Former gatekeeper of Kansas City's "perversion files" speaks about process

There is no questioning Dan Wheatcroft's dedication to the Boy Scouts of America. The Shawnee resident spent nearly four decades as a Scout executive, beginning in 1951 and bouncing around from St. Louis to Denver and down to Miami.

In 1968, he landed in Kansas City, where he would act as the top leader of the area council for almost 20 years.

As executive, Wheatcroft was a tireless advocate for the Boy Scouts. He forged relationships with business leaders and local politicians to help gain exposure and raise money for the organization.

However, Wheatcroft's position came with a forgettable job requirement, one that he wishes he never had to deal with.

"But I took it very, very seriously," Wheatcroft, now 90 years old, told 41 Action News. "We didn't need people in Scouting that didn't measure up."

Wheatcroft was the gatekeeper of the "perversion files" stemming from the Kansas City area. It was his job to send termination letters to Scout leaders and volunteers suspected of abuse. It was his job to gather documentation from witnesses or even victims and their families. And it was his job to send all of the information to the Boy Scouts' national office.

As the public's understanding of sexual abuse and pedophilia increased, Wheatcroft's stack of local "perversion files" grew. By the time he retired in 1987, it had become a constant part of the job.

While paging through a photo album of his decades of involvement in the Boy Scouts, Wheatcroft pointed to a well-known Kansas City leader and said, "I had to report one of his employees to him. The guy was transferred to Miami."

Another photo showed Wheatcroft with a Catholic bishop.

"I had to talk to him about a couple of his priests," Wheatcroft said.

The "perversion files" have drawn comparisons to the Catholic Church's abuse scandal, and more recently, what transpired at Penn State.

So what was Wheatcroft's reaction to hearing people accuse the Boy Scouts of covering up instances of suspected abuse?

"We did things the way they were being done in those days and we did them well," said Wheatcroft. "I would never cover anything up. I don't think anyone would go out and try to seek that kind of publicity on a situation like that, but it wasn't a matter of trying to keep it a secret."

In 1972, an internal memo obtained by 41 Action News spelled out how local Scout leaders should handle allegations of sexual abuse.

"This is the first time such information has been printed, and because the misunderstandings which could develop if it were widely distributed, we suggest that after you have read it, you file it with other policy statements without making copies or sharing it beyond the top management of your council," the memo said.

The policy directed Scouting executives how to gather documentation about the allegations and instructed them to hand-deliver termination letters to the accused men. The memo also included a form letter that appeared in almost all of the confidential files, which seemed to hint the details would be kept quiet.

"We are making no accusations and will not release this information to anyone, so our action will in no way affect your standing in the community," the letter said.

However, Wheatcroft argued that he never would have prevented families from pursuing criminal charges. During that time period, he said Scout leaders did not think it was their responsibility to go to police.

Wheatcroft wished none of the abuse had occurred, but made no apologies for the confidential system the Scouts have used for a century.

"I would think that was the parents' decision," said Wheatcroft. "It was our job to make sure the people didn't stay in Scouting and could not get back into Scouting. Obviously, times and procedures have improved, thank goodness."