Boy Scouts sex abuse claims and more watchdog news

Let’s shake off the early spring chill with some important watchdog journalism you may have missed.

Let’s start with the big story in Sunday’s newspaper about alleged sexual abuse more than 30 years ago by a Gainesville Boy Scout leader. Claims of abuse are just now coming to light even though church and community leaders were aware of accusations against Fletcher Weaver because Weaver confessed to molesting at least five other boys.”

Leaders at First Baptist Church of Gainesville, which sponsored the Boy Scouts troop, knew about the abuse but did not inform the Scouts or law enforcement. You can read the full story here.

February 17, 2016 Gainesville, GA: Robb Lawson has come forward saying he was sexually assaulted by a Boy Scout leader while on a camping trip in the 1980's. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Robb Lawson has come forward saying he was sexually assaulted by a Boy Scout leader while on a camping trip in the 1980’s. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

The Boy Scouts were long aware of abuse within the ranks of scout leaders, going so far as to keep “perversion files” on the accused. You can read some of the AJC’s prior coverage of those cases here.

You also can view the Boy Scout files on the website of a law office that received them via court order. The Los Angeles Times has a very good data presentation of the cases of abuse across the nation.

Special prosecutors

Another powerful watchdog story, also in the Sunday paper, takes on the heated question of whether district attorneys should step aside when it comes to deciding whether to prosecute a police shooting. District attorney and law enforcement across the state banded together to turn back a proposal in the State Legislature to require a special prosecutor in such cases, arguing that district attorneys can recuse themselves in cases where they have a conflict.

Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson has recused herself 16 times in the past six years — but never in a case of a police shooting, even when the situation would seem to call for it. Read more on that story here.

First-offender bill

A bill that would wipe clean the records of many of Georgia’s first-time offenders has passed both the House and Senate, but some government transparency advocates fear it goes too far.

The AJC has followed Senate Bill 367 and wrote about it in depth a couple of weeks ago. It’s not too late to catch up. Read the full story here.

Georgia’s archaeological heritage

The Georgia House Tuesday is scheduled to take up Senate Bill 346, which would let the Georgia Department of Transportation sidestep a state law protecting historic artifacts in cases where the project is under $100 million and fully state funded.

Lawmakers have altered the bill in an effort to appease archaeologists, but concerns remain. From the story:

However, many archaeologists still have reservations. They say GEPA is already too weak — it allows the very agencies that are pursuing a project to make the determinations about whether it could damage a historic or cultural treasure. Changing the reporting requirements would add to the problem by creating a lack of documentation, transparency and public accountability.

You can read the full story here.


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