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Issue 413 – September 9, 2014 (Posted from Hambrug, Germany)

Issue 413 – September 9, 2014

Hi Andy,

You’ve told us many times how to remove a volunteer, but how do you remove a Scout Executive and a Council President? Without going into all the gory details, our council has these two guys who subscribe to the “My Way or Highway” school of management. Popcorn sales and FOS are way down and falling more each year. All of the good District Executives we’ve had have either quit or been let go. District folks are either quitting or fleeing back to units faster than you can say EBOLA. So the question is: What can we do to change this before there’s no council to save? (Name & Council Withheld)

All BSA councils are separate 501(c)(3) corporations. They aren’t “owned” by the national council and the national council has no direct governing authority over councils.

All BSA councils are governed by their executive boards. Council Presidents are elected by the executive board (usually with the recommendation of the Scout Executive) and Scout Executives are hired by the President and executive board. Thus, the only way to change Presidents is for a bloc of executive board members to create a groundswell and vote in a replacement. Similarly, only a bloc of executive board members can create a vote to replace a Scout Executive.

All other non-executive board council-level Scouting volunteers have no direct authority to replace either a council President or any paid employee up to and including the Scout Executive.

However, each year a council must hold an annual meeting at which time all council members-at-large vote in the executive board members for the coming year. This must be done and it’s largely a “formality” which outcome is more or less assured. However, if a large force of council members opposed to the present administration were to show up at the annual meeting, and all carried the vote against electing (or re-electing) the board, then obviously chaos would ensue and the board would have to propose a new slate. An in-depth conversation with a sympathetic legal advisor to the council would be the best preliminary action, but it should come as no surprise that the “sympathetic” factor may not exist.

There will never be “no council.” The worst that will happen is a merger in which your present council will be subsumed by another.

So, understanding that no corrupted organization can be changed from the bottom-up, but can only be changed from the top-down, I’m obliged to ask you: Why do you bother yourself with this sort of stuff? It will only lead to animosity, acrimony, friction, and often irreparable damage to the souls and spirits of those embroiled, and is highly unlikely to ultimately result in frustration and failure.

Ask yourself, instead: Are the young people I serve receiving a quality Scouting program from the volunteers who’ve rolled up their sleeves to make a difference in their lives? Are the units they’re in being run correctly by our boots-on-the-ground volunteers? Are these young people “out there,” hiking and camping and having fun in the out-of-doors? Are they advancing in rank and having fun, adventure, and solid peer relationships? If the answer’s in the affirmative, then that’s all that really matters, because a solid Scouting unit doesn’t really require the infrastructure of a district or council, except in the area of record-keeping for registration and advancement. Beyond these two main areas, units really don’t need much else.

Like good government, councils and district exist only to provide what units can’t provide for themselves (or don’t want to spend time messing with, like record-keeping and such). Camporees? These are organized and run by volunteers. Eagle boards of review: same thing.

So now, some advice: Focus on what’s truly important. What’s important? Just one thing: The young men and young women you signed on to serve.
Dear Andy,

Is it okay for a troop color guard to adopt the use of ceremonial (not real) rifles into their program? (Jim Patchen)

First: Scouts aren’t “color guards”—they’re a Flag Detail. Second: Absolutely not, and that’s a longstanding BSA policy.

Hi again Andy,

In the BSA Flag Handbook, it defines both a three-Scout “detail” and a four-Scout “color guard.” The color guard has the two outside scouts playing the role of “guards.” (Jim)

I don’t have a copy (imagine that!) of a BSA Flag Handbook. I’ve already done significant online research on “color guards” vs. “flag details” and Scouts are definitely the latter. For written information on where the BSA permits firearms or simulated firearms for flag details (it absolutely doesn’t), get yourself a copy of the BSA’s GUIDE TO AWARDS AND INSIGNIA and check page 10.
Dear Andy,

I’m trying to find a resource showing examples of Commissioners’ Doctoral Thesis or Projects. Trying to find a thesis subject with a narrow focus. I’d like to read examples of theses, to understand how much research is needed, and perhaps I can find research materials for the thesis. Are there any websites or individuals willing to share? (Rich Slider)

If you’ve “Googled” this and come up dry, maybe the best bet is to have a heart-to-heart with your Council Commissioner or whoever is responsible for your council’s Commissioner College. I’m suggesting this approach because there are no “national standards” for this and councils often approach this differently—meaning that what may fly in one council may not in another.
Dear Andy,

The most recent SCOUTING magazine (page 31) shows a “color guard” at the national meeting, and they look awful for this level of “publicity.” Three Scouts are wearing merit badge sashes on their belts, and three (not the same three) are wearing OA sashes at what is clearly not an OA event. Doesn’t the BSA have anybody who checks this sort of stuff before Scouts go on stage at events like this? It gives the casual reader the impression that “anything goes” and it gives reasonably knowledgeable readers conniptions when we’re trying to get our Scouts correctly uniformed! (Name & Council Withheld)

Apparently not. It seems a simple matter, backstage, to ask these Scouts to remove their OA sashes and get those merit badge sashes off their belts. And the one holding the state flag could also have been asked to roll his neckerchief like his fellow Scouts have done, instead of “shot gunning” it. Might have asked the Scout holding the American flag to put his Philmont arrowhead on the right pocket instead of the left, too. They are, after all, representing Scouting at its finest; not its most random. (But, at least no one appears to be wearing one of those idiotic “Totin’ Chip” patches, so thank goodness for small favors

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 413 – 9/9/2014 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2014]


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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