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Local BSA council won’t have to sell properties in bankruptcy case

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The Chief Cornplanter Council will not have to sell any of its properties to contribute to a victim’s trust for past abuse cases. The Chief Cornplanter Council payment into the trust is $260,931.32 to be funded by timber sales.

The Chief Cornplanter Council will not have to sell any properties.

In 2020, in response to hundreds of allegations of child sexual abuse nationwide, the Boy Scouts of America filed bankruptcy. Over the next year, the number of allegations grew into the tens of thousands and the entity created a victims compensation trust.

That trust — more than $1 billion — includes contributions from local councils.

“The National BSA entered bankruptcy in 2019 with the goal of establishing a victim’s trust for past abuse cases,” Chief Cornplanter Council Scout Executive and CEO Raymond Tennent said. “Participation in the mediation to reach a settlement with claimants is critical for the future of the BSA and the Chief Cornplanter Council, BSA.”

“The Council entered the settlement to ensure the future of our local units as well,” Tennent said.

“The Council is chartered to the Boy Scouts of America and local units are chartered to the Council, not separate nonprofit corporations.”

An ad hoc committee of volunteer lawyers from local councils, “developed a formula to determine each council’s payment into the abuse trust,” according to Tennent. “The Chief Cornplanter Council payment into the trust is $260,931.32. Although our Council has one of the smallest payments amounts required for the Abused Victims Trust, this is still a substantial amount for a Council our size.”

The Boy Scouts owns two properties in Warren County, according to Warren County assessment data. Together, those properties represent 490 acres and a market value of about $160,000.

The Chief Cornplanter Council is listed as the owner of the council headquarters at 316 Fourth Ave., Warren, with a value of $36,204.

By liquidating some of the assets growing on those lands, the council will not have to liquidate any of those properties to meet the required amount.

“We have been very fortunate that the Council had timber resources to build cash reserves and cover the Council’s portion of the settlement,” Council President Michael Barrett said. “In fact, the select timber cut went so well we will have funds for camp improvements and the endowment to support camp operations as well, without significant damage to the camp property.”

Recently, the Allegheny Highlands Council, including Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties in New York, voted to sell one of its two camping properties.

The sale of the Elk Lick Scout Reserve in Smethport — approved unanimously by the Allegheny Highlands Council — would satisfy its roughly $900,000 required contribution.

“We are not voting tonight on giving away a piece of history, we are voting on whether we want to keep Scouting alive in the Allegheny Highlands Council,” Michael Kelley, AHC board president, told members in a newsletter. “If things stay on course, the lawsuit may be coming to an end in the next 90 days — it is not yet a done deal, but when it is, we will need to be prepared to put our part of the settlement into action. A key component of the plan is 100 percent participation by the 252 local councils; if any one of these councils decides not to participate, the deal is dead, and so is scouting.”

Chief Cornplanter Council officials are ready to move forward.

The parties are expected to be in court at the end of the year to consider a $1.6 billion settlement.

“The claimants will vote on the bankruptcy settlement on Dec. 14 and the council hopes to have the trust established and bankruptcy behind them by February so the focus can be 100 percent on fulfilling the council’s mission of delivering a safe program to local youth for many years to come,” Tennent said.

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