March 23, 2017

July 14, 2015


Charges Filed against +Bruno by Clergy and Parishioners

The heavy-handed treatment meted out by Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles to the parish of St. James the Great in Newport Beach, as reported in this post, has backfired. Members of the parish, as well as a number of clergy in the Diocese, have joined in filing charges against him which allege that he repeatedly lied and misrepresented his intentions to them, and that he is attempting to sell the valuable property on which their church is located without any appraisal and at far below its market value.

A copy of the complaint is at this link, and an “emergency supplement” is at this link. The names of the signatories have not been disclosed in order to protect them from retaliation until the Disciplinary Board for Bishops can act on the charges. Under the Canons, the charges are reviewed first by Bishop  F. Clayton Matthews, the Intake Officer for the Disciplinary Board. If he finds them presentable (capable of being made a formal presentment under the disciplinary canons), he will convene a Review Panel, consisting of himself, the Presiding Bishop and the President of the Disciplinary Board. The latter is a bishop who is soon to be elected for a new three-year term following General Convention; until his successor is so elected, the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, Jr. will function in that role.

There is a timeline of the Diocese’s and Bishop’s various dealings and interactions with the St. James parish and its Vicar on the Website organized to publicize this affair, www.SaveSaintJamesthe Great.org. Also linked there are a number of letters written by the parish to other clergy in the Diocese and to the Church at large. They detail a scenario of unbelievable ham-handedness and insensitivity which has brought the matter to its current state of intensity. And so as not to be out of character, the Bishop apparently has left on a month’s vacation!

The new charges will add to his recent woes. After the news came out that Bishop Bruno purportedly had arranged a “sweetheart” private deal with a developer—no bids or listing of the property, but just terms worked out with a single buyer who wants to erect a suite of expensive townhomes on the property—he received a letter from the original developer of Lido Isle (the area of Newport Beach where St. James is located), the Griffith Corporation. That letter informed him something he ought to have known already: that the property on which the church stands was gifted to the Diocese for use only for church purposes. Griffith stated that if he went through with the proposed sale, the property would automatically revert back to it.

The letter caused Bishop Bruno to instruct his attorneys immediately to sue the Griffith Corporation for “slander of title”—a rather heavy-handed response to the donor of one’s most valuable property. You can read the complaint and see the original deed of gift at this link —the deed restriction is for real, and the courts enforce them as written.

It will be interesting to watch this scenario play out—whether the Bishop can remain on top of the situation will require that he first rein in his attack dogs, and begin treating donors and parishioners for the valued assets they are. Meanwhile, some useful information is emerging. According to this letter to the Diocesan Standing Committee, Bishop Bruno told the parish that he was trying to recoup the Diocese’s litigation expenses (incurred in suing four former parishes, including the previous congregation of St. James) of Nine Million Dollars. That is five million dollars greater than I had estimated in tallying up all the costs of Church litigation, as reported in this post.

Now that original litigation has mushroomed into further lawsuits and disciplinary charges. That’s quite an achievement for just one Episcopal bishop! Multiply it seventy times over, and perhaps you can begin to see why it is a wonder that there are any parishioners at all left in the Episcopal Church.


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21 comments

I wonder how much all of this new litigation will cost him financially. I already know how much it has cost him spiritually.

[1] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 7-14-2015 at 10:09 AM · [top]

Live by the lawsuit, die by the lawsuit.

[2] Posted by DietofWorms on 7-14-2015 at 10:52 AM · [top]

This seems to be a remarkable saga.  Allan, correct me if I misstate this, but—

1)  The EDLA recovers the Newport Beach property thru civil litigation, centered on the ineffective waiver of the Dennis Canon.

2)  St. James ANGLICAN takes up new quarters, and if its website is any indication, it is alive and well and probably offering prayers of thanksgiving that it now part of ACNA.

3)  EDLA installs a faithful TEC congregation in the NB property. 

4)  EDLA has now evicted and locked out its own TEC congregation, which seems to be holding services on the lawn (across the street?).

5)  EDLA has also commenced a quiet title (“slander of title”) action against its own donor corporation, to nullify a reversionary clause in its deed to the NB property. 

6)  The “faithful” TEC congregation—or some portion thereof—has filed a disciplinary charge against its own bishop. 

A couple observations.  First, as a retired attorney, I give thanks for all the professional opportunities shown here.  There is work for squads of trial lawyers, paralegals, and so forth.  College educations for the sons and daughters of attorneys will be funded by this litigation. 

Second, I am really curious about the reversionary terms in the deed, and think the EDLA should have cut a deal early on with the donor corporation.  Under these strained circumstances, an emergency quiet title or slander of title suit may be necessary to preserve the pending sale, but it shows very poor planning by EDLA.  The parties may be negotiating a settlement right now. 

Third, the objecting congregants seem to ask the Disciplinary Board to issue some sort of order to permit them back in the NB property.  This seems totally beyond Title IV, which is structured to hear specific charges against specific clergy—not to render general “equitable” relief.  In the Heather Cook fiasco, the DioMD stated that the Disciplinary board would investigate the circumstances of Cook’s election in conjunction with the pending canonical charges against her—but it never happened.  The Board dealt with the specific charges against Cook, but did not go any further. 

Finally, do we know if in fact there are any clergy signatures on the disciplinary complaint?  Signatures seem to be requested, but since we really do not know who has signed, could this be similar to the South Carolina situation, where a dozen or so unhappy parishioners filed charges against their bishop, and then leave it to the Disciplinary Board to do as it chooses?

[3] Posted by Dick Mitchell on 7-14-2015 at 11:09 AM · [top]

Nine million dollars is indeed significantly more than four million dollars, which was bad enough.  Stewardship, thy name is not EDLA or Bruno.  Plus, negotiating a sale without open bidding, and apparently without researching the title first, looks careless and possibly unethical.

[4] Posted by Katherine on 7-14-2015 at 11:47 AM · [top]

Questions:

Has the diocese PAID the 9 million to the law firms, or does it OWE 9 million to the law firms?

Does the diocese exist as a corporate entity separate from the bishop’s corporation sole?  Or is it some form of non-incorporated entity? 

How did the diocese transfer the property to the corporation sole (or anyone), after establishing at trial that the diocese had no authoirty to transfer title or any interest, without the explicit consent of GC? (Hence the diocesan waiver of 1994 was invalid and trumped by the Dennis Canon)

[5] Posted by tjmcmahon on 7-14-2015 at 11:59 AM · [top]

Mostly correct, Dick (#3). The locked-out congregation is holding services in a City park across the street (with the City’s blessing—St. James is the only church in Lido Isle). And they aren’t asking for an order allowing them back in—they are asking for an alternative bishop (along the lines of DEPO) who can resolve these issues peaceably.

At first I thought Griffith Corporation might cut a deal with them, too. But after hearing accounts of the vindictive depositions +Bruno’s attorneys are conducting, I think he may have burnt that bridge. The Griffith Company is serious about keeping a church in Lido Isle.

I know there is at least one clergy signature—that of the Vicar, Canon Voorhees. And there may be other retired clergy who have joined, as well.

[6] Posted by A. S. Haley on 7-14-2015 at 12:00 PM · [top]

In 1985, when he took charge of St. Athanasius church, Bruno told the L.A. times that he was “no angel”.

He wasn’t kidding, was he?

[7] Posted by vulcanhammer on 7-14-2015 at 12:01 PM · [top]

tjmcmahon (#5), the diocese has paid out $9 million—it’s recovered about $4.6 million so far from St. David’s N. Hollywood, and the leaseback of All Saints, Long Beach.

The diocese is a separate California corporation. There is also a corporation sole for the bishop. The diocesan corporation’s trustees voted, with the apparent consent of the Standing Committee, to transfer the property to the corp sole, but that is looking increasingly like a serious breach of fiduciary duties (no appraisal, sweetheart deal, etc.). The consent of GC would, under the trial court’s decision, be needed only for the transfer of the property to someone outside of the Diocese, free and clear of the Dennis Canon trust.

[8] Posted by A. S. Haley on 7-14-2015 at 12:05 PM · [top]

I love that the new disciplinary measures the liberals have created are now being used against one of their own.

[9] Posted by Marie Blocher on 7-14-2015 at 12:06 PM · [top]

The consent of GC would, under the trial court’s decision, be needed only for the transfer of the property to someone outside of the Diocese, free and clear of the Dennis Canon trust.

Well, OK, but the transfer was for the purpose of selling the property by the corporation sole (acting as agency for the diocese, one assumes).  So, Bishop Bruno would still require the permission of GC to transfer title of the property to the developers, correct?  In what way does Bishop Bruno have authority to transfer the property that his predecessor did not have?  Or put another way, wouldn’t anyone be foolish to purchase anything from Dio LA without an assurance from GC that they will not renege on the deal and sue to reclaim the property 15 years later, under the Dennis Canon?

Of course, the irony of TEC being hoist on its own petard does not escape me.

I’ve been an employee (and once on the board) of several not for profit organizations. Rule #1, never sue a major donor, it will almost guarantee that they will not donate in the future.

Whatever the outcome of the litigation or the presentment, this certainly looks like yet another PR disaster for TEC. I mean, aren’t you thinking twice if you are a “loyal Episcopalian” contributing time and big bucks to impose the Dennis Canon to reclaim a parish or diocese for “future Episcopalians.”

[10] Posted by tjmcmahon on 7-14-2015 at 12:48 PM · [top]

How do you read the enforceability of the clause in the Quitclaim that purports to release the restriction and the reverter (in the starred paragraph of the Quitclaim deed)?  Do you see on the face of this quitclaim any basis for attacking the validity of that document?  I can see from this language that the Bishop might have an argument here.

[11] Posted by Dallasite on 7-14-2015 at 12:50 PM · [top]

Mr. Haley,

Apologies- re-reading my own #10, it sounds more argumentative than I intended.  I am just confused over how the diocese could possibly contemplate this sort of backdoor deal given the recent court ruling- it would seem that any deal they make could be challenged the day after on the very precedent they themselves established. (and are they not enjoined by law from arguing the case the other way having won the property with the original argument?)

And I really don’t get why the lawyers for the developer would let the deal go through with both the shadow on the title from the original donation, plus the Dennis Canon authority question.

[12] Posted by tjmcmahon on 7-14-2015 at 12:52 PM · [top]

Dallasite,

“12. In the 1984 Quitclaim Deed, Griffith “specifically releases the Reverter
interest” reserved in the 1945 Grant Deed for the Property and quitclaims as to “Lots 1197,
1198 and 1200 of Tract No. 907.” By the 1984 Quitclaim Deed, Griffith released, and
intended to release, the Use Restriction from the Property in its entirety. Indeed, on
information and belief, over the next 30 years, neither Griffith nor the Bishop asserted that
the Use Restriction still encumbered all, or any part, of the Property. “

If I understand previous discussions (and #7 in the bishop’s complaint) correctly,  Griffith deeded 4 lots, the church building is on lot 1199, which is not mentioned in the above.

[13] Posted by tjmcmahon on 7-14-2015 at 01:00 PM · [top]

#3, Dick Mitchell, There were clergy signatures on the charges brought against Bishop Lawrence- two clergy and 12 laity signed the document IIRC.  Mr. Haley has mentioned clergy signature(s) on the charges against Bishop Bruno. What really matters is not who signs it but what the DBB will do with the charges. I think most of us are not hopeful that anything much less discipline will be given to Bishop Bruno. IMHO, this is just an another example of the lying TEC will go to further their most loved agenda- money

TJ, I thought it was just three lots not 4 that Griffith allowed to be used for a parking lot. At least that is what is given in the quote you used.

[14] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-14-2015 at 02:25 PM · [top]

According to the emergency supplement on the church’s website, there are 6 clergy signatures on the charges. Possibly more clergy will sign in the future.

[15] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-14-2015 at 02:30 PM · [top]

Bruno owing $9,000,000.00 to a slate of attorneys might explain some of his behavior, no?

[16] Posted by B. Hunter on 7-14-2015 at 03:40 PM · [top]

Bruno is a liar and a pig.  It’s truly unfortunate(though not at all surprising)  that he’s done this congregation this way after prattling on about “protecting the legacy for future generations of Episcopalians” and such.  What an incredible witness to the “Episcopal faith”.....whatever that means.  I’m sure that the episcopals at 815 are going to look out for the “legacy for future generations of Episcopalians.”


In any event, I truly wish the best for the congregants on the lawn.

BigTex AC

[17] Posted by BigTex AC on 7-14-2015 at 04:30 PM · [top]

Bruno should be retiring soon.  And you are correct BigTex AC in both your descriptions (though I do have the utmost respect for former law enforcement officers, Bruno excluded).  http://articles.latimes.com/1985-12-12/news/gl-16396_1_associate-rector

[18] Posted by via orthodoxy on 7-15-2015 at 11:28 AM · [top]

Reminds me of Blazing Saddles:

Hedley Lamarr: Wait a minute… there might be legal precedent. Of course! Land-snatching!
[grabs a law book]
Hedley Lamarr: Land, land… “Land: see Snatch.”
[flips back several pages]
Hedley Lamarr: Ah, Haley vs. United States. Haley: 7, United States: nothing. You see, it can be done!

Hope his Grace falls on his nose.

In the Faith,
Northwest Bob

[19] Posted by Northwest Bob on 7-15-2015 at 08:56 PM · [top]

Anglican Ink has a statement from Bishop Bruno, where Bruno says his actions are necessary because of his focus on reducing racism, homophobia, poverty, immigration reform, and gun violence.  He specifically says that the church’s actions echo the secular leadership of the nation.

[20] Posted by Katherine on 7-19-2015 at 12:07 PM · [top]

TJ,
“I’ve been an employee (and once on the board) of several not for profit organizations. Rule #1, never sue a major donor, it will almost guarantee that they will not donate in the future.” Isn’t this called “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”?

[21] Posted by Fr. Dale on 8-16-2015 at 08:04 AM · [top]

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