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Issue 426 – December 16, 2014

Dear Andy,

In our district, registration fees for district events are paid by having checks made out to an individual. The claim for doing this is so that the district, by circumventing the council’s accounting system, can have direct and instant access to the funds. But one of the results of this process is that there are several individuals holding hundreds of dollars that are unaccounted for. What can be done about this? (Name & Council Withheld)

This is obviously wrong! One should never write check out to an individual for any Scouting event. There is no rationale possible that would support such mandate or action. I urge you to bring this inappropriate practice to the attention of your council’s legal counsel and/or finance committee, or—failing that—to your council’s Scout Executive…immediately!
Hi Andy,

We had our Senior Patrol Leader election today. Two Scouts, both of whom had attended NYLT this past summer—had expressed interest in running several weeks ago; however, today a third Scout threw his hat in the ring at the last minute (he apparently was being asked by his fellow Scouts to go for SPL). Well, as it turned out, it was this last-minute Scout who was elected. But then, about four hours later, he started saying he may have made a mistake and that he’s not really prepared to be Senior Patrol Leader. Our Scoutmaster and I are trying to determine what to do in the event he decides he really doesn’t want to accept the position.

I think we need to revisit how we handled the election. In this case, although the Scout elected had a majority of the votes, the other two Scouts were separated by only a single vote between them. I’m thinking that if the newly elected SPL should resigns before being officially installed, we’d need to hold a new election between the two original Scouts.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? (Name & Council Withheld)

Well, it sounds like you have at least one very astute Scout! He’s realized that, despite his popularity, if it took his fellow Scouts’ accolades and votes, and not his own ambitions and goals, to get him to throw his hat in the ring, he may not be the guy for the job—at least not right now. Yes, he has the absolute right to decline the position (even though it’s a little lame—he did, after all, stand for election). And yes, the troop should immediately hold a new election, as a run-off between the two original candidates.

On the other hand, since this Scout got twice as many votes as his nearest “competitor,” it suggests to me that he’s got to have some pretty outstanding qualities or this couldn’t have happened! So, maybe the Scoutmaster needs to assure this Scout that he’s not out there swingin’ in the breeze… His Scoutmaster is the SPL’s coach, mentor, guide, teacher, and strongest supporter, and “has his back” no matter what!

Also, whether you hold a second election or not, keep in mind that “runners-up” aren’t automatically ASPLs. The Senior Patrol Leader is the one who makes this decision. In fact, the SPL is the Scout who selects which Scouts will fill every non-elected position in the troop, from Scribe to Historian, to Webmaster, and so on.
Dear Andy,

I’ve been searching the web, including my council’s website, trying to find requirements for the Instructor position in a troop. I know it counts as a position for rank advancement, but what is it and what qualifies a Scout to hold it? (Joe Dailey, ASM)

First, let’s make sure we both know that it’s the Senior Patrol Leader who appoints all (yes, all) non-elected troop positions of responsibility, including ASPL, Quartermaster, Scribe, Historian, Librarian, Webmaster, Chaplain Aide, JASM, and… Instructor.

To be appointed Instructor by one’s SPL is pretty straightforward: (1) Be an “older” Scout (which, in some troops, can mean age 12, but being First Class rank is usually a pretty good benchmark because, at that point, the Scout knows all the basic Scouting skills), (2) be proficient on one (or more) specific Scouting skill(s), and (3) be proficient in one’s ability to teach using the EDGE method. That’s it!
Dear Andy,

What are the requirements to be an Assistant Webelos Den Leader? Do the Den Leaders choose one of their den parents and ask him or her to be their assistant, or do they need to first get approval from the pack committee and Cubmaster? Or does the Cubmaster, or the pack committee, choose, and, if it’s this way, what happens if the DL and ADL don’t get along? Thanks for any help or guidelines by the BSA on this. (Jorge Lugo)

The requirements for unit-level positions are provided on page 2 of the BSA Adult Volunteer Application. Ideally, it’s the Den Leader (with the help of the Cubmaster) who identifies a good candidate, recruits that person, and encourages training. This is because it’s absolutely essential that the person selected is willing to take the training, and do the job in collaboration with the Den Leader. Following correct procedure, all unit-level adult volunteers are approved by the Committee Chair and Chartered Organization Representative, but this follows selection and recruitment by the Den Leader, obviously. There’s no “election” or “vote”—this is between the people I’ve just mentioned and that’s all.
Hey Andy,

Can you recommend to me an Eagle Court of Honor program that has the Scouts of my troop as involved as possible? I’m a “paperwork pending” Eagle Scout and I’d like to steer away from having the adults run the program (which is what they’ve done for almost the last 50 years). The only problem I see with getting the Scouts involved is that we have very few Scouts in the troop who are Eagles. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated. (Jack Bradley)

This one’s a great idea and a no-brainer! Simply replace adults with Scouts for all speaking parts. In fact, your troop can do this for all courts of honor—not just Eagle.

For yours, there’s absolutely no “rule” anywhere that says “only Eagle Scouts can speak at or emcee courts of honor.” Your troop’s Senior Patrol Leader can be the master of ceremonies. Patrol Leaders, regardless of rank, can handle other sections as well. If you have no youth Eagle Scout to do an “Eagle Charge” drop doing the charge (it’s not “official” anyway—it’s only a ceremonial nicety)!

That said, it’s still appropriate for the Scoutmaster to handle the actual “pinning” part of the ceremonies. But that’s about all the “adult involvement” you really need. Scouting is FOR SCOUTS!
Hello Andy,

We have a 16 year-old Life Scout in our troop, who hasn’t been attending meetings. He shows up only when the meeting interests him, or when it’s the meeting before an outing he’s attending. He also picks and chooses which outings he wants to go on; he doesn’t show up when the troop’s in a parade, or do community service projects, or help out with our younger Scouts unless he’s specifically asked to do this.

Now he’s telling me, his Scoutmaster, that his plan is to get Eagle and then leave the troop. He needs a leadership position to achieve this goal. I haven’t given him one because of his lack of Scout spirit. My Assistant Scoutmaster wants to make him an Instructor (the original plan was for him to be a Troop Guide, since our current one is leaving for college); however, he’s not capable of this.

I spoke to him about his so-called “plan.” I told him he’s not showing Scout spirit and, as an Eagle he’d be expected to take charge and “give back,” and he’s just told me he has no plan to do this. I also told him that I don’t even feel he’s “paying forward.”

I realize he’s only 16 years old, and has time to grow, but he’s made it pretty apparent through his actions that he’s not really into Scouting—he’s just treating getting Eagle like getting a high school diploma: You do your four years and you get your paper.

Of course it’s more than that, but he has that same attitude about school. It saddens me that this young man, whom I’ve known for five years now, is taking this attitude and thinks we’re just going to hand him a leadership position and then his Eagle.

So, do we have to give him a leadership position? Can we mandate some percent of meetings and outings and other troop activities that he has to participate in, to meet the requirements for Eagle? (Name & Council Withheld)

I get your concerns. I’m wondering, however, if this Scout might not right now be sitting atop a “tipping point” in his young life. If so, this could be a win-win. Have you considered counseling him by sticking to just asking questions? For instance, if you were to acknowledge his expressed goal of earning Eagle, you could follow up with something like, “Okay, that’s a worth-while goal… So tell me how you intend to achieve it?” You could then go into some specific areas, like…

– “What position of responsibility do you think you can handle and would enjoy?”

– “If you had that position, how do you see yourself fulfilling its responsibilities?”

– “How often do you see yourself showing up for troop meetings?”

– “This position means you’ll be needed at camp-outs and other weekend events. How are you going to fit these into your schedule?”

– “One of the requirements is ‘be active in your troop and patrol.’ How do you see yourself doing this?”

– “Another requirement is ‘Show Scout spirit.’ How do you see yourself doing this?”

In other words, instead of discouraging this young man with a litany of his faults over the past year or so, take the positive, assume he’s sincere, and let him carve out his own plan for himself, with your guidance.

By “guidance” I mean thought-provoking follow-on questions, like…

– “Okay, you say you can make two meetings a month, even though we meet four times a month. Do you really think the Scouts of the troop are going to want to help you when it comes time for your Eagle project when you’re a sort of ‘half-timer’ with the troop? Can you think of maybe a better way to assure you have Scouting friends willing to help you out?”

Are you getting where I’m coming from here? You see, the best true counselors know what questions to ask to ultimately empower a young man to not only set goals but work out practical plans for reaching them. After all, just like with us gray-haired old goats, the past is the past and each morning begins the first day of the rest of our lives. I think you may have a wonderful opportunity to help a young man really make something of himself, if you’re willing to look toward his future with him and not look back over his shoulder toward a past that can’t be changed, anyway.

As for his notion of “making Eagle and out,” leave that one alone. I’ll bet you donuts to dollars (yup, donuts cost more than a buck nowadays, so we have to change that old saw) that, in his efforts to make it to Eagle he gets so charged up and so invested in what Scouting really means that this issue becomes a dim, distant, and ultimately irrelevant memory!
Dear Andy,

In the absence of the Scoutmaster, does the Assistant Scoutmaster have the authority to sign Eagle Scout applications or Eagle project workbooks? The forms themselves indicate that only Advisors, and Scoutmasters can sign, yet in some definitions of the roles and responsibilities of Assistant Scoutmasters is that they fulfill the role of Scoutmaster if the Scoutmaster’s unavailable.

The reason I’m asking is that our Scoutmaster suddenly stepped down and our committee feels that it will take at least two months to find a suitable replacement. But in the meanwhile we have several Scouts working on their projects and will need signatures sooner than two months from now. (Terry Morris)

I understand the problem. The easy solution is for someone to step in as an “interim Scoutmaster” and change his registration code accordingly. An ASM would be perfect, since he’ll already have the necessary training. It would simply need to be made clear to the committee and CC that this is indeed a two-month tenure, and a “full-time” Scoutmaster is still needed. This way, the Scouts aren’t put at a timing disadvantage for signatures on projects, merit badges, etc.

On the other hand, I get the feeling that you, yourself, might be interested in stepping up as Scoutmaster right now! If that’s the case, go for it!
Dear Andy,

When our troop returned from summer camp, our Scoutmaster told me that he “taught three merit badges” there… Problem is, he’s not a registered Merit Badge Counselor for any of the three.

Now I understand it’s summer camp and councils do hire counselors and have counselors-in-training who teach merit badge skills, but I’m assuming that they have training and also that a registered Merit Badge Counselor does the final “blue card” sign-offs. On further inquiry, the Scoutmaster did tell me that the camp’s own registered MBC signed all the Scouts’ cards. The problem, as I see it, is that this Scoutmaster’s son was in the classes taught by his father, and also got his “blue card” signed off.

Is this legit? Can someone teach his son a merit badge and can he teach a merit badge class without being a registered counselor? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, both situations are completely legit.

It’s a BSA policy that a Merit Badge Counselor can counsel his or her own son, nephew, grandson, etc. Obviously, if a Scoutmaster who has a son in the troop is showing or demonstrating a skill, we don’t send that son to the penalty box till the instruction’s over—he stays right there with his patrol!

In most BSA summer camp situations, the “teaching staffs” are often not registered MBCs, but—at the end of the sessions—the camp’s registered MBC signs off on the requirements having been met (just like you told me it happened). Therefore, an extension of this would be for an adult volunteer in camp (in this case, the Scoutmaster) who has subject matter knowledge to coach, teach, and mentor Scouts on one or more merit badges, which—on completion of requirements—would then be signed off by the camp’s registered MBC for those interest areas.

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. 426 – 12/16/2014 – 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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