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News - June 1, 2005

NH Boy Scouts to audit membership rolls

Union Leader Staff

MANCHESTER ­ The Boy Scouts organization in New Hampshire plans to have an auditor check its membership rolls, after a investigation of the Atlanta-area scouts found inflated figures there.

Meanwhile, the Daniel Webster Council's board of directors stands behind the state's new scout executive, Michael Kaufman, who was hired in January from Atlanta, said council president Ovide Lamontagne.

"As far as we're concerned, he wasn't part of the problem that plagued Atlanta," said Lamontagne.

Lamontagne said the Manchester-based Daniel Webster Council believes it has a membership system in place that avoids the abuses seen in Atlanta. To make sure, the council plans to add an audit of membership that would be done in December, along with its annual financial audit, he said.

"New Hampshire is not Atlanta," Lamontagne said. "We're very confident of our systems."

The council has about 22,000 members statewide, he said.

An independent investigation of the Atlanta-area Boy Scouts found that the organization inflated its number of black Scouts by more than 5,000 in a program for inner-city youth. The executive director of the Atlanta Boy
Scouts resigned after the report was released.

Auditors said Scout officials assigned to inner-city areas may have felt pressure to demonstrate membership growth, which is a part of their performance evaluations. The problems were found in the program Operation
First Class, which was designed to increase participation by boys in the country's poorest areas.

Lamontagne said Daniel Webster does not have a program similar to Operation First Class. The council does not tie compensation to membership growth and also requires paperwork for any new member.

"There's a paper trail that's tied to each individual member," Lamontagne said.

Kaufman, who was involved with the Operation First Class program as Atlanta's director of field services, said yesterday he first learned of the allegations in October, when it was decided to have the external auditor come in.

"We were all in agreement, myself included, that if there were these allegations, we wanted to know the truth ourselves," Kaufman said.

Kaufman said in his five-year tenure he was active in making sure volunteers and paid workers followed Scout oath. He said he had fired employees when he found infractions.

"I promptly dealt with those issues when I could find them," Kaufman said.

Lamontagne said Kaufman was hired independently over 15 applicants for the post.

The problems in Atlanta were unknown by the council when he was selected, but they were also only allegations at the time, Lamontagne said.

In Atlanta, Kaufman was instrumental in identifying the inflated rolls and was part of the decision-making process that lead to an independent review, Lamontagne said.

"I'm confident in his ability and what he brings to us," Lamontagne said. "I'm confident we'll be well served as long as we can keep him here."

Kaufman said one of his first actions after being hired in New Hampshire was to check to make sure its membership accounting system was working properly. He said it is a model program.

The audit will be "100 percent precautionary," but is needed to dispel any possible questions, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.




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