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Show me the Girl Scout cookie money

Show me the Girl Scout cookie money

By Darcy Spears. CREATED Nov 12, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A single Girl Scout troop pulls in tens of thousands of dollars selling those famous cookies. They rely on that money to fund all that they do.

So when one local troop couldn't get their money and couldn't get answers, they turned to Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears. And when you ask, we investigate.

Six-year-old Amy Killeen beams in her Daisy uniform -- the youngest version of a Girl Scout and proud of it.

But her father Sean says she recently learned a lesson he never thought she'd get from scouting.

"It's not a good example for my children.  It's not a good example for the community."

Amy's Daisy troop raised almost $19,000 in the 2012 cookie season. More than $15,000 went back to the Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada council, leaving about $3500 for the troop.

"It's an important thing that that money is available to them," says Sean.

They spent some during the scouting year, which ended in June. There was about $1,500 left, but when Amy's troop started up again in October, their cookie money wasn't there.

"When we went to the first meeting this year, we were told that not only did the troop number change for the Daisies, but that the money was not available and that it was held up in some sort of legal issue," Sean recalls.

The previous troop leader had quit. And frustrated parents like Sean wanted answers.

"A few weeks into it I decided to contact you because I just, I still didn't have an answer. My Daisy troop still didn't have money."

And he says the new troop leaders were asking parents for cash for basic supplies and activities.

Darcy: Nobody's pointing fingers here, you're just looking for some real answers?
Sean: Six-year-old girls. It doesn't get any worse than that to keep money from six-year-olds.

We took parents' concerns to the Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada council.

"We really didn't have the funds at the time the parents were asking for it," said CEO Patricia Miller.

Miller says there had been some problems with the troop's bank account.

"The account was over-drafted.  The leader was sent five notices from the bank concerning the overdraft.  When they did not respond, the account was closed."

The leader was counseled and the account reopened, but council says they also had trouble tracking down the troop treasury report.

"She did receive a call in September saying if we do not hear from you, our next action will be to turn it to collections," Miller says.

But the former troop leader tells a different story.  She sent an email to parents saying she tried to make arrangements to turn the money over to council, but her calls went unanswered.

She says it wasn't until she sent a terse email saying she didn't appreciate being accused of stealing that she finally got instructions on how to turn over the money and the remaining cookies.

Poor communication by council is a concern we heard from other parents too.

"I thought it was a little suspicious that nobody was able to answer any of my questions," Sean says.

"I can understand why they were concerned because they probably were not getting all of the story.  Certainly they weren't getting it from us," says Miller.  "And for that, we know that's a step that probably we need to be better at."

Once Action News got involved, answers started coming fast.

We learned a money order for $1,535 had been turned over to the council, along with the treasury report and all the receipts.

"We want to safeguard the girls' money and make sure all of the funds are accounted for, which they were, and that we then fairly distribute those funds back out so that the girls who worked so hard for that money, in turn, are the ones who benefit from the money," explained Miller.

After we began investigating, the new troop leaders sent an email to parents describing what they called a "tedious and frustrating" process. They wrote, "after many phone calls, emails and a fire lit on council from Contact 13, a deposit in the amount of $368" is going into our account.

Other Daisy girls who went to other troops also got some money, but council is still holding $550 and could keep it for up to a year.

"There are still 8 girls who have not re-registered yet and so their funds are held in a custodial account in the event that they re-register, they have the opportunity to benefit from those funds too," says Miller.

Even though his daughter's troop got their money, Sean Killeen says he can't believe how something that started with the sweetness of cookies ended in sour accusations of miscommunication and mistrust.

"Girl Scouts for next year, maybe even for the remainder of this year, may not be an option for this family."

In case you're wondering, Girl Scout troops in Southern Nevada make about 80 cents for every $4.00 box of cookies they sell.

Girl Scout cookies are a multi-million-dollar a year business. In 2011, the non-profit Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada had a net worth of more than $7 million.


Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.