The Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Fe/Del Norte is facing new allegations that former Executive Director Louis Montaño, who also served as mayor, sexually assaulted children during his tenure at the organization in the 1970s and ’80s.
One of the two new lawsuits, filed last week in the state District Court in Santa Fe, also alleges a man was sexually abused more than 40 years ago by longtime boxing coach Phillip Gurule, who worked on contract with the club. The coach has faced other allegations of sex crimes against children; he was convicted of molesting a child in 2005 and pleaded no contest to a similar charge a year later.
The new civil complaints, filed on behalf of an unnamed man and woman, follow three others filed earlier this year accusing Montaño of abuse when he headed what was then called the Boys Club of Santa Fe.
“Once again we are seeing indications of a network of child abusers operating through this Boys Club,” attorney Brad Hall, who represents the accusers, said in a news release Monday. “At this point, we do not know how many perpetrators might be involved, but we intend to find out if we can.”
Asked in a phone interview Monday about his allegation of a network of abusers, Hall said, “What we do know is that Montaño did introduce some kids to Catholic priests, to the boxing coach and a few more. … We are just now beginning that investigation.”
Several other people have provided statements against Gurule, Hall said. “It would not be surprising if more people come forward.”
All five lawsuits filed so far against the local affiliate also name the Boys & Girls Clubs of America as a defendant.
Montaño, who died in 2008, served as the local Boys Club’s executive director for 27 years after leaving a Catholic seminary and serving in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. He became the organization’s director after studying youth counseling at New York University on a Boys Club scholarship.
He served two terms as a Santa Fe city councilor, starting in 1974, before being elected to a four-year term as mayor in 1982.
A woman who answered a phone call to a number listed for Gurule and identified herself as his daughter said her 82-year-old father has served time for his crimes and that the two of them weren’t aware of the new civil suit. She declined to bring her father to the phone, saying he is hard of hearing. She also declined to comment further or give her name.
Sarah Gettler, assistant executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Fe/Del Norte, said in a statement Monday that the organization was aware of the lawsuits. “We are both shocked and saddened by this allegation, and our hearts go to out to the victims and their families,” she said.
“Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Fe has zero tolerance for anything that puts children at risk,” Gettler said in the statement. “Our organization is committed to the highest standards of ethical behavior and integrity and does not tolerate inappropriate or illegal activity on the part of any Club staff, volunteer or youth member. All employees and volunteers must undergo a thorough criminal background check, and all supervisory policies are designed to ensure the maximum safety and protection of Club members and staff. …
“It is our aim to have the lawsuits resolved in a manner that provides support and comfort to the victims and their families, and we will cooperate fully with those involved in the legal process,” she said.
The man who is accusing both Montaño and Gurule alleges in his lawsuit that he experienced several years of sexual abuse by the pair, beginning in 1976, when he was 10.
A woman claims in her suit she was abused from 1973 to 1977, when she was between the ages of 8 and 11. She was forced to sit on Montaño’s lap “pretty much every day after grade school,” she alleges in the complaint, adding he would fondle her genitals.
The woman, like others who accuse Montaño of sexually abusing them when they were children, says she was warned “to never let anyone know, and she did not disclose these hundreds of incidents of abuse to anyone.”
All five lawsuits alleging abuse by Montaño say he “took advantage of the substantial power vested in him,” and that he would manipulate “vulnerable and impoverished” kids to perform sexual acts, oftentimes in exchange for food, money or other necessities.
The complaints accuse the local and national Boys & Girls Clubs of negligence in their hiring and supervision practices.
“From what we are hearing from members of the community, the sexual abuse of these two perpetrators caused a number of teenagers to commit suicide,” attorney Levi Monagle said in the news release Monday. “It is worth reiterating: there is a good reason that we call our clients ‘survivors’ in these types of cases.”