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Wisconsin medical board targets pediatrician who molested Scouts

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Wisconsin's medical examining board has launched an investigation into a prominent Milwaukee pediatrician who practiced for years after he admitted to the Boy Scouts of America that he had molested two boys in 1987.

Dr. Thomas Kowalski was expelled from the Boy Scouts that year after saying he had masturbated while fondling two teens under his care at a Wisconsin Scout camp where he was serving as a volunteer doctor. The allegations were detailed in one of hundreds of confidential files on suspected sexual abusers reviewed by The Times in recent months.

The files are used as a blacklist to keep suspected molesters out of Scouting.

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At the time, Scouting officials reported the abuse to law enforcement, but Kowalski's victims chose not to press criminal charges, the file shows.

Scouting officials used a connection to keep the story out of the media, and Kowalski continued to work with children for the next 14 years until he retired in 2001.

In an interview with The Times in September, Kowalski, now 75, admitted the abuse but said it had never happened again. "Had that been publicized, I would have been out of business, reputation destroyed, and I don't know how I would have faced people at church," he said.

After the Times story was published, local media outlets contacted the state's medical examining board. "This is absolutely shocking," board Chairman Sheldon Wasserman told The Times on Tuesday. "I've directed our prosecutors to start an immediate investigation."

Possible disciplinary action includes the revocation of Kowalski's medical license, which remains active. The medical board was apparently never contacted by Scouting officials or law enforcement in the 1980s.

After learning that the charges had been dropped, Scouting officials turned to the publisher of a local newspaper who served on their board to keep the allegations out of the media. The publisher "is aware of the situation but apparently will not be passing the information to his editors," the Scouting official wrote, according to the file.

Last Friday, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal identified the publisher as Warren "Bud" Heyse, former president of Journal Communications, which published the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel at the time. Heyse died in 2008.

jason.felch@latimes.com

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