The publication Thursday of 20 years worth of secret records kept by the Boy Scouts of America reveals a widespread effort by the organization to cover up a scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse against 1,200 scout leaders.
The records, known within the Boy Scouts itself as the perversion files, cover the years 1965-1985 and detail the names of the alleged perpetrators, their hometowns and other information. In some cases, including one involving a former Caldwell County man, Boy Scout officials allowed suspected abusers to continue working with children even after allegations of misconduct had been lodged.
The files were the product of the organizations own internal investigations into sexual abuse among its leaders and include court documents, newspaper clippings in cases where charges were actually filed and other material.
A larger database of Boy Scouts records from 1947 to 2005, compiled by the Los Angeles Times, shows information on about 5,000 men and women expelled from the group, including more than 80 files opened in North Carolina since the 1960s.
That includes files for six people in Charlotte. At least two are now dead; one declined comment when contacted by the Observer on Thursday. Names werent immediately available for the others.
When reached by the newspaper on Thursday, the Boy Scouts Mecklenburg County Council referred questions to the organizations national office.
Among the names listed was that of Luther Wayne Hester, who died of lung cancer in May. His widow, Brenda Hester of Mint Hill, heard about the records release on the evening news Thursday and wondered whether it might involve her late husband, who she said had been suspended from the Boy Scouts over false accusations lodged by his ex-wife.
She said Hesters ex-wife made the accusation during a custody and visitation battle in connection with their 1986 divorce. She emailed the Observer a copy of a 1990 letter from the Boy Scouts Mecklenburg council acknowledging receipt of a letter from Hesters lawyer and promising that national Boy Scouts officials would look into Hesters concerns.
He denied it vehemently and even had to testify in court that (his ex-wife) did that just to get back at him, she said, breaking into sobs. He was a wonderful person. Im just glad hes not here to even have to go through it.
Not every person whose name was contained within the thousands of pages which the scouts officially called the Ineligible Volunteer Files ever actually faced charges or was convicted. Luther Hester, for instance, was never criminally charged. Some files only reflected concerns about someone.
A betrayal of trust
Their disclosure also again marks an embarrassing betrayal of public trust by a prominent and respected social institution.
Like the recent pedophilia scandals involving Penn State University and the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scout cases involve trusted members of the community who had access to children they were supposed to mentor and to protect, but who instead exploited that access to groom and to molest the most vulnerable of them.
Attorney Paul Mones, whose Oregon law firm was involved in the lawsuit against the Boy Scouts that led to the files disclosure, said at a news conference Thursday that they symbolize the anguish of thousands of Scouts. The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of the documents.
In a statement Thursday, Boy Scouts National President Wayne Perry apologized.
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, the statement said.
Based in Irving, Texas, the century-old Boy Scouts of America is one of the nations largest volunteer organizations, with more than 100 million youth participants and 33 million adult Scout leaders.
Of the accused local Boy Scouts leaders, at least two are now dead.
Richard Haytock of Charlotte was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a child in connection with a 1984 incident, court records show. He died weeks after his 1999 conviction. Eugene Rapson, who died in 2007, was convicted in Stanly County of taking indecent liberties with a child in 1990.
Among other cases, Herbert Jacobs of Gaston County has been convicted of multiple sex offenses, including indecent liberties with a child and a crime against nature. Robbie Haskett of Caldwell County has been convicted of taking indecent liberties with a child in connection with incidents in 1992 and 2000.
Jacobs and Haskett could not be reached Thursday.
Another man listed in the files, Ricky Fulbright of Charlotte, declined to comment.
Caldwell County case
Another Scout leader from the Charlotte region identified in the documents is Mark Fleming Bumgarner, a former Caldwell County man who was allowed to continue working with Scouts in the 1970s after a boy accused him of touching his genitals, according to documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Bumgarner, an Eagle Scout, was later convicted of taking indecent liberties with a minor and aggravated sexual battery of a minor.
Boy Scouts records show that Bumgarner was an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 262, which was chartered by a Lenoir church where his father was the pastor. He was working at Camp Schiele near Rutherfordton in July 1978, when a boy claimed Bumgarner had touched him inappropriately, records show. The boys father wrote to Boy Scouts officials, telling them that his son was sitting at a campsite with Bumgarner when he put his hand on the boys leg, eventually sliding it onto the boys genitals.
Bumgarner resigned from the camp the next day for personal reasons. But he denied having touched the boys genitals and told officials that hed massaged the Scouts legs in an effort to relax him. Notes from a meeting between officials and Bumgarner say he was very emphatic in saying that nothing happened.
Three months later, a Scout executive wrote to Bumgarner, telling him that the matter cannot be fully closed at this time and that his registration with the Boy Scouts would continue on a probationary status. But he was allowed to continue working in the Scouting program, the letter said.
The following spring, Bumgarner was arrested and charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor during a Boy Scouts outing, according to a 1978 article from the Hickory Daily Record. The Boy Scouts suspended his registration the next day, records show, and he pleaded guilty to the offense that year.
But years later, Bumgarner became an assistant district commissioner with a Boy Scouts district in Virginia. It was only after he was convicted in 1988 of two counts of aggravated sexual battery against minors that Boy Scouts officials asked that he be placed in the confidential files.
The victims in that case were two boys, ages 11 and 13, who were not Scouts.
At that point, a judge ordered Bumgarner to have no contact with the Boy Scouts of America or any other youth organization, records show.
Hes now a 53-year-old registered sex offender living in Virginia.
Steve Rothaus of The Miami Herald, Observer staff writer Eric Frazier and researchers Marion Paynter and Maria David contributed.