Former Boys Scouts sue over alleged sex abuse at Mount Vernon camp in 1980s
Two lawsuits were filed in King County Superior Court on Wednesday on behalf of two former Boy Scouts who were allegedly sexually abused during stays at the Fire Mountain Boy Scout Camp.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Lawsuits were filed Wednesday on behalf of two former Boy Scouts who allege they were sexually abused during stays at the Fire Mountain Boy Scout Camp in Mount Vernon in the 1980s.
The Boy Scouts of America and the organization’s Mount Baker Council are named as defendants in the suits, filed in King County Superior Court by Seattle attorney Mike Pfau, who is representing the men, now 44 and 37, along with three Portland attorneys.
Duane Rhodes, the Scout executive of the Mount Baker Council, said Wednesday he was aware of the lawsuits but had not seen them.
Kelly Clark, one of the Portland attorneys, won an $18 million jury award for an Oregon victim last year. In October, he published a public database of 1,250 Scout volunteers and employees from across the country accused of sexually abusing boys from 1965 to 1985. The database includes 22 “ineligible volunteers” from Washington.
The records — sometimes referred to as “the perversion files” — have provided an unprecedented glimpse into the magnitude of sexual-abuse allegations the Scouts had fought hard to keep secret.
Among those listed is Allen Clarence Ewalt, who was removed from his Scouting position in Iowa in 1965 because of complaints of sexual abuse but was allowed back into the organization in the 1970s after moving to Washington, according to Pfau.
Ewalt was a Scout leader and camp health officer at Fire Mountain when he allegedly molested the 44-year-old man, who had injured his leg swimming and was sent to the infirmary in 1980, according to the lawsuit.
Ewalt died in August 1996, according to state death records.
The 37-year-old man was allegedly raped and repeatedly molested by Charles S. Grewe, the camp’s aquatics director, in 1987. Grewe, who also was a school-bus driver in Everett, was convicted two years later for sex crimes against three young girls and was sentenced to five years in prison.
He is a Level 3 sex offender living in Mount Vernon, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s website. Grewe couldn’t be reached Wednesday.
“What makes these cases unique is that the abuse occurred at a summer camp ... and my clients were abused by professional Scout employees,” as opposed to volunteer leaders, Pfau said. “Both abusers were working at the camp in Mount Vernon at the same time in the 1980s, and my clients aren’t the only two abused” by them.
Pfau said he’s shocked by Boy Scouts records he says show “the almost laissez-faire attitude” toward suspected abusers at a time when the Boy Scouts “were restructuring their policies and practices” because of endemic sexual abuse within the organization.
“When you know there are problems with child abusers infiltrating your troops and camps, it’s incumbent on you as an organization to take steps to protect children in those troops and camps,” said Pfau, who is also investigating five other alleged sex-abuse cases involving Boy Scouts in Washington, as well as dozens more in other states.
Rhodes, of the Mount Baker Council, moved from Portland to Washington in 1998 and said he was not familiar with Ewalt or Grewe.
Rhodes said guidelines to protect youth from sex abusers were developed in the early 1980s and continue to be updated. He said the Scouts are now mandated by law to report any allegations of abuse to police, which wasn’t the case in the 1980s.
“The problem is a societywide problem, and anywhere you have kids, pedophiles tend to go,” he said. “ ... All you can do is put in place barriers to try and keep them away from kids.”
While he acknowledged the scandal has damaged the Scouts as an organization, Rhodes said training, policies that don’t allow one-on-one contact between adults and kids, nationwide background checks on adult volunteers and reporting requirements have led to “tremendous improvement” in the way the Boy Scouts operate.
News researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org