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National office dismisses gay Scout council leader


10/29/00
By JUNE RICH


NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER

(jrich@newspress.com)

The head of the Boy Scouts on the South Coast was fired Thursday by the national office, just 10 days after he admitted publicly that he was gay.

Len Lanzi, executive director of the Los Padres Council of the Boy Scouts of America, was stripped of his Eagle Scout status and terminated, according to his attorney, Steven Serratori.

Serratori said Lanzi received a termination letter from the national office Thursday.

"We plan to pursue all legal remedies available to him," said Serratori, whose Century City firm specializes in employment law. "I think it's fair to say that everybody is surprised at the arrogance of the Boy Scouts. To think in this day and age that they think they can fire someone based on their sexual orientation. It's arrogant."

Serratori added that this summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which supports the Scouts' right to exclude gay members, did not extend to employees, such as Lanzi.

Lanzi would not talk Saturday about his firing.

The regional and the national offices did not return calls Saturday.

The letter to Lanzi officially revoked his Scout membership, a process called "decommissioning," which renders him ineligible for executive positions within the organization. Lanzi has worked with the Boy Scouts for 14 years.

A friend of Lanzi's, and a member of the council's board of directors, saw the letter Friday.

"It's very cold," said Alan Courtney, an attorney. "He goes out and tells the truth and they cut him off at the knees. It's just not right."

Courtney said he thought the letter came short of firing Lanzi, which is the charge of the board.

Serratori said Lanzi considers himself fired, and is waiting to pick up his personal belongings at the office.

"I'm sure the national office would like to distance themselves from the decision-making process," he said. "But the reality is that the Los Padres Council has no authority but what's given to them by the national office."

Board members reached Saturday said their options at this point have been drastically narrowed.

"We could contradict the national Boy Scout policy, and possibly risk the whole council being decommissioned, or we can go along with firing him," said Karl Eberhard, a Santa Barbara architect, and a member of the board. "I maintain that the whole thing is completely idiotic."

Eberhard said that he will resign from the board in protest.

One other board member, Dennis Peterson, resigned last week when the board decided to suspend Lanzi while awaiting direction from the national office. The suspension came after Lanzi's public admission of his homosexuality.

"My feeling was that we should have let the Boy Scouts of America be the bad guys. Why involve the local board?" said Peterson, a real estate broker at the Laurel Company in Santa Barbara.

Peterson decried what he called a "unilateral" decision by the board's president, Harvey Lynn, to suspend Lanzi and then poll executive committee members for support by telephone.

Board members reached Friday night confirmed that no vote was taken on Lanzi's suspension, but said that Lynn called them. Many said they supported Lynn's decision, and some said the suspension was dictated by the national office. Lynn would not comment on the issue.

Everyone contacted spoke of Lanzi's sterling service to the Boy Scouts, and said they would be loath to lose him. Most were unsure of what would happen next.

"I love that man," board member Rosemary Fryer said of Lanzi on Friday night. "I would love to see him stay on, but we can't go against the national council."

Edmund Barbeau, a member of the board's executive committee, agreed.

"I think that it's possible that the man may have been dealt a gross injustice," Barbeau said. "But I don't quarrel with the national policy, it needs to be upheld. (Lanzi) has done wonders with our council, and I
personally don't like the idea of losing him."

Courtney said that the council could take some kind of stand in support of Lanzi, but that type of action would take leadership that he believes is lacking.

"There's just a vacuum," he said.

Lanzi is believed to be the highest ranking Scout official to come out as a homosexual since the Supreme Court ruling, a decision that has roiled local troops and public institutions that support them across the country. Lanzi came out as a homosexual at a hearing 10 days ago before the Board of Supervisors, which was considering severing its ties to the Boy Scouts -- a move he opposed.

Previously, Lanzi had taken pains to keep his private life private.

Lanzi's territory spans Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Courtney said Lanzi could still work in a "back-office" position in the Boy Scouts, such as in fund-raising or in operations.

"You know, this used to be quite a lot of fun," Courtney said, voicing a sentiment expressed by many Scout leaders recently. "But not lately."

 

 

 

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