Twenty-eight years ago, Boy Scouts in Petaluma's Troop No. 74 came forward with allegations that their assistant scoutmaster had molested them outside Scout meetings, during rides home in his car and on a camping trip.
Local Scout leaders looked into the claims against Richard P. Wargo, a 47-year-old pilot. After finding they had merit, Wargo was kicked out of Scouting and his case was forwarded to county Child Protective Services and Petaluma police for a criminal investigation.
But Wargo was never prosecuted for the misconduct said to have occurred between 1982 and 1984.
Instead, he went on to molest other Sonoma County children in 1989 and was sentenced to prison after being convicted of two counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14.
David Rice, the former Troop 74 scoutmaster who reported Wargo, said the children could have been saved from the accused pedophile if he had been behind bars.
"The police failed to follow through as they promised they would," said Rice, recalling the incident in a phone interview Friday. "Nothing ever happened."
The episode was documented in confidential Boy Scout files released this week by an Oregon court. The files, which chronicle sex-abuse allegations against 1,200 Scout leaders across the United States, detail allegations against Wargo and five other North Coast men accused of molestation or other crimes against children, primarily young boys, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.
The documents, known informally within the Boy Scouts as the "perversion files," were designed to flag pedophiles and prevent them from participating in Scouting activities. The dossiers contain a mixture of unsubstantiated allegations and documented abuses laid out in official letters, handwritten notes, court records and yellowed newspaper clippings.
They showed that in some cases, allegations were covered up to avoid any public scandal or went unreported to local authorities.
On the North Coast, at least two former assistant scoutmasters later were charged with unrelated sex crimes and one admitted sex offender tried to re-enter Scouting in a different city.
Others were reported to authorities and sent to jail.
Critics have said greater transparency on the part of Boy Scouts could have prevented some child abuse. And many Scouting supporters said measures adopted since then ensure that the institution is safe today.
In Wargo's case, allegations of child molestation surfaced in 1984, when the parents of several Scouts approached Scout leaders.
According to the just-released documents, Wargo fondled one boy outside troop meetings repeatedly between 1982 and 1984, kissing him on the cheek each time and telling him, "I love you."
Another boy alleged Wargo made him sit on his lap during a ride home from a meeting. The boy said Wargo touched his genitals and growled when the boy got in his car.
Yet another boy said Wargo invited him on a camping trip and molested him when they were alone inside Wargo's tent.
When four boys came forward with similar stories, then-Scoutmaster Rice said he notified the Scouts' regional executive at the Redwood Empire Council, who told him to report the matter to county Child Protective Services.
Rice said he notified CPS and was told by welfare workers to alert Petaluma police, which he also did. But after reporting the allegations to a sergeant there, nothing happened, he said.