Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Bill Bricker Backstory Part II

NOTE: Part II has been updated, but needs more editing and it's missing some links. So please bear with me. Also, keep in mind, this is not a news account, but a personal commentary and all that implies.

So what do you do when a friend says he's been molested by everyone's favorite scoutmaster? If you're me, you want to tell the authorities. But which ones? The cops? The Boy Scouts? The Board of Education? A reporter? I tried all of them. For the last twenty years, nobody who could do anything -- who should have done something -- gave a shit. Nobody.

Twenty years ago [in the 1990's], my friend was very reluctant to come forward with his claims of sexual abuse from the 1950's. He's the man I call Ground Zero, because he was the first to tell me what allegedly transpired in Bill Bricker's tent during Boy Scout overnights. He insisted on remaining anonymous, unless we could find another scout who could corroborate the molestation by sharing his own experience. Without someone else, he couldn't bear the thought of standing alone to face the guaranteed backlash that occurs whenever you accuse someone that people admire of pedophilia. I find it interesting that most of the backlash since Bricker's arrest has been directed toward the reporters. As if they were making this stuff up.

At the time, I knew in my gut that my friend's experience was the tip of a huge iceberg. So I went to the Winnetka police to report what he had told me, even though he wasn't ready to come forward yet. They're TRAINED PROFESSIONALS -- allegedly -- maybe they had a way to get people to come forward. At least they could start an investigation. 

I was interviewed by a uniformed officer, not a detective. That should have been my first indication of their complete lack of interest. He sat and took notes on the back of a torn envelope -- not even an intake form -- another obvious clue that my story would be going into the circular file, shortly after I left. He may have even yawned. Our conversation ended with him announcing that the statute of limitations had passed, and I should not ever expect to hear from them one way or another. I never did. 

Note to Winnetka Cops -- you should have had protocols in place to handle any report of child abuse. But you didn't. Do you even know the responsibilities of a mandated reporter? Even though you claim to have no police files on Bricker going back to the Mayflower, we know from an attorney's letter in Bricker's Board of Education teacher file that Winnetka's Police Chief, Don Derning, talked to the family about the accusation in 1968. A handwritten timetable of events in the spring of 1968 also includes the notation "May 10 • Bill Bricker sees Don Derning." Sounds like a face-to-face Come to Jesus meeting to me.

Just how did that conversation go?

Chief Derning: Bill, I'm hearing some allegations from the Board of Education. Are they true? 

Bill Bricker: No.

Chief Derning: Okay then. I guess we're done here.

Bill Bricker continued teaching for seventeen more years. UPDATE: Make that more like 21 years. A closer examination of his salary payouts from the BOE reveals that while he retired on paper in 1985, he continued as a full-time substitute teacher at full salary for four more years, through 1989. 

After Bricker's arrest last month by deputies who took him to jail from a skilled nursing facility in Traverse City, MI, [LINK] the Winnetka police made a great show of handling a new report from a woman in her sixties who alleges that Bricker fondled her during indoor recess in 1958 [LINK]. 

Surprisingly, the Chicago Tribune included the graphic description of her alleged abuse contained in the police report [LINK]. With the hot light of publicity shining on them, this time the cops leaped into action to investigate the woman's report and called in the State's Attorney's sex crimes people. After pushing some paper around, they finally announced that there was nothing to do because the statute of limitations had passed. Case closed. If only the police had done half as much twenty years ago, Bricker would have been arrested and prosecuted well before his advanced age, his heart attack, and his failing health became an issue.  

But, they did nothing. 
As we have discovered, Bricker's BOE teacher file alone would have lent a boatload of credence to the abuse I was alleging. Enough to ignite an investigation. Have I mentioned twenty years ago?

Just an FYI, if the perpetrator is also a scout leader, you might want to contact the BSA's national office in Dallas. Ask whether the person is listed in their "Ineligible Volunteers" files. There's even a special department for questions about those people. But don't expect the BSA folks to fall all over themselves in an effort to cooperate. The "O" in Boy Scouts stands for OBFUSCATE. 

During their first 100 years, the BSA accumulated over 20,000 secret files they kept on adults in scouting who had crossed the line -- from "shouting at kids" [I'm quoting the BSA office and laughing out loud] to pedophilia. These I.V. files were forced out into the open by two major lawsuits [LINK]. The files I read all contain references to pedophile behavior. Despite the BSA's contention, there's no mention, I found, of anyone in an I.V. file who was removed from scouting for shouting at children. 

Even more disconcerting, like the ongoing Catholic priest debacle, Boy Scout criminal behavior with minors has rarely ever been reported to law enforcement, just monitored by the local or national BSA headquarters. 

Now referred to as "perversion files" [Google it], these Boy Scout I.V. folders were purged several years ago from a high of 20,000 to a mere 6,000 in a move that screams Cover Your Ass. When I searched, there were no files with Bill Bricker's name. I was incredulous, especially given the BOE revelations this month, revealing the claims of molestation against him. So when the scout leadership insists that 2014 is the first time they've had any reports about Bricker, I find their claims to be abundantly disingenuous. 

Twenty years ago, I contacted the local NE Council just to find out if Bricker was still attached to a troop. I was appalled to discover that he was. It is worth noting that according to his BOE teacher file, Bricker supposedly relinquished his leadership and active involvement in Troop 18 in early July of 1968, almost thirty years earlier. Except, not really.

Bricker's show of stepping down as scout master of Troop 18 took place not long after complaints against him were reported to the scouts, as well as the owners of Teton Valley Ranch Camp [who backed him 100% and said he would always have a job with them], and his bosses at the Winnetka Board of Education. 

Astonishingly, the School Board let Bricker continue teaching at Hubbard Woods, but no longer let him coach after school sports at Skokie Junior High, because the boy[s] who made the complaints against him would be there. The fox can stay in the chicken house as long as he stops sampling the meat -- metaphors intended. Let that astonishing example of a bureaucratic cluster fuck sink in. 

SIDEBAR: According to the October 27, 2014, Chicago Tribune, "One former student said she complained to her mother about Bricker in the 1980's, resulting in a meeting with the principal." Yet again, there is no record of any meeting about alleged molestation taking place. The principal's name was William Meuer. For some reason, despite allowing Bricker to continue teaching at Hubbard Woods School, Meuer currently serves as vice president of the school board for Winnetka's District 36. He refused comment to the Tribune via the school board attorney. 

I sent an email to the seven members of the Winnetka Board of Education for District 36 and suggested that William Meuer, resign -- effective immediately. As far as I am concerned, Meuer's presence on the board is an anathema to anyone seeking justice for William Bricker's decades of unfettered access to young children, aided and abetted by the school system. A representative from the board replied, saying they couldn't discuss the investigation, but that my email was important and would be forwarded to the Wyoming and Winnetka authorities. I replied that without my blog, the authorities would have no charges pending against Bricker. 

In 1968, the Board also scheduled an appointment for Bricker to see a shrink [Where is that evaluation? It was scheduled for June 12, 1968.]. From what I've read, the highlight of what passes for a BOE investigation was to ask Bricker about the boys' allegations of sexual abuse. In fact, that's apparently how the matter was always handled. Someone in authority would ask Bricker if the accusations were true. Then take him at his word. 

Accusations about Bricker's alleged behavior should have been reported to the National Boy Scouts. In fact, he should have been listed in the Ineligible Volunteer files and removed permanently from scouting. However, the Winnetka scouting community clearly chose to keep things among themselves. 

Once again nobody did anything to stop him.  

In the midst of all these allegations in the spring of 1968, it's interesting that Bricker, who was 48 and described by a former camper as a "confirmed bachelor," suddenly got engaged in July and then married three months later. The Winnetka scouting leadership allowed him to use his impending marriage, not the accusations of alleged molestation, as his excuse to gracefully step down from the leadership of Troop 18. Here's the paragraph they cobbled together:

"In view of his pending marriage, Bill Bricker has asked to be relieved of his responsibilities as Scoutmaster of Troop 18. After twenty years of service, the Troop Committee has reluctantly acceded to Bill's wishes, expressing the hope that his advice and counsel will continue to be available to the troop." 

As I said, not only was Bricker not fired as a teacher, he stayed on as a full time sub, when they could have let him ease on down the road and never teach in Winnetka again. He also continued as a camp counselor at Teton Valley Ranch Camp until 2002, retiring with great fanfare and a celebration [link to come]. Finally, despite the show of stepping down in 1968, he never left scouting. In fact there was an effort to get him a 50 year scouting certificate in 1988. [More about that in Backstory III.] On the other hand, his childless, and arguably, sham marriage formally ended in divorce in 1972, four years later. According to my sources, it's worth noting that his wife left after only 18 months.  

What about the other Winnetka Scout Leaders? The owner of T.L.Fritts Sporting Goods store in Winnetka, also a Marine like Bricker, has run Winnetka's popular Troop 20 since 1964, four years before Bricker [scoutmaster of Troop 18] was accused of inappropriate contact with a minor at Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Wyoming. 

Fritts was just honored in June of 2014 for 50 years of service to the Boy Scouts. Has anyone ever asked Fritts or any others scout leaders how much they knew about the rumors about Bricker and Troop 18 over the years? The men who ran Troop 18 knew. How could the men who ran Troop 20 not know? Not that Mr. Fritts would ever disparage a fellow Marine, especially a WWII hero who fought on Iwojima and received a Purple Heart and The Silver Star. 

Why am I so cynical? I spent some up close and personal time dealing with Troop 20's leader when he was Executive Director of the Winnetka Community house and Camp Douglas Smith in the 1970's. To say he ran things like a Marine who is used to giving orders and never giving in is not an exaggeration. I was in charge of the inaugural year of a huge fundraising event and he wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy to deal with. When the event was over, I presented him with a t-shirt that said, "Beneath this cold exterior, there beats a heart of stone." And I meant every word. His cooperation re: knowledge of Brickergate is out of the question, I am sure.  

Which gets me to the real issue -- is it possible that Fritts and the rest of the Winnetka Boy Scout leadership were aware of the accusations and deliberately didn't report Bricker to the national office of the BSA to have him removed permanently? What if there was a conspiracy of silence in collusion with law enforcement to prevent the community from learning the real reason why Bricker stepped down as scoutmaster of Troop 18? I'll let you draw your own conclusions. 

After my futile attempts to get help from the cops and the Boy Scouts, my next stop, again twenty years ago, was a phone call to the Winnetka Board of Education offices. That's when I first wanted Bricker's teaching file, which I expected to show that he had been fired for inappropriate behavior with a child. I was sure there would be a smoking gun. 

Nope. Not a chance, I was told. You can't have the file. This month, with Wyoming law enforcement breathing down their necks, the BOE just released everything in his file. As someone said at the BOE office, when I called to get my copy sent to me, "It's the right thing to do." Haaaa. Only when the world is watching, apparently. 

Twenty years ago, I was told by the BOE that I couldn't even get Bricker's teaching file using the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA]. That sounded wrong to me, but I didn't have the internet as a resource back then, so, while I felt stonewalled, I didn't know what else to do to get a copy. So I did nothing. I didn't even get the name of the woman who answered the phone. Or record the date I called. Very naive. 

Turns out that the School Board has been blowing smoke all this time, invoking a section of FOIA they claimed exempted them from providing anything from Bricker's file, until an attorney for one of Bricker's accusers pointed out that in cases of alleged child abuse, all bets are off. Sure they can redact personal information, but hand over the files already. To quote from the attorney's letter:

"The act or occurrence of sexual child abuse or molestation is not exempt under the Freedom of Information Act of School Records Act. While the FOIA and School Records Act may prohibit the disclosure of certain personal information, these statutes otherwise compel the disclosure of all non-exempt information. The District may not withhold entire documents from production merely because excerpts of those documents contain personal information."  

Busted! I should have been provided with Bricker's records twenty years before. 

Keep in mind that the attorney for the Winnetka school board was Martin Lucente [now deceased] who was a senior partner at Sidley and Austin, considered one of our nation's premiere law firms. Either Lucente didn't know the law or knew the information in Bricker's file wasn't exempt and advised the school system to invoke an exemption anyway.   

Only this month, with the release of the school records have I learned that the smoking gun I expected wasn't there. As I said, Bricker was never fired, despite claims of sexual abuse dating back to 1968. The real smoking gun is that the police chief met [separately] with Bricker and one family whose son made an accusation in 1968, and did nothing. According to the cops, there's also no record of any meeting between them in any police files from that time. 

In February [2014], I contacted the Winnetka police once again about Bill Bricker. This time I wanted any and all information they had on him. They told me about a file they had recently received, and said it would be provided to me, with names, ages, and addresses redacted, via FOIA. So I did the paperwork and turned it in. While I was at the police station, I asked whether the Winnetka cops had a record of the time I came in to make a report about Bricker back in the 1990's. Nope. When I told them I had been in there before to report Bricker, a detective said, "Well, that was then." I assume he meant before the current chief of police. But he didn't elaborate. 

After Bricker was arrested this September [2014] on the Wyoming warrant for two counts of inappropriate behavior with two different minors, one in 1962 and one in 1985, I realized that he could have been prosecuted for more crimes against minors in Illinois as well as Wyoming --  if only the cops had investigated my complaint twenty years ago. For two reasons: 1] it never occurred to the police that Bricker had been around long enough to affect more than one generation of scouts, students, and campers, which meant 2] while the statute of limitations in Illinois had passed [expired?] for complaints from the fifties and sixties, it wouldn't have passed for complaints from the seventies and eighties.

FYI: Bricker became a scout leader in 1938, the year he graduated from high school. Except for three years in WWII, he was in scouting until 1988. Thirty years passed before the first public accusation against him was made in 1968. Thirty years of silence. Most people coming forward now are in their sixties and seventies. Their claims are from even earlier, the fifties and sixties. They found this blog or the Glen Arbor Sun story about Bricker on the internet. Anyone older than that probably doesn't use a computer. Or surf the internet. Or Google Bill Bricker. So their voices may never be heard. 

Once again dealing with the police in Winnetka, I ran into a wall. This time with my 2014 FOIA request.

After reviewing my request, the Winnetka police sent me a three-page phone log that included one small paragraph about a phone call from the Boy Scouts that referenced alleged inappropriate contact of a minor by Bricker. But there was no comprehensive file included. I think they were hoping I wouldn't notice. 

Fed up with getting the runaround, I went higher up on the food chain. I wrote to the State's Attorney's office to appeal. An ASA sent the Winnetka Police a two-page letter [copying me] that basically said, put up or shut up. And I got the file. I also got lots of apologies from the Winnetka cops when I went to pick it up. Despite telling me there was a file when I made my FOIA request, they now claimed they didn't realize there was an actual file to give me, blah blah blah. 

Oh, the shucking and jiving or outright denial. From the police to Teton Valley Ranch Camp to the Boy Scouts to the Board of Education. So many different people, all of whom are mandated to protect children. All of whom continue to drop the ball.

NEXT INSTALLMENT -- Backstory III: The reporters who ignored the story, new stonewalling from the scouts, and the years that passed before I got an email from the Teton County [WY] Sheriff's office announcing their criminal investigation into Bricker. 



banker puppy said...

There were more news articles this past week. The Winnetka School District coughed up its files on Bricker.

There is a record of a complaint made in 1968. The school district hired an attorney. The Winnetka Police chief was informed. A school district administrator wrote in a memo:
"I have observed conduct and behavior displayed by Bill Bricker on the Hubbard Woods playground during the last four years which I have judged to be childish, lacking in judgment, and disturbing to children. In light of recent testimony, this conduct on Mr. Bricker's part takes on a more sinister implication."

Bricker lost his after-school sports program at Skokie Jr. High, but remained the gym teacher at Hubbard Woods until 1985.

According to the article the police, the school district, and Teton Valley Ranch Camp were all informed in May 1968. But aside from being removed from the junior high sports program, nothing happened to Bricker at that time.

Mrs. L said...

You forgot the letter from a former student who claims Bricker molested him multiple times at Hubbard Woods School. And they still did nothing.

Mrs. L said...

Just an FYI, the reporters from Chicago and Wyoming have been in touch with me since before his arrest. My name comes up early and often when you google Bricker's name.

PensPencilsBooks said...

Chicago Tribune
45 years after first complaints, ex-Winnetka teacher appears in court on child sex charges.
October 27, 2014.

Anonymous said...

This video could almost detail Bill Bricker's life retired in Michgan. Not to make light of the situation but to underline the absurdity and hypocrisy of a town that ultimately chose to hush hush the rumors lest the outsiders sully the town name. Disgraceful. Yes, I also grew up there.

Mrs. L said...

I watched the Herv the Perv compilation and had to admire how art imitates life. And you are claiming that Bricker was continuing his ways in retirement.

Mrs. L said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I don't have any knowledge that he was continuing his ways in retirement.
I do find the Herb the Perv character and story line humorous despite the serious nature of Bricker's alleged crimes.
I am 50 and grew up in Winnetka, and although I didn't attend Hubbard Woods, I had friends that did and remember hearing anecdotes of Bricker's inappropriate contact with a few of them.
I don't think that Bricker was the only person preying on Winnetka youth back then. I recall an adult male timekeeper, possibly employed by the Winnetka Hockey Club or it's equivalent at the time. I remember the man's nickname was "One Minute", a reference to one of his job's duties was to announce when there was one minute remaining in the period over the PA.
To my recollection it was about 1978-1979 and myself and five or six other 14-15 year old guys were invited went to the timekeeper's apartment to "party" one evening and, with our six packs of beer, marijuana and cigarettes went to this man's apartment in East Rogers Park on or very near the Loyola campus and partied there. I recall a couple of boys stating that "One Minute" had made sexual advances towards them in the bedroom and we all were pretty creeped out and all left.

We all have to remain vigilant, wherever we live, to safeguard our kids from these predators. Certainly, Bricker and "One Minute" weren't the first or last of their kind in Winnetka.