The case of Richard Herbert Smith underscores the inconsistencies and lack of urgency in BSA’s management of its Perversion file system. This is part twelve in a multi-part series examining BSA’s Oregon Perversion files.
For background, the “Perversion Files” are a subcategory of BSA’s Ineligible Volunteer Files—secret files kept at BSA’s national headquarters starting shortly after BSA’s founding in 1919. Each perversion file documents information about an individual scout leader, most of whom were suspected of sexually abusing boys. By 1935, over 1,000 men had been kicked out of Scouting for child molestation. BSA worked to keep the public ignorant of its sexual abuse problem and, for decades, failed to implement reasonable child sexual abuse prevention policies.
During the summer of 1990, local Scout officials in Portland learned that Smith—a former Tillamook Scoutmaster known for walking “with noticeable swagger”—had been arrested for sexually abusing a foster child placed in his care. After the Portland Scout officials notified BSA National of Smith’s arrest, Paul Ernst, director of BSA National’s Perversion file system, wrote back to request:
[S]ome documentation of his arrest. Newspaper clippings would be most helpful. We would also like to have the outcome of the legal action once it has been completed as this would give us a more solid case.
Ernst’s request for documentation to provide “a more solid case” should have been unnecessary, as Smith’s file notes that in 1983 he was “eased out” of his Scoutmaster’s position with Tillamook Troop 624 (or 629). Smith’s file is silent on what prompted the “easing out,” but the file does note that Smith had been convicted of child sexual abuse in New York in 1966.
One of the Portland Scout officials involved in the correspondence with BSA National—Douglas Smith—himself was later convicted on federal child porn charges following a promotion to BSA National to serve as the organization’s youth protection program. In the file, Ernst thanks Douglas Smith for “your help in protecting the youth of America.”
On September 10, 1990—seven years after he was “eased out” of the Tillamook troop—BSA finally officially banned Richard Herbert Smith from Scouting.
Richard Herbert Smith’s Perversion file can be accessed here: richard-herbert-smith