In documentary fragments from decades past, newly released Boy Scouts of America files cast an unnerving light on a deeply buried aspect of child molestation in Scout troops in Southwest Ohio.
A Hamilton JournalNews/Middletown Journal review of the files offers glimpses into a world before the Scouts adopted stricter law enforcement reporting and safeguard standards, a time when the files show incidents were not reported to law enforcement.
It wasn’t until early 2011 that the Scouts imposed mandatory police reporting of such incidents organization-wide, instead requiring its troops to generally comply with their respective state statutes, said Ken Fields, a spokesman on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America with the public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard.
In many cases it’s unclear what if any action was taken aside from placing suspects on the internal Scout master blacklist barring them from organizational involvement. There are hand-written memos, formal, typed correspondence and blurred newspaper clippings.
The Boy Scouts of America said in a prepared statement Friday that of the 1,247 “Ineligible Volunteer Files” released, in most cases, the police, courts and public were aware of the information in the files. “For example, police were involved in nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the files and a majority of these files (58 percent) included information known to the public. During this era, Scouting served approximately 5 million youth and adult members each year,” the Scouts said.
Twenty-seven Southwest Ohio area Boy Scout leaders were accused in cases of child molestation dating back 44 years, according to confidential documents released Thursday, the local cases among a trove of some 14,500 pages made public by order of the Oregon Supreme Court.
Former Fairfield City Councilman Mitch Rhodus has been involved in scouting for nearly three decades. He called the alleged acts of sexual abuse “terrible” and said rules and regulations regarding conduct and contact with scouts have strengthened over the last 27 year years.
“In the years I’ve been involved in it, I’ve never once had an incident like that,” said Rhodus, who received the Silver Beaver Award which honors distinguished service within a given Boy Scout council area.
He said the preceding 25 years — the time where these allegations of abuse occurred — “the rules were a little different.”
He said the alleged acts committed by these volunteers and leaders was a “violation of trust” of the organization, “and more importantly, it’s a violation of trust of the youth.”
Rhodus hopes the alleged abuse claims won’t affect scouting, but Tom Duggar, Scout Executive with the Dan Beard Council in Cincinnati, said at last summer’s camp the council had “record numbers.”
The Dan Beard Council, which serves five counties in Ohio and seven counties in Kentucky, has 24,000 Scouts in traditional programming, and 9,000 in the learning for life programs (explorer programs).
Keeping high numbers isn’t a concern for Duggar, however.
“Our first concern is the protection of our young people that are part of our organization,” he said. “I feel every day we have to earn the trust and the respect of our students, and every organization should.”
Boy Scouts of America first required “character reference checks” for Scout Masters in 1911, a year after the organization was incorporated by congressional charter, according to the organization Cross-reference checks of all adult volunteers against a list of “ineligible volunteers” maintained at the national headquarters began in the mid-1920s, and in 1929 the organization expanded its adult registration to include every male adult involved.
The Scouts did not, according to its timeline pertaining to youth protection, did not take any measures from 1935 until 1723 when a standards for leadership to screen adult leaders were developed. “The Official Scoutmaster Handbook” in 1981 imposed a requirement that no troop can have an activity without two adult leaders.
Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, the Scouts had published articles, produced public service announcements, developed training programs and videos for volunteers, leaders and parents, and imposed additional regulations.
But Duggar called the process to keep children safe “flawed,” but it was the system that existed.
It appeared from this newspaper’s review of the files that the system did stop some men in the “Boy Scout
Ineligible Volunteer Files,” also referred internally as the “Confidential File” and the “Perversion Files.”
However, the released files show that some alleged pedophiles across the country continued in scouting even after allegations were leveled against them, and in several cases, community leaders such as judges and pastors helped keep the name of scouting out of the courts or the media, according to an Associated Press review of the files.
In one letter in February 1961 from then-Boy Scout of America Director of Registration Basil F. Starkey, he wrote the statements of one allegation against a Cincinnati man would be “kept under lock and key and share with no one.”
Accusations were made against Scout leaders in at least 16 communities in the region, according to a database published by the L.A. Times. In Dayton, four cases of allegations were found.
Files posted online by the Oregon law firm that obtained them in a court order stretch from 1965 until 1985.
Under the terms of the court order, the names and contact information of persons identified as victims of sexual abuse and those that reported the abuse were redacted. If the person identified as an abuse reporter was a professional Scouter, an individual employed by the Boy Scouts of America or an affiliate, then the name was not redacted.
The law firms of O’Donnell Clark and Crew LLP and Paul Mones added: “The information in the (Ineligible Volunteer) files concerns allegations of child sexual abuse. In a number of the cases, the allegations were later substantiated by court proceedings. However, in a great many cases no such substantiation ever occurred. Consequently, the law firms of O’Donnell Clark and Crew LLP and Paul Mones, and any agent or representative thereof, make no representations or suggestions that any of the allegations in these files are in every case true.”
In among the most disturbing cases, a Norwood Scout leader was accused of repeated molestations and eventually barred from scouting, but continued — unsuccessfully — to try to join the organization.
The mother of a boy in Troop 213 in Norwood accused, Joseph Ballard Jr. with molesting one of her two sons in Troop 213. Her accusation came two years after the incident, in May 1968.
On a hike from Lebanon to Fort Ancient in Warren County, Ballard Jr. had one of the mother’s sons sleep in his sleeping bag. The 10-year-old boy said Ballard Jr., then 16, “reached down his pants and beginning to masturbate him, which he did a number of times that night.”
Ballard Jr., who was 18 when he was kicked out of Scouting, had allegedly done other acts with other boys, the mother states. She said that Ballard Jr., after he became an Eagle Scout and eligible to pass the younger scouts for merit badges, would proposition the boys and get them alone by saying they needed extra training, according to this mother.
In a compilation of additional allegations, apparently also from the mother, on Sept. 8, 1967, Ballard Jr. molested a boy in a camp out at Gowan’s Farm while camping in a tent. He told the boy if anyone ever found out “they both would be put away,” according to the document.
In a letter dated June 10, 1968, Ben Bouchelle, deputy scout executive with Dan Beard Council, sent a letter to the national office that Ballard Jr. be placed on the “confidential list.”
At the time he was an assistant Scout Master with Troop 213 in Norwood. Ballard Jr. applied to be an assistant scout master at the age of 23 in 1974 when living in Hamilton. A May 8, 1974 letter sent to the committee for Pack 3338 in Hamilton said they believe this applicant, who was Ballard Jr., is in the confidential file and denied his application.
Ballard Jr. then applied in 1984 when living in Pensacola, Fla to a part of the Eagle-Order of Arrows. He was denied again in January 1985 because he was in the “confidential file.”
There’s no indication in the files that Ballard Jr. was prosecuted.
Hamilton Scout Leader Guy Collins, a 39-year-old father of three at the time, resigned his scoutmaster position on July 30, 1964, stating “I find it impossible to continue my responsibilities in this capacity. I believe this move is made in the best interests of the troop and scouting.”
The day before, a hand-written letter from a scout when he was invited into the basement of his Hamilton home and allegedly “expressed excessive affection toward me by hugging and kissing me, and opening my zipper and fondling the area inside.”
The scout said he thought about running, but was “too nervous and upset.”
He said this wasn’t the first incident when on a fishing trip in the summer of 1963 at Camp Myron Kahn, the boy alleges Collins “kept me late at night in his tent helping me to pass advancement tests and hugging me.”
“I didn’t realize at the time that this would lead into anything more serious,” he wrote. “I don’t wish to ever see this man again or have anything to do with him.”
In June 1984, the Scouts added 32-year-old John T. Moberly of Cincinnati to the confidential file after news reports in the previous year documented a court case in which he was accused of having sexual contact with five Scouts over a two-year period.
Moberly pleaded guilty to the charges in January 1984 and was sentenced to 10 years in the Ohio State Penitentiary. Newspaper accounts said Moberly had also been convicted of sexual misconduct more than 10 years earlier, and during his sentencing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, the judge said, “You must be incarcerated to protect society.”
No police records or court records were included in the report. The newspaper clippings provided the background for the organization’s actions.
Newspaper accounts indicate Moberly’s victims ranged in age from 11 to 16. An assistant county prosecutor told the court that two of the victims slept with baseball bats because of fear of sexual assault.
In February 1963, Scout officials moved to add Kenneth M. Cordes, 25 of Cincinnati, to the confidential file, even though at the time they had no “supporting statements.” However, one official wrote in a letter, “… we can no longer take the risk of continuing his Scouting affiliation.”
Another Scout official wrote in June 1963 that he had reviewed statements made by Cordes provided to police that “are sufficient to bar him from Scouting.” Those statements were not included.
In another statement, a Scout described an incident during which he found Cordes and another boy naked in bed one morning while on a trip with Cordes committing a sexual act.
In a letter dated June 23, 1967 to Basil F. Starkey, the Scout Executive with the Dan Beard Council in Cincinnati, the person, who’s name has been redacted, stated a scout confessed to scouting officials that, according to the letter, Kidd had invited the boy to his home and relayed the facts of the incident.
“Those facts were that he had him sleep with him and take part in acts of immorality,” according to the letter.
The letter continued, “He also stated that following the act, Ron Kidd was brazen enough to say that he was not to worry about it or he might have a nervous breakdown like another boy in his troop had had. Ron Kidd also made the statement that he would do it again.”
The author states the information contained in the letter “is strictly confidential and should be kept so.”
Ronald Kidd lived on Snider Road in Deerfield Twp. at the time of the incident.
He was 20 years old and just completed his freshman year at Moorehead College in Kentucky in 1967.