The Scout Council for the region which includes Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties has voted to sell one of its two camping properties.
The sale of the Elk Lick Scout Reserve in Smethport, Pa. – unanimously approved this week by the Allegheny Highlands Council – would meet its required contribution of about $ 900,000 to the Boy Scouts of America and to the settlement of abuses in the midst of ‘an attack on allegations of child sexual abuse. The proceeds would go directly to a trust established for victims of abuse.
“We are not voting tonight to give a piece of history, we are voting on whether we want to keep Scouting alive in the Allegheny Highlands Council”, Michael Kelley, chairman of the AHC board, told members in a newsletter sent out Friday. “If things stay on track, the trial could end within the next 90 days – it’s not a deal yet, but when it does, we’ll have to be ready to put our part of the settlement into action.” . A key element of the plan is the 100 percent participation of the 252 local councils; if one of these Councils decides not to participate, the agreement is dead, and so is Scouting.
The Allegheny Highlands Council has been asked to contribute to the settlement; the contribution of each council was determined by the local council committee in consultation with the asylum seekers committee.
The bulletin states that the formula used to determine each council’s contribution included the council’s assets, the number of claims filed within each council, and the statute of limitations in the state in which the claims were filed.
Kelley said the decision to hand over the Elk Lick Scout reserve to satisfy the settlement was made after “Months of ad hoc committee meetings that included members of the AHC Board of Directors and professional staff, as well as other Council scouts. A number of board members said that while they supported the decision, it was taken with a heavy heart. “
The Allegheny Highlands Council also operates Camp Merz in Mayville.
Earlier this year, it was revealed in bankruptcy court documents that nearly 70 sexual abuse complaints had been filed against the Allegheny Highlands Council, which is based in Falconer and serves the counties of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany in New York and McKean and Potter counties in Pennsylvania. Details of the claims, including when they were made or against whom, were not included in the documents made public. However, some of these claims have come to light in the past two years through lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act in the Chautauqua County State Supreme Court.
FIXED BANKRUPTCY PLAN FOR VOTING
More than a year and a half after the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection, tens of thousands of men who say they were abused as children by Boy Scout leaders and others will soon have the possibility of voting on a plan to reorganize the BSA. The Boy Scouts, based in Irving, Texas, filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2020, seeking to end hundreds of individual lawsuits and create a fund for men who say they have been sexually abused in their childhood.
Although the organization faced 275 lawsuits at the time, it now faces more than 82,000 sexual abuse claims in the bankruptcy case.
Although the plan was sent to abuse applicants for a vote, there are several issues involving Boy Scouts insurers and local troop sponsorship organizations that remain unresolved.
Here is an overview of the state of the matter:
Following a hearing that spanned two weeks, a judge last week approved a revised disclosure statement that outlines and explains the Boy Scouts’ reorganization plan. Approval of the disclosure statement was required before the Boy Scouts could begin sending out ballots to abuse claimants and other creditors to vote on the plan.
Among the issues discussed at the disclosure statement hearing were provisions to ensure that ballots and information packages are sent to all applicants, including incarcerated men, while protecting privacy. those who do not want Scout related communications sent to their homes.
The judge and lawyers also discussed provisions to ensure that law firms that represent multiple abuse claimants and wish to submit “Master polls” on behalf of their clients prove that they have obtained the authorization of each client who does not wish to submit a ballot themselves.
The plan calls for the Boy Scouts and its some 250 local councils to contribute up to $ 820 million in cash and property to a fund for abuse seekers. They would also cede certain insurance rights to the fund. In return, local councils and the national organization would be released from any additional liability for sexual abuse complaints.
The plan also includes settlement agreements involving one of the Boy Scouts’ main insurers, The Hartford, and its former largest troop sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church. . The Hartford has agreed to contribute $ 787 million to the fund for abuse seekers, and Mormons have agreed to contribute $ 250 million for abuse related to church scouting programs. In return, the two entities would be released from any further responsibility regarding allegations of child sexual abuse.
Boy Scout lawyers and abuse claimants say they still hope to reach deals with other insurers and sponsoring organizations, but it’s unclear whether they will.
The official committee appointed by the US bankruptcy trustee to represent and act in the best interests of all survivors of sexual abuse recommends that abuse seekers reject the Boy Scout plan. In a draft letter filed with the court, the nine abuse survivors on the committee said the plan is “Grossly unfair” and is only a fraction of the potential liabilities of settlers and what they should and can pay.
A major flaw, according to the committee, is that agreements with local Scout councils would leave them more than $ 1 billion in cash and goods above what they need to accomplish the mission of Scouting. The committee also notes that sponsoring organizations such as churches and civic groups can avoid liability for abuse claims dating back to 1976 simply by transferring their interests in insurance policies purchased by the BSA and local councils to the fund. help the victims, without paying money or goods.
Meanwhile, lawyers separately representing tens of thousands of abuse claimants have submitted their own letter urging abuse claimants to vote for the plan. They say this will translate into billions of dollars in compensation for survivors of abuse and represent the best possible outcome for them.
The letter was drafted by lawyers representing an ad hoc group called the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice and the court-appointed lawyer for those who might file claims in the future, including the men who have repressed memories of their abuses. The coalition represents nearly 18,000 asylum seekers and is affiliated with more than two dozen law firms that collectively represent more than 60,000 asylum seekers.
With the judge’s approval of the disclosure statement, ballots and information packages will be sent to more than 82,000 asylum seekers over the next two weeks. Ballots must be returned by December 14 and a preliminary report on the results of the vote is expected a week later. A final voting report is expected on January 4.
The judge has scheduled a hearing to begin on January 24 to review the results of the vote and decide whether the plan meets bankruptcy code requirements and must be approved.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.