The Charges Against Ward Akers, Part IV
All this month, we’ve been looking at the events that led to the retirement of Ward Akers. If you recall, our story started on July 1, 1975. Reporter Larry Brinton in the Nashville Banner raised questions concerning Akers’ salary, nepotism in the Council office, and some generally questionable practices of the Council, specifically concerning trips and reimbursements. He followed up these charges 2 days later with accusations that the Council was trying to bury the publicity in hopes it would go away. Undeterred, Brinton pressed forward and a week after the first accusations, he then charged Akers with violating the Council’s own policy of no professional holding an outside position or interest. Akers was an investor in Camp Hy-Lake and his eldest son Ward E. Akers ran the camp. In response, the Council formed six ad hoc committees in Accounting, Administration, Budget, Ethics, Program, and Salary. Ward Akers “stepped aside” while the review was conducted.
The work of all six committees was completed by the middle of September 1975. However, the work of the committees was not made public for approximately two more weeks. The results were first reported in The Banner on the afternoon of October 4th and published in more detail in The Tennessean the morning of October 5th. The reports from the various committees total over 200 pages of investigation into the Council’s dealings and Akers’ performance. As The Tennessean explained, “The committees scrutinized the administration, ethics, salaries, budgeting, programs and bookkeeping procedures of the organization. The Committee which considered the question of salary paid to Ward E. Akers was especially concerned with how he received his raised and whether his salary was too high.” In the interests of brevity here, we direct you to attachment. This is _The Tennessean_’s summary of the various reports and tackles the highlights clearly. The short version: no outrageous violations occurred, though there were some misunderstandings and some poor decisions made. The nepotism and salary charges were clearly explained and dismissed. Camp Hy-Lake was not so easily dismissed.
Of course, because this was a “no stone unturned” investigation, the committees looked into more than the charges. They found some evidence of “ghost” enrollments and some evidence that the farming operation sometimes personally benefited Akers and the rangers. One of the most interesting finding came from the Administrative Review Committee, which found “that the [Executive] board is little more than a ‘rubber stamp’ to the scout executive, probably because it is the easiest, fastest way to get things accomplished.” It was clearly a necessary, but painful examination into Council operations.
While the Council basically found nothing horribly inappropriate with Akers’ behavior, Akers knew what had to be be done. The Council would always function under a cloud of suspicion, even with these reports, if he stayed on as Council Executive. On Saturday, October 4, 1975 Akers announced his early retirement. He would stay on until a new man was hired. Hershel Tolbert was announced as the new Executive on January 4, 1976.
And so ended the era of Ward Akers, council executive from 1947 through 1975 and visionary of Boxwell at Old Hickory Lake…
Nancy Varley, “New Executive Sought to ‘Reorganize’ Scouts,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg.1-A, 6-A.
“Scout Committee Report Excerpted, Summarized,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg. 6-A.