Files detail allegations of abuse in Alaska by seven Boy Scout leaders

mtheriault@adn.comOctober 18, 2012 

In June 1981, the mother of a Fairbanks Cub Scout complained that a den leader named Kenneth A. Burns was sleeping nude with boys and showing them pornographic material.

The head of the Fairbanks-based Midnight Sun Council of the Boy Scouts of America wrote to the national office about the complaint. He also informed officials that the U.S. Air Force was investigating Burns, who at the time was a sergeant at Eielson Air Force Base.

"I will agree that sleeping nude and showing the boys pornographic books indicated very poor judgement when dealing with cub scouts," replied Boy Scouts of America executive Paul Ernst in July of that year. "I do not know, however, that this is a serious enough offense to refuse registration anywhere he might try to register unless there are more instances."

Burns is one of seven Alaska men identified in 1,400 pages of previously secret files released Thursday by an Oregon law firm involved in a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America.

The documents tell a story of men barred by the Boy Scouts national organization after they had already drawn police scrutiny or criminal charges for sexually abusing children in Alaska.

The Alaska files released are all from the 1960s and 1980s.

Officials with the Boy Scouts council in Alaska did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

A Los Angeles Times database that includes other sources of the Boy Scouts records lists more than a dozen additional files from Alaska but they do not include names or details of the allegations. Some of the most recent cases from Alaska are from 2003 and 2004.

In Burns' case, it appears that it took a court-martial conviction, a letter from an Air Force judge, a warning that Burns had tried to join another Alaska troop and nearly a year to convince national Boy Scouts officials to add his name to a secret "undesirable list."

"We appreciate the work you have done in getting this information for us," Ernst wrote to John P. McKean, then head of the Midnight Sun Council, in March 1982. That was more than nine months after the initial complaint. "This will strengthen our case in being able to refuse future registration attempts."

Burns didn't stop molesting children.

In the 1990s, he was charged with abusing boys at his Muldoon mobile home, which police said he stocked with toys. At the time, police said he might have had more than 100 victims.

He was eventually convicted of child sex abuse charges.

Today, Kenneth A. Burns is serving a prison term in Utah for a 2007 conviction for aggravated sexual abuse of a minor.

National officials with the Boy Scouts said in a statement this week that police knew about allegations or were otherwise involved in 63 percent of cases documented in the files.

Several of the Alaska files released Thursday involve cases from the 1960s in which Scout volunteers and leaders were accused of "moral crimes" in Ketchikan, Juneau and Kotzebue.

The Kotzebue case, involving a Scoutmaster named Elmer Goodwin charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, dragged on for months because of slow responses by local Scouting leaders, according to the documents.

"This has taken some time as the info had to come from Kotzebue and the man I had getting it didn't seem as concerned about it as you and I," a Midnight Sun Council official wrote.

Another Scout leader in Alaska identified in the files went on to work in a position of trust with children after abusing Scouts.

One-time Scout leader Kenneth Rarick was placed on the undesirable list after his 1982 sexual abuse conviction for fondling a 10-year-old boy at the Lost Lake Scout Camp south of Fairbanks. It's unclear whether Scouting officials alerted police to that abuse.

More than a decade later, Rarick was hired as a live-in teacher by a private school run by a North Pole church.

Rarick pleaded no contest to charges that he molested several of his students there in the late 1990s.

He's now serving his sentence for the crimes at Colorado's Hudson Correctional Facility.

In November 1984, a longtime Homer Boy Scout troop leader, Jerry W. Lewis, pleaded no contest to sexually abusing several young boys in his troop. He was initially accused of abusing about 30 boys.

"We have reviewed this case with our Attorney and have now placed this man on the confidential file," Ernst wrote in April 1985, five months after Lewis entered his plea.

Lewis was once named Citizen of the Year by Homer's Chamber of Commerce, according to his file.

 

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.

 

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