Thursday, September 22, 2011

Local LDS Young Men President Kenny Thomas Released By Bishop In Herriman, Utah For "Not Supporting Scouting"

The Friends of Scouting program is under fire once again in Utah, and it's cost the local president of a Young Men's group his calling. Kenny Thomas, who had served for four months as president of the Young Men organization in his LDS ward in Herriman, Utah, was released from his calling by his bishop for allegedly "not supporting scouting".

As his ward's Young Men president, Thomas was called upon to organize and lead the annual Friends of Scouting (FOS) fund drive, but Thomas first sent an email to ward members cautioning them that FOS money also helps pay high salaries for Boy Scout executives and doesn’t stay with their local scout units. He says that upset his stake president, who persuaded his bishop to release him. Thomas has also created a Reduce Scouting Costs Facebook page to share his concerns with the public at large. Kenny Thomas is not disaffected with the LDS Church or with the fundamental purpose of the Boy Scouts in any way; he merely is concerned about the value and integrity of the Friends of Scouting program. In an interview, Thomas said “I support Scouting and what it can do for the youth, but am concerned about the administration of the BSA. I think there is a lot of waste, and the salaries are too high. I am not attacking scouting or the Church. I would like to see change in BSA administration. I think that most people understand that.”

David C. Roth, president of the LDS Herriman South Stake and also a member of Thomas' ward, told the Salt Lake Tribune that Thomas was actually released because of his unwillingness to support scouting in general, and not just because of what he did with Friends of Scouting. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to adopt the Scouting program as its official program for young boys and an activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood, and became the first institutional sponsor of Scout troops in the United States in 1913; today it reports that it sponsors more Scouts and Scouting units in the United States than any other organization.

Kenny Thomas' disaffection with Friends of Scouting first surfaced when he saw that his ward was paying far more for “ramshackle” Scout camps than it was for higher-quality girls camps run by the Church. Even though FOS money supposedly helps funds the camps, he questioned whether it was actually percolating down. Upon investigating, he found that FOS money was going to pay high salaries for Scouting executives; this was further confirmed in an August 9th Tribune story. The Tribune reported that four employees of the Great Salt Lake Council received compensation in excess of $100,000 in 2009, and that nationally, the Boy Scouts National Council reported paying 189 employees more than $100,000 each in compensation in 2009, topped by Robert J. Mazzuca, the national chief Scout executive, whose compensation was $1.21 million. The Boy Scouts of America National Council gets some poor ratings on Charity Navigator, primarily because of inflated executive salaries. Charity Navigator has a portal page to numerous local BSA councils for those wanting to check up on them, but for some reason, the Great Salt Lake Council is not listed.

The August 9th Tribune article also documented some of the high-pressure strong-arm tactics used at times to get people to contribute. In addition, a Friends of Scouting Resource Guide illustrates how meticulously the fund-raising effort is organized. What's difficult to ascertain is just how Friends of Scouting fits into the overall Scout funding scheme. Fortunately, the San Francisco Bay Area Council gives us a snapshot:

  • Individual Scout Registration Fees: Go directly to the National Office of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Individual Pack/Troop Dues: Retained by the local unit to help pay for trips and other activities.
  • Friends of Scouting Proceeds: A number of other purposes are specified, to include maintaining and staffing the council's three camping properties, training thousands of adult volunteer leaders in youth protection, and providing programs like Tiger Cub Safari, Cub Scout Day Camp, Cub Scout Adventure Camp, Cub Scout Partner Campouts, Cub Scout Resident Camp, Webelos Adventure Camp, Boy Scout Summer Camp, Boy Scout Eagle Camp, Brownsea Youth Leadership Training, Venturing Spring and Fall Activities. FOS funds are designed to keep the costs for these additional programs as low for Scouts as possible.

Undoubtedly, a similar distribution breakdown prevails in other areas. Note that nothing is mentioned about FOS funds being used to pay high executive salaries. The Reduce Scouting Costs Facebook page offers a wealth of additional information. Some highlights:

  • The basic attendance fee for BSA-sponsored camps in the Great Salt Lake Council (GSLC) in Utah has climbed to $130 per scout, with no meals or accommodations included. Just adding basic meals increases the cost to $205 per scout.
  • BSA spends an additional $4.9 million annually in travel expenses for its national leaders that includes country club memberships, first-class airline tickets and luxury accommodations for them and their spouses.
  • A conservatively-estimated $36 million in church members’ tithing funds is given to the BSA annually in the form of fees for scout camps, advancements, awards, registration, training, unit chartering/re-chartering, etc.
  • Many local scout troops are no longer allowed to do their own self-generated fundraising such as placing neighborhood flags or bake sales wherein local units can keep the money raised from their own efforts and use the funds for their own needs, because this is seen as competing for Friends of Scouting dollars, all of which goes to BSA administration and none is shared with local units.
  • Scouting volunteers and parents are required to purchase over-priced and highly profitable BSA uniforms that cost approximately $125 each for a complete uniform. By design, BSA requires different uniforms as boys advance through the program ensuring that multiple purchases of expensive uniforms will be the norm for families with even one scout.


Dallin said...

I am about to put my firstborn into cub scouts and I have another boy not too far out. I live in Colorado but I would be suspect of all that money and where it is going. I don't understand why an organization of any kind has to go south. It makes me quite frustrated. I'm not looking forward to trying to pick this fight in a few months.

Anonymous said...

I know nothing about the compensation of BSA executives, nor whether there is (or is not) material waste in the program. But if the BSA is competing with for-profit employers to hire the right person for the job, it does not seem appropriate to me for the BSA to say to the woman, "I know you could make (or continue to make) $500,000 with your current or prospective for-profit employer, but we want you to come work for us as CFO [or whatever the title may be] for $80,000 instead because we are the BSA." If I were that woman I would say, "No thanks, my day job is how I provide for my family so I will continue to compete for the best salary; but I love the BSA so let me volunteer as a Den Mother or in some other way." Depending on the nature of the job and the skill required to perform it, a six figure salary is not inherently exorbitant and the identity of the employer does not change that. Further, if an organization does not fairly compensate its full time employees it runs the risk of being unable to attract the talent necessary to run the organization effectively and without waste.