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Issue 434 – February 24, 2015

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Dear Andy,

Does a troop have to accept any boy who wants to join? (Name & Council Withheld)

“Have to” is an interesting way to phrase your question, so let me ask… What’s the situation that’s prompting the question? In other words, what’s “the question behind the question”?

It’s prompted by a current decision to remove a Scout for failure to follow the Scout Law (mainly “trustworthy”) repeatedly and in harmful ways despite two major rounds of counseling and constant guidance. My thought was, if we can see a train wreck coming, do we have to keep the track open? (I would almost always give a boy a chance, but there may be times when character problems are so obvious we know what the result will be.) One approach under consideration is that we want to keep our troop small-to-medium and so may want to simply say we’re full. I’m just trying to work through what’s permissible in an extreme situation. (N&CW)

OK, so we’re dealing with allegations of lying or otherwise deviating from the truth. But there’s a great difference between “I don’t know who started the forest fire” and lesser fibs—the ubiquitous “little white lies” and so forth, like “I don’t know who ate the last cookie.” So I really can’t help all that much, except to point out that it’s often easier to help a youth correct his behavior than it is to “fix” a man. Moreover, if this boy is dismissed from Scouting, where will he learn how to be “trustworthy,” “loyal,” and the other ten points of the Scout Law? Is he “not worth the effort”? Or does something creative need to be done to help him find and stay on the course to True North?

Scouting for the young man who’s already living the Oath and Law in his daily life is a wonderful thing, but—in regard to ethical behavior—less than critically necessary. Isn’t the youth who struggles with the principles of the Oath and Law our true “target”—the one whom Scouting will most help? Think it over. I’m sure you’ll make the right decision.
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Dear Andy,

The Order of the Arrow held elections at our troop meeting last week. Some of the Scouts on the ballot, not unexpectedly, received less than 50% of the votes. But right after the election, I overheard the OA representative tell our Scoutmaster that he could override the election results and approve all of the Scouts on the ballot—even those who didn’t get 50% of the votes. It sounded to me like this has been the practice in our area for a number of years.

I’ve learned from reading your columns that we should be concerned whenever some adult volunteer wants to override a youth decision. But I don’t know enough about the OA to know how elections work or what actual discretion the Scoutmaster has, as far as election results are concerned. Can you shed any light on this situation? Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)

Great question and, luckily, the answer’s simple: Nobody has the authority to deviate from the stated election method, which has been in place for decades. The OA Advisor is patently overstepping his bounds and no Scoutmaster has ever had the option—implicit or explicit—to arbitrarily override a decision purposefully given to the Scouts of the troop and no one else, ever. (Think about it: If a Scoutmaster, or anybody else, is allowed to arbitrarily change election results in any direction, why bother having Scout-based elections? Just let the Scoutmaster do as he pleases!)

Just as an FYI, the Order of the Arrow Handbook is available for purchase by anyone…OA member or not. You’ll find it for sale at scoutstuff.org. It’s a non-restricted item.

Thanks, Andy. I appreciate your rapid turn-around on replying to my question. In light of the personalities involved, I want to Be Prepared with solid background information, so, following your suggestion, I picked up the OA handbook today. While it has much good information, not many details on the election process are provided. I also got a look at the “Guide for Officers and Advisers,” which is available online. This has more detail about election ceremonies and membership requirements, but, again, election details seemed to be missing. I did find the phrase, “Candidates for youth membership shall be elected by other youth members in accordance with policies set forth by the national Order of the Arrow committee,” but I can’t find anything on the “polices set forth by the national Order of the Arrow committee.” Can you help me further with this? (N&CW)

Let’s keep this as simple as possible and do our best to “stay out of court”…

I’m sending you a copy of the OA Election Forms (2012 printing). Note the statement by the Scoutmaster (which must be signed by him or her): “I certify that the above youth members are eligible and approve them as nominees for election. I also understand that the election results will be final for the year” (boldface mine). This means, quite obviously, that once the election results are recorded, they’re final and can’t be finagled with. End of story.

If you have further difficulty, you have two local resources: Your OA Lodge Advisor and your Scout Executive (aka “Chief of the Fire” in OA parlance).
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Dear Andy,

I need your help desperately! I’ve looked high and low for information and haven’t found anything that helps.

I was a Cub Scout for five years and then helped start a new troop about three years ago. During this entire time we since we have such a wide range of Cubs and Scouts participating in our combined-unit fundraising that we set up “Scout Funds” for each boy. We established a base amount that each Cub or Scout would raise for his pack or troop, and then, whatever he raises above that base amount would go into his own Scout Fund, which he could spend from in any way he chose, so long as it’s (a) with his parents’ approval and (b) is Scout-related. This has worked well, with no hiccups, for nearly eight years.

Now, out of the blue, our Committee Chair has decided he doesn’t want to do it this way anymore. His “substitute” for a process that’s worked phenomenally well for close to eight years is that he alone will be the final authority on how each Scout will use his Scout Fund, if the expenditure exceeds $100.

A lot of parents and most of us leaders believe this isn’t right. After all, the Cubs and Scouts are the ones who raised the money in the first place, and they use their Scout Funds to support themselves in Scouting, ranging from buying camping gear for themselves or paying for food at a Scouting event (the pack and troop don’t provide gear and don’t underwrite extra food at multi-unit or district events that have food for sale).

To see if we could perhaps compromise, I proposed to the CC that the Cubs and Scouts could spend their earned-to-date Scout Funds as they’ve historically done and then, as new money comes in, the CC’s “new” policy would apply. His response was to enlist a council representative and the Chartered Organization Representative from our sponsor, all three telling us that the boys themselves have no right to individual Scout Funds because all monies raised belong to the pack and the troop. Is there anything we can do to stop this person from doing such an untrustworthy thing? (Name & Council Withheld)

On conflicting issues within units in general, it’s really pretty simple: Tell him No. That’s right: No. No unit-level volunteer has the authority to arbitrarily establish a “policy” such as you’ve described.

There is, however, another issue that you do need to examine for yourselves: When these Cubs and Scouts are doing whatever fundraiser your units engage in, are they requesting donations? This is taboo in Scouting. Are they wearing their uniforms while doing a unit fund-raiser that’s not sponsored by your council? This is also a huge No-No. Do the people who are buying whatever the Cubs and Scouts sell believe this is for the benefit of the pack or troop, which isn’t exactly trustworthy either if it’s not made clear that the boys keep a certain portion of the proceeds? Do your pack and troop file the Unit Fundraising Form with the council service center every time you run one of these? If you’re doing this, everything’s fine, but if you’re not, you could wind up in deep do-do!

Best bet: Have a heart-to-heart with your council revenue development chair, just to be sure everything’s as it should be.
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Dear Andy,

My son has completed everything for his Eagle rank except the board of review. Because he’s apparently lost it, our troop Life-to-Eagle coordinator has told my son to recreate his Scout Handbook for the review. (Our best guess is that his older brother sent it to “Half Price Books” by mistake, since his own handbook is still here in the house.)

The troop has used electronic recording of advancement for a while, and has all his records, so I suppose my son could ask for the complete “Troopmaster” report and then fill in any blanks, but that seems, well, crazy. Either he did the work to advance or he didn’t, and now doesn’t seem to be the best time to be verifying items like First Class cooking and so on. So my question is this: Is having his handbook at a board of review and actual requirement? I’m being told, for instance that the handbook is “technically a part of the uniform.” What is your advice? My son doesn’t want to make trouble, but, at the same time, we’re wondering why long-kept troop records don’t suffice. (Name & Council Withheld)

Ouch! But there’s a huge difference between “losing” a handbook and having a brother “borrow” it to sell online! So, let’s start by finding out from the brother whether that’s actually what happened or not (and maybe have that young man get it back for his Eagle candidate brother!). If this is indeed what happened, then your son should immediately tell his Scoutmaster what’s happened.

As far as needing date details, the only things that should be relevant at this point are verification of rank advancement and merit badge earning dates. Everything else is in the category of “it really doesn’t matter,” because no board of review should be asking him to tie knots and such, or even—at this point—asking him when and where he did these things: This simply isn’t what boards of review are for!

As for that little bit of nonsense you were told, nope: A handbook is a book; it’s not a “uniform part.”
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Dear Andy,

I’ll be soon doing my first Scoutmaster conference for an Eagle candidate. Will this conference be in any way different from others? Is there anything different or unique for an Eagle Scoutmaster conference? (Jerry Scott, SM, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

It’s essentially the same as the five prior ranks, but perhaps with a little more detail… Shouldn’t take more than a half-hour, tops, and can certainly be less. Here’s what the BSA has to say…

If you have watched him from the date he joined the troop, you may know this Scout well by the time of his Eagle conference. He should be congratulated on all he has accomplished thus far. This is an occasion to review the Scout’s Eagle service project, but not an occasion to criticize it. After all, you, as Scoutmaster, have already approved the project concept and both the troop committee and the head of the agency for whom the project was accomplished have determined that it was satisfactorily completed. Rather, you should review the Scout’s project with him so that he will feel comfortable explaining it to his Eagle board of review.

You will be counseling a very accomplished young man, one who has an experience with the troop that is inherently different than yours. It is wise to understand what the Scout feels are the strengths and shortcomings of the troop.

You also can ask the Scout whether he believes he is prepared for his Eagle board of review. Of course, Scout spirit is a part of this discussion. The Eagle candidate’s spirit should be such that he is an example to other Scouts.
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Dear Andy,

Is there any way to get a Committee Chair to step down or be fired besides asking the Chartered Organization Representative (aka CR) to do this? For instance, can some proportion of committee members vote him out of office? Can a Senior Patrol Leader do this?

I’m asking because we’ve found our Committee Chair to be no longer supportive of our troop, and we’d like to replace him, but we don’t know how to do this without involving the CR. Our hesitation is because our CR is not heavily involved and we don’t want him to think negatively about our troop. We’d like to keep this within the troop and not involve, effectively, and “outsider.” (Name & Council Withheld)

If the CR is indeed an “outsider,” this is a symptom of two problems: He hasn’t reached out to you or—more importantly—you all haven’t reached out to him, as your best overall ally and friend-of-the-troop. So my very first suggestion is to get him on board with you by inviting him to troop meetings and especially courts of honor!

But, as to your immediate situation, refer to page 2 of the BSA Adult Application (available online if you don’t have hard copy handy): “Unit committee chairman: approves all adult unit members except the chartered organization representative and committee chairman. Chartered organization head or chartered organization representative: The chartered organization representative is approved by the head of the chartered organization. Following approval by the unit committee chairman, all other adult unit members must be approved by the head of the chartered organization or the chartered organization representative.”

This means that, except for the head of the chartered organization (pastor, priest, rabbi, president, etc.) the Chartered Organization Representative (CR) is the highest person with “hire-fire” authority. The CR approves (and can likewise remove) all unit-level adult volunteers including the committee chair. The CR is, therefore, your go-to person.

Appointment of, or removal of, an adult volunteer is ultimately the CR’s responsibility. No admission or removal of an adult volunteer is ever done by vote of the committee, by decision by the Scouts, or via any other method.

If you’re concerned about your own CR’s lack of involvement, this is sure one way to get him or her involved…and, in this case, doing what needs to be done. Your only other avenue is to go directly to the head of your chartered organization, and this is hardly unreasonable.

And, just in case you’re worried about “backlash,” be aware that a “fired” volunteer can’t appeal to the district or council for reinstatement—these entities can’t supersede a decision by the CR or the CO’s head.

Happy Scouting!

Andy

Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to askandybsa@yahoo.com. 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. 434 – 2/24/2015 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2015]

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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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