Boy Scout files discuss three sex abuse claims in Utah
On Feb. 24, 1982, an administrator at the Boy Scouts of America headquarters wrote a letter about a merit badge counselor in Utah who was convicted of attempting to sexually abuse a boy.
The administrator, Paul I. Ernst, thanked Scouting officials in Utah for providing information about Gerald W. Burgie, a then-42-year-old Ogden man convicted in circuit court in Layton.
"We have reviewed the case with our attorney and have now placed this man on the Confidential File," Ernst wrote.
Burgie is one of three Scout leaders from Utah found Thursday in 1,200 files discussing allegations of sexual abusein Boy Scout troops across the country. The files were released by Portland, Ore., attorney Kelly Clark after the Boy Scouts lost a battle before the Oregon Supreme Court to keep the records sealed.
The files, previously kept confidential at Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Texas, show how leaders and local officials, working for one of the nation's foremost youth organizations, kept private allegations of sexual abuse within the ranks. Scout leaders have said they were used to prevent molesters from entering or returning to Scouting.
While Clark says the files reveal how Boy Scout administrators covered up child abuse, the Utah cases show that, in at least one incident, the process worked.
Erick S. Hacking was found guilty of sexual abuse of a child that occurred at a Scout camp called Maple Dell in Payson Canyon on July 29, 1983. Hacking would have been 22 years old at the time, the records show, and held a staff position as commissioner. Documents in the file say Hacking received three years of probation and had to enroll in a sex-offender program. He was added to the Boy Scout files on April 6, 1984, as someone who should not be permitted to register in Scouting.
But that same month, the Council Scout Executive Fred Day wrote to the national office asking, "When Eric completes the sex offenders program, would he still be prohibited from being involved in Scouting? We need your input and judgment."
Ernst replied: "We would refuse registration wherever he goes, because we would not wish him to become involved with youth in some other situation."
Then, in 1991, Utah Scout leaders submitted Hacking's name to the national office for a check of its files. In a reply letter, the Utah leaders were told: "He cannot participate in any activities with the council. ... He should not participate in any leadership capacity or assume any responsibility in the Boy Scouts of America. He could participate as a parent if he has a son or daughter involved."
The file on Burgie does not specify whether his victim was a Boy Scout or another child. The documents say only Burgie committed his crime in 1981 and that he was fined $650 and placed on five years of probation.
There's no indication the third Utah case was ever referred to law enforcement, though the LDS Church weighed in.
On Jan. 9, 1976, a man, believed to be about 40 and listed as a Scout adviser, took two boys on a cold-weather camping trip at Maple Dell. According to a written statement from one boy's parents based on conversations with their son, while most of the staff slept in the pavilion, the adviser talked the two boys into sleeping in his tent.
The adviser zipped two sleeping bags together and slept between the two Scouts. The victim said he was awakened between 1 and 2 a.m. by the adviser fondling him.
The documents about the adviser include a handwritten statement from a Scout describing another incident, this one in March 1976. It is not clear if this is the same boy as the January episode.
The adviser drove the boy to a conference in Ogden, where they shared a hotel room. When the boy woke about 5 a.m., the adviser had climbed into his bed and put his arms around him, the boy said. The Scout said he pulled away.
In a letter dated Oct. 28, 1976, to the director of the Registration & Subscription Service National Office in North Brunswick, N.J., someone from the Utah Scouting says that an LDS bishop "does have the information and statements regarding [the adviser's]involvement with other people, besides those who have made statements which you have."
"However, he feels that because of the confidential nature of his position as bishop of the ward which[redacted] resides, he cannot release copies of this information," the letter says. "He has indicated that he would be willing to appear in court if subpoenaed."
The names of the bishop, the letter writer and the addressee are all blacked out. The Salt Lake Tribune is not naming the adviser because there's no indication police or prosecutors were contacted or verified the accusations. Efforts to contact the adviser, Burgie and Hacking were unsuccessful Thursday.
Calls and emails from The Tribune seeking response or comment from the Scout leaders in Utah went unanswered.
Boy Scouts of America National President Wayne Perry placed a statement on the Scouts' website, saying, "The confidentiality of the files encourages prompt reporting of questionable behavior, removes the fear of retribution, and ensures victims and their families have the privacy they deserve."
The statement added: "Youth safety is of paramount importance to the Boy Scouts of America and these files have been an important component of our multilayered system of Youth Protection policies and procedures."
While a database on Clark's website listed only three Utah cases among the Boy Scout files, the documents may contain more connections to Utah.
A separate analysis of Boy Scout documents by the Los Angeles Times indicates nearly 85 abuse cases involving troops based in Utah, spanning from 1976 to 2004. That analysis is based on the newspaper's examination of 5,000 files kept by the Boy Scouts going back to 1947, including those released Thursday in the Oregon lawsuit.
The Times review puts the total number of Boy Scout leaders accused of improprieties over a six-decade periodat 4,186 in the United States and another 50 leaders involved with Scout troops overseas, primarily in Europe and Asia.
Tony Semerad and Janelle Stecklein contributed to this report.
About the files
Attorney Kelly Clark has been in possession of the files since he represented a Portland man who was abused by his assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s. That lawsuit culminated in a jury finding in his client's favor in 2010. It was a landmark case, and the Scouts were ordered to pay $20 million.
Files on 1,200 suspected abusers were used in evidence in that case. The Scouts launched a legal battle to keep the documents confidential, but the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in June they could be released to the public with the redaction of victims' names.
The Associated Press