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Issue 484 – April 19, 2016

Hi Andy,

I hope you can guide us! In just this past week, our Chartered Organization Representative (“CR”) out of the blue started tearing apart our troop. First, he removed our Scoutmaster, replaced her with one of his friends who was an Assistant Scoutmaster. When we parents and other adult troop volunteers protested against this seemingly arbitrary dismissal with no alert whatsoever, the CR said that youth protection “violations” were involved, whereupon he removed an Assistant Scoutmaster, telling this man that neither he nor his two sons were welcome in the troop. Then the CR went to the bank and froze our troop’s account there. Next, he made threats to remove a third troop leader.

When we tried to salvage what was left of the troop’s adult volunteer leadership by proposing a “replacement” Scoutmaster, the CR’s response was that he’d consider this, but only if that prospective volunteer would “swear an oath” (yes, that’s the way the CR put it) to do everything the chartered organization says will be done, including how to do it, or face immediate dismissal.

This chartered organization also sponsors a Cub Scout pack and a Venturing crew. When leaders of the pack and crew learned what the CR was doing to the troop, they supported all troop leaders, including those terminated, and protested the CR’s actions. The result was that the CR proceeded to freeze these units’ bank accounts too, and demanded the Scout trailer we all share and all equipment held by (and originally bought by) all three units.

All of this happened in a single week! We immediately went to the head (“executive officer”) of the chartered organization to get this reversed and stopped, but he’s new and doesn’t know what he’s allowed to do or how to go about doing it. Although he’s sympathetic to us, especially since this is affecting the Scouts themselves, he doesn’t know where to turn to learn about his responsibilities or authority…and, frankly, neither do we! All we can find is that the “executive officer” or head of the sponsor can choose the CR. But is that enough?

This is very time sensitive, so if there’s any way you can let us know what to do as quickly as possible, it be a huge help! Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)

Thanks for writing right away (and readers should know that I’ve already responded directly—on the same day I received this letter).

You need professional, on-site help, and right away. Pick up the phone, call your local council service center, and ask to speak with your District Executive. Tell him or her that this is urgent, and repeat what you’ve just told me. I’d suggest that you pull together a meeting of all of you involved with all three units whom that CR has reached out to, and sit down with the DE (and perhaps the Scout Executive too) to determine next steps. (One obvious one is for the DE to meet with the new head of the sponsor for a one-on-one orientation and quick education session.

(My gut tells me that this is going to turn out to be about money. I hope I’m wrong and, if so, please let me know.)
Hi Andy,

Thanks for your long career as an advisor to us in Scouting. I’ve referred many friends to your website and columns. Right now, I’m looking for the definition of an “active” Scout, Boy Scout advancement. I know that you’ve covered this topic before, but I’m having some trouble finding it. Can you send me in the right direction? (Tad Davis)

And thank you for being a loyal reader! For your question, the best description of “active” can be found in the BSA’s 2015 GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT. Check out Topic
Dear Andy,

Our troop has only eight Scouts per patrol, making it difficult to meet the National Honor Patrol Award requirement for two Scouts to advance a rank in each three-month period. If none is eligible to advance, does that mean there’s no way for the patrol to earn this award, even if they meet all the other requirements? (This is not likely to change in the near future as many of our Scouts are already Star and Life rank.) (Wendy Louttit, Los Angeles Area Council, CA)

First, let’s understand that no patrol should ever be larger than eight Scouts. Beyond eight, the patrol becomes unmanageable and natural group dynamics will soon cause a rift into at least two smaller sub-groups. The ideal size is actually six, but definitely not more than eight.

Okay, with that out of the way, do the Scouts of all patrols understand that, if two Scouts advance three-and-a-half months, or four months, or more after starting, that counts (assuming all seven other standards are met) and their patrols would qualify for this recognition? Or maybe it takes six months, and that’s alright, too. Or maybe one more hike or camp-out is needed and it takes four-and-a-half months to earn the NHP award, and that’s just as okay. In other words, as soon as all eight standards are met, and at least three months have elapsed since the last time a patrol qualified for the NHP award, they can receive it again.
Dear Andy,

My son earned Eagle just over three months ago, and he has enough merit badges for an Eagle Palm. But he’s been told that he needs to work with a younger Scout to complete that Scout’s rank requirements, in order to show his leadership ability, before his Scoutmaster and the troop committee will sign off on his Palm. Is this a correct interpretation of req. 3 for Eagle Palms? (LM)

Earning an Eagle Palm involves three key things (there are more, but these three are the keys): (a) remain active for at least three months, (b) earn five more merit badges beyond the 21 required for Eagle (these can be previously earned—they don’t have to be earned after Eagle), and (c) “make a satisfactory effort to develop and demonstrate leadership ability.” So what the Scoutmaster is asking for appears to be okay. But—and this is a big BUT—one cannot control or guarantee the actions of another person. Therefore, as long as your son coaches this younger Scout on completing his remaining requirements, this should be sufficient; to expect completion (which is “controlled” by that younger Scout) would be excessive. So, if your son has been coaching this Scout for the past three months (which can be on-and-off depending on that Scout’s attendance, over which your son has no control and therefore shouldn’t be penalized in any way), that should be enough to meet the language AND THE SPIRIT of that requirement for the palm.
Hi Andy,

I’m the Scoutmaster for our sons’ troop. The Chartered Organization Representative (“CR”) has decided to run the troop himself, by giving me “orders”—particularly on “who to advance in rank” and who to let slide. Moreover, there seems to be a “double-standard” in his thinking. For example, he’ll insist that I advance Scouts of parents he’s personally friendly with, but in the case of my own sons (one is Star and the other, Life), they’re over-scrutinized on the basis that “we don’t want the Scoutmaster’s sons to get special privileges.” In effect, they’re being punished for being my sons!

At this point, I’m feeling like I’m being treated as a puppet. I’m exhausted and on the edge of quitting this “job.” I’ve spoken with our Committee Chair about this mess, but he and all the committee members are scared of the CR, fearing that if they speak up to him he’ll react by holding back their own sons’ advancement as well.

Is it okay for me to walk away from this and go join another troop? What will this do to my own sons’ morale? They’ve both been in Scouts for six years, and I’d like them to enjoy at least one year of Scouting without the stress. Can you help us here? (Name & Council Withheld)

Part of the Committee Chair’s responsibility is to protect you from incursions like this. If the CC is too “afraid” to do this, then you have every right to move yourself and your sons to a new troop, where the CR doesn’t interfere with the Scoutmaster and the CC supports to SM!

Run, don’t walk! And there’s no “discredit” in doing this… You and your sons are ALL volunteers, and your job as Dad is to be sure your sons have the very best Scouting experience possible! In effect, you’re all “free agents”! So tell the CC what you need and if it’s not forthcoming—scram!

Thank you, Andy! This is the best advice I’ve ever received. You’ve helped me seal my decision and I really appreciate your taking the time to address my concerns. (N&CW)

Anytime! That’s exactly what I’m here for.

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. 484 – 4/19/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]


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.

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