COLORADO: Former Rector Don Armstrong Found Guilty of Financial Misconduct
[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Don Armstrong, former rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, has been found guilty on all counts of financial misconduct presented to an Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese of Colorado that has been reviewing the evidence since July 31.
The preliminary judgment was made public August 8 by the five members of the Ecclesiastical Court who unanimously found Armstrong guilty of diverting $392,409 from the parish’s operating fund and committing tax fraud by not reporting $548,000 in non-salary income and benefits to state and federal tax authorities.
On other counts of misconduct, Armstrong has been found guilty of receiving illegal loans totaling $122,479.16 in violation of Diocesan Canons; unauthorized encumbrance and alienation of Grace Church’s real property; violation of the temporary inhibition placed on Armstrong; the improper use of clergy discretionary funds; and failure to maintain proper books of account.
A three-hour evidentiary hearing, held at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver July 31, featured testimony from Sheri Betzer, a tax fraud examiner and former IRS agent who investigated parish financial records ranging over a 10-year period, and Karl Ross, an attorney and co-executor of the Clarice C. Bowton Trust, established to fund seminarian scholarships, which Armstrong is accused of misusing for personal purposes.
“Last week’s evidentiary hearing before the Ecclesiastical Court is the culmination of a well-defined disciplinary process established by the Canons of the Episcopal Church whereby serious allegations of wrongdoing against any member of the clergy can be thoroughly and impartially investigated, and throughout which the accused has numerous rights and protections,” said an August 8 diocesan news release announcing the Ecclesiastical Court’s verdict.
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