DALLAS: The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) turned to long-time agency Edelman for crisis communications help this week after a former top official plead guilty to possession and distribution of child pornography.
Gregg Shields, a senior account supervisor with Edelman's Dallas office, fielded inquiries from an estimated 60 to 70 reporters who called once the charges were announced last Tuesday, March 29. All calls were referred to Shields, who was quoted in media reports as the BSA's spokesman.
"The advice we gave the Scouts was be honest, be straight-forward, and deliver the news," said Shields, who oversees the crisis and issues portion of the group's account with Edelman.
"We stressed the organization has worked very hard to provide a safe environment" for scouts, doing background checks for employees and training for volunteers, he said. Shields also stressed that the accused individual did not work directly with children when he was with the scouts.
Shields told reporters that the organization had cooperated fully with federal investigators, turning over the offender's computer and granting access to his office.
Douglas Smith Jr., 61, who had been director of programming and worked with the Scouts for 39 years, was placed on leave when the Scouts were told in February that he was under investigation. He then opted to retire before charges were publicly disclosed.
He plead guilty March 30 and faces sentencing in July. He was officially charged March 21, but the charges were not made public until last week. Smith faces a minimum of five years in prison and a possible maximum sentence of no more than 20. He also could be fined up to $250,000.
Edelman has worked with the Scouts for more than 20 years. Shields has overseen the crisis portion of the account for nine years.