PROVO — Boy Scout officials may be helpful, courteous and kind, but timid they are not.

Utah National Parks Council officials are seeking damages against volunteer Scouters who put up a Web site that published defamatory and confidential information about the Boy Scout organization, a Scout attorney says.

"We're treating it as a serious lawsuit," said attorney Gene Bramhall, who represents one of the volunteers. Only the Web server company Yahoo Inc. is formally named in the suit, but it does include 10 John Does.

The Web site was shut down March 5 after it made allegations of irregular food contract bids for Scout camps.

4th District Judge Lynn Davis granted a temporary restraining order request by the council and ordered the site removed from the Internet. The restraining order is indefinite, said attorney Phil Lowry, representing the council.

The group, which created the site without disclosing the names of those involved, shut it down later that night, Lowry said. Yahoo, the Web hosting company, pulled the plug on it a day later.

Lowry said the council does not consider the move an effort at prior restraint or a violation of free speech issues. Lowry said the council wanted to prevent the publishing of what it termed "false or patently confidential information." Such speech isn't protected by the U.S. Constitution, Lowry said.

The site used the National Parks Council address as its home address, a Scout official said.

"They were lies. Absolute lies," he said of some of the information on the site.

The site claimed that the bid to supply food for seven Scout summer camps went to a Salt Lake City food distributor because it included free trips to Hawaii for Scout officials.

It also alleged council mismanagement in other areas and published six-figure salary schedules for employees that Scout Executive Tom Powell said were false.

"It is our opinion that the Web site was grossly in error with misleading information," Powell said.

The council covers most of Utah from Point of the Mountain south including small portions of Arizona and Nevada.

Following disclosure of the free trips that were provided by the food contractor last fall, Professional Scouter Jeff Peterson, a program director and the council's purchasing agent for the past 28 years, was asked to resign. Jeff Seibold, a Scout camp director, was reprimanded. The two accepted the free trips and took them last October, apparently unbeknownst to council administration. Another Scouter who signed up but did not take a trip, was also reprimanded.

Sysco Intermountain, which won last year's $350,000 food contract, maintains that the trip incentives were not tied to the food contract, President Todd Kesteloot said.

"The trips were awarded well after . . . the business was awarded," Sysco President Todd Kesteloot said. "They did not have anything to do with the bid."

The trips were sponsored by food manufacturers, not Sysco, he said.

Scout official Jack Dillon said the trips cost the council food-volume rebates from Sysco that normally go to the Friends of Scouting fund, which in 2002 exceeded $12,000. Kesteloot said the company gave the council about $8,000 in rebates in 2003, and that the rebates had no connection to the trips.

The free trips were disclosed by a representative of Nicholas Foods, which claims it submitted the low bid for the contract. Kesteloot disputes that claim. Volume, quality and delivery were also factors in the winning bid, he said.

Last year's bid documents are in the hands of the council's lawyer and are unavailable, Field Director Darryl Alder said.

Council leaders learned about the trips in late January or early February. A Nicholas saleswoman blew the whistle on the trips when the council decided to rebid the contracts for this summer's food after Nicholas again claimed it was the low bidder. The new bids, due this week, will include a bid from a third vendor, U.S. Food Service.

Dillon acknowledged that the council initially refused to work with the saleswoman from Nicholas Foods on the bid process following the disclosure. Dillon said the council later recanted.

Jeff Jepeson, a senior vice president of sales at Nicholas, said the saleswoman was replaced at the council's request.

Alder said the council discussed the situation, but left the decision to Nicholas.


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com