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Wisconsin Girl Scouts Fighting Forced Merger

MILWAUKEE (CN) - The Girl Scouts of the USA is conspiring to interfere with the 7,000-member Girl Scouts of Manitou Council, using economic coercion to deprive the local council of "tens of millions of dollars," as part of a drive by the national organization to cut the number of Girl Scout councils by two thirds, according to the Manitou Council's action in Federal Court.

The Manitou Council, which covers seven Wisconsin counties, seeks punitive damages from the national group. The national group is trying to force the Manitou Council to merge with six other independent councils as part its drive to reduce the number of Girl Scout councils by two-thirds by 2009, from 315 to 109.

"Each Girl Scout council is responsible for its own expenses ... (and) GSUSA derives substantially all of its revenue and income from the activities of the councils," including the $10 membership fee and income from the famous cookie sales, Manitou says. Manitou, which got its Girl Scout charter in 1950, says that among the "tens of millions of dollars" of contributions it has gathered since 1950 are two Girl Scout camps - Evelyn and Manitou - covering 380 acres.

The Manitou Council demands an injunction restraining the national group from instituting the changes it announced in its Jan. 24, 2008, letter, and enjoining the forced merger, plus costs and punitive damages.

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