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Local scouts missing cookie dough

Lawsuits filed in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court by the Tombigbee Girl Scout Council state that two former troop leaders from Marengo County owe money for back cookie sales

Jana Alston of Linden and Johnella Jones of Demopolis served as troop leaders in 2001 and 2002.

Along with Debby Remmert of Tuscaloosa, they owe a total of $6,049 to the council in cookie money. They were among the worst of a number of such cases throughout the council’s coverage area, said Jean Caldwell, director of the Tombigbee council.

The organization represents an 11-county area which includes Marengo County.

The council sold 194,208 boxes in 2002 and 218,460 this year. "Our sales grow every year," she said. "We have wonderful support from the community. The troops set goals; they want to do things with their money."

The council has a number of cases from 2002 and from this year, where all the money is not accounted for. "The council has to do something," Caldwell said. "…We can’t continue to keep losing money for our girls."

Cookie sales is a major part of fundraising for Girl Scouts "because we can’t get the funding from additional sources….Girls should not be supporting themselves; there should be more adults working and giving…so we can have a better program for them."

The council has pursued obtaining paperwork from the former leaders in question for a year. They had direct talks in the beginning to resolve the problem, Caldwell said, however, the council has not received adequate documentation.

The chain of command can involve the parents of the scout selling the cookies, a troop cookie chair (or the troop leader serving as cookie chair), a service unit manager and then the council office. "We encourage troop leaders to get help in their troop and have a committee," she said.

There are 20 service units (or regions) in the council area, and the cookie chairs are trained by the unit managers.

The council is sometimes able to know there is a problem with paperwork even before the year’s sales are over. Cookie chairs are trained to cut off a parent from sales if money is not turned in for the first set of cookies, she said.

Money from cookie sales was due to the service unit manager on March 20 of this year. "The manager sometimes has trouble getting (money) from the troop chair; the troop chair sometimes has trouble getting money from the parent. It can break down at the parent level (or) the troop level." Caldwell said she had never had a problem with a service unit manager.

If the paperwork is properly done and receipts given to parents for product, the council will relieve the troop chair from responsibility and pursue obtaining money from the parent.

In the case of a payment controversy, the council will not penalize the troop and will still credit the troop for the amount of cookies sold, the council director said. "We’re one of the few councils in the United States that does that." Ninety-five percent of the troops in the council fill out the paperwork properly, she said.

Over 200 girls in Marengo County participate in Girl Scouts, Caldwell said.