 million by the Suffolk Council, according to tax filings submitted as part of the bankruptcy reorganization, Pfau said.

To fund the trust, the BSA agreed to contribute its collection of Norman Rockwell paintings, to sell a warehouse in North Carolina, a Scouting University facility in Texas, rights to oil and gas interests on properties in 17 states and unrestricted cash above a $75 million minimum.

The Suffolk council announced this week it would sell its 14,400-square-foot headquarters in Medford to help fund the settlement.

"The building is the largest unrestricted asset we have and is debt-free," David Hunt, president of the council, said in a statement. "We are confident of our ability to secure replacement office space for council operations that will allow us to continue all our programs uninterrupted. The sale proceeds will hopefully allow us to meet the needs of the bankruptcy settlement."

The Texas-based Boy Scouts of America sought bankruptcy protection in February 2020 amid a wave of claims from former Scouts that they were molested decades ago by Scout leaders and adult volunteers.

The councils, which run day-to-day operations for local troops, are not listed as debtors in the bankruptcy and the Boy Scouts consider them legally separate entities even though they share insurance policies and are considered "related parties" in the bankruptcy case.

Before the bankruptcy filing, the BSA had been named in about 275 lawsuits and told insurers it was aware of another 1,400 claims. The number of lawsuits has more than tripled in the past year to roughly 860 cases in more than 110 state and federal courts.

With The Associated Press

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