68 Claims Of Abuse Made Against Local BSA Council
Nearly 70 claims of sexual abuse have been filed against the local Boy Scouts council, court documents recently released as part of the organization’s bankruptcy case indicate.
The Allegheny Highlands Council is based in Falconer and serves Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties in New York and McKean and Potter counties in Pennsylvania.
The Irving, Texas-based BSA sought bankruptcy protection in February 2020 in an effort to halt hundreds of individual lawsuits and create a compensation fund for men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders.
According to the recently released documents, there have been 68 claims against the Allegheny Highlands Council to date.
Specifics regarding the claims, including when they were made or against whom, were not included in the documents made public. However, some of those claims have come to light in the last two years through Child Victim’s Act lawsuits filed in state Supreme Court in Chautauqua County.
One such suit came in September 2019 and named Donald C. Shriver, a former scouting master. The abuse is said to have occurred during an event in August 2017 in Meadville, Pa., in which Shriver, a Lakewood resident, allegedly molested a youth on the trip.
Shriver was later charged with third-degree felony of corruption of minors and unlawful contact with minor — sexual offenses. In addition, the Lakewood man faced first-degree misdemeanor charges of indecent assault of a person less than 13, endangering the welfare of children and criminal attempt at indecent assault of a person less than 13.
Shriver eventually pleaded guilty in June 2019 in the Crawford County Orphans Court to charges of corruption of minors and was sentenced to 11 to 24 months, less one day, in Crawford County Jail and five years probation.
The Allegheny Highlands Council was personally named in a Child Victim’s Act suit filed in July 2020 along with the French Creek Council, Boy Scouts of America and First Presbyterian Church after a man claimed he was sexually abused by a scout leader in the early 1980s at Camp Merz in Mayville. The victim was 12 years old at the time of the alleged abuse.
Not long after the July filing last year, the local council issued the following statement:
“First and foremost, we care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children. We believe victims, we support them, and we encourage them to come forward.
“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. In order to meet these dual objectives, the national organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and our plan is to use this Chapter 11 process to create a Trust that would provide fair and equitable compensation to victims.”
More than 83,000 unique claims of sexual abuse have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America nationwide. Early this month, the organization submitted a bankruptcy reorganization plan that, according to the Associated Press, envisions continued operations of its local troops and national adventure camps but leaves many unanswered questions about how it will resolve tens of thousands of sexual abuse claims by former Boy Scouts
The plan calls for a $300 million contribution from the Boy Scouts’ 250-odd local councils into a trust for abuse victims, although the form and timing of those contributions remain up in the air.
The organization does not expect local assets to have to be sold in order to fund claims.
“No local council assets are directly affected by the Chapter 11 filing because the local councils are not filing entities,” according to information from the organization’s website. “Local councils are legally independent, separate, and distinct from the national organization.”
“The Boy Scouts of America believes our organization has a social and moral responsibility to equitably compensate all victims who were abused during their time in Scouting,” BSA stated. “We also have a duty to carry out our mission for years to come.”