THERE WAS A TIME WHEN THE ANNUAL cookie sale got Girl Scout leader Beth Denton's competitive juices flowing. She'd pump up her sales army—West Haven (Conn.) Troop 370—with tips and pep talks. Last year the troop's six members sold 408 boxes of cookies. This year, though, Troop 370 didn't sell any. Denton, 36, led a Girl Scout cookie boycott, charging that regional Scout administrators took too big a bite of the troop's earnings, leaving the girls with less than the 14 percent of profits they had been guaranteed.

Is nothing sacred? Thin Mints controversial? If they are feeding the bureaucracy at the Girl Scouts' Connecticut Trails Council at the expense of troop needs, yes, argues Denton. "Everything we do as a troop—camping, training for leaders, you name it—we get charged for," says Denton. "Basically, the council says to the girls, 'Raise the money and then give it back to us.

The council moved swiftly, removing Denton," who is married and the mother of two Girl Scouts, as troop leader. But three other troops have joined Troop 370 in the boycott. Officials said her boycott was sour grapes at not being given a salaried staff job, a charge Denton denies. Carol Smullen, the council's communications director, disputes Denton's accusations, saying the troops get more than their fair share when prizes for top earners are factored in, and dismisses suggestions of widespread dissension in the ranks. "Our membership has never been higher," she says.

That may be so, but the state attorney general's office is investigating Denton's complaint. Smullen says the council is planning to hold a hearing to determine whether Denton should be reinstated. For Denton, the cookie quarrel has left a bitter aftertaste. "It becomes very depressing when you feel that the organization you work for doesn't give a damn about the kids," she says. "But I keep plugging along, keeping up my spirits for the girls."