Dickinson Troop 32 listed in Scout scandalTwo instances in the 1990s involving Dickinson Boy Scout Troop 32 that showed up in recently released confidential files raise questions of whether a cover-up of child sexual abuse took place here more than a decade ago.
By: By Bryan Horwath, The Dickinson Press
Two instances in the 1990s involving Dickinson Boy Scout Troop 32 that showed up in recently released confidential files raise questions of whether a cover-up of child sexual abuse took place here more than a decade ago.
The now infamous Boy Scouts of America “Perversion Files,” alleging years of abuse within the popular youth organization, highlighted two documented cases of child sexual molestation — one in 1996 and one in 1997 — that were allegedly never relayed to the authorities.
As part of the court-ordered release of 14,500 pages of BSA files dating as far back as 1959, Seattle-based law firm Kosnoff Fasy obtained documents that list two abuse cases, one of which allegedly came to the attention of a man who has been tapped to become the director of 11 BSA councils in four states, including much of North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Former BSA Northern Lights Council executive Mark G. Holtz was allegedly alerted to multiple sexual molestation complaints over more than a decade, according to court documents released to The Dickinson Press Tuesday by Kosnoff Fasy. Holtz has been in a leadership position within Northern Lights — the BSA council that encompasses southwest North Dakota — since 1994.
When reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, Holtz maintained that he has no knowledge of any such occurrences.
“I have no recollection of anything like that ever happening,” Holtz told The Dickinson Press. “The files that have come out are simply (BSA) ineligible volunteer files that the media is making a big deal about.”
Timothy Kosnoff of Kosnoff Fasy said that Scout headquarters may have kept many local Scout leaders in the dark about its secret-filing system.
When questioned about the Dickinson instance in 1997, Holtz said it would be difficult to remember specific cases so many years ago.
“I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but I don’t specifically remember a case like that,” Holtz said. “If I had a file in front of me, it might trigger something.”
Along with the Dickinson instance, Holtz’s name came up a dozen times as someone who was given information about molestation allegations in 2000 and 2002 in Bismarck and during the 1990s in Grand Forks and Minnesota cities Moorhead, Alexandria, Fergus Falls and New Ulm.
Though he first denied ever being privy to an instance of molestation within the Scouts, Holtz admitted in a phone conversation Tuesday evening with The Press that he was aware of such cases and that he did alert law enforcement of such information. When pressed on the number of allegations he referred to the authorities, Holtz said he “couldn’t say.”
A veteran trial lawyer and former prosecutor specializing in child sexual abuse cases, Kosnoff said he obtained the now-sealed documents temporarily, but hopes the BSA will release all of its so-called secret files.
“We’re dealing with a corrupt organization,” Kosnoff told The Dickinson Press. “The men at the top of this organization are trusted to protect the company. My guess is that (Holtz) kept certain things in-house and that he was destined for an even higher position within the organization. That’s how it works with them.”
The thousands of pages of Scout files from 1959-1985 were posted last week on Portland, Ore., attorney Kelly Clark’s website. The files were used as part of a 2010 lawsuit against the Scouts. Thousands more files, some dating back to 1910, have yet to be released by the Scouts, though Kosnoff’s database provides a glimpse into what they may contain.
In a public statement from Oct. 17, the Scouts maintain the files were kept over the years to ensure the safety of the children in their organization.
“There have been instances where people misused their positions and, in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong,” Scouts National President Wayne Perry was quoted as saying in the statement. “Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.”
When asked Tuesday evening, Scouts’ spokesman Deron Smith said from BSA headquarters the organization has no plans to release any of its confidential files.
“We don’t have any plans to do that because those files are kept for the protections of our Scouts,” Smith said. “Looking through the lenses of today, we would do some things differently, but many of these allegations came in a very different time in history. Years ago, there simply wasn’t as much awareness of sexual abuse.”
Smith said the Scouts have a mandatory abuse reporting policy — though it has only been in effect since 2012, according to The Associated Press — and added the organization will undertake a “review and analysis of all ineligible volunteer files” and will report any “good faith” unlawful findings to law enforcement, though no timetable was given.
“If there are any parents out there who suspect anything, we encourage them to contact the Scouts,” Smith said. “We take the safety and protection of our Scouts very seriously.”
Currently a senior executive with the Scouts’ Roughrider District, which encompasses much of southwest North Dakota and parts of South Dakota, Bill Anderson of Dickinson said he doesn’t remember any allegations of sexual misconduct in his district.”
“I’ve been a district executive since 2006 — Mark Holtz is the person who hired me,” Anderson said. “I’ve never heard of any feedback or allegations of abuse. When you take the Scout oath, that lasts a lifetime and that’s not a part of what we do.”
As stories around the country surface, Kosnoff said he will continue his fight to unseal more confidential Scouts documents.
“This is all just the tip of the iceberg,” Kosnoff said. “There were about 15,000 files from the 1970s that the Boy Scouts destroyed. You have to have looked at thousands of pages of these files, which I have, to see the patterns that evolve. The Boy Scouts organization is still interested in damage control and not finding the truth.”
Kosnoff added his next step is to attempt to bring his case to Congress.
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