As Bob Malm gears up for retirement, and turns the Jesus-babble tap full open, the burning question (as Kemp Williams would put it), is will Bob Malm show some integrity? As in practicing what he preaches, telling the truth, and admitting to the parish that he has committed perjury by lying under oath? And while we’re at it, will Jeff Chiow similarly belly up to the bar and admit his misconduct to parishioners?
The short answer to both is, “Not bloody likely.”
In Bob Malm’s case, he’s hard at work, tugging on the heartstrings, trying to convince people that they are about to suffer a great loss, akin to losing someone to death. As discussed previously, the reality is far different. Not only has Bob Malm been a mediocre rector at best, but his behavior in office has caused lasting harm to many, not the least of which is the parish he claims to serve. And clergy come and go, in Bob’s case taking far too long to go, and wearing out his welcome
Intertwined with that is Bob’s narcissism, in which he does his utmost to avoid accountability. Even in the rare cases where he admits to wrongdoing, he either tries to charm his way back, or he apologizes solely in order to shut things down and move on. In those cases, he still does his best to duck things, including offering non-apologies like, “I’m sorry you were upset.”
Thus, with Dysfunctional Bob soon packing off to Jekyll Island, there is little incentive for him to behave in an ethical manner. Given that his primary motivating factor over time is to obtain adulation, admitting to his misconduct would only serve to cut into his narcissistic supply, while confirming what a number of current and former parishioners have know about Bob for some time, wbich is that he is a hot mess. Lots of fine words, plenty of smiles and friendly behavior to people’s faces, but right behind it all lurks Dysfunctional Bob’s narcissism, lies, gaslighting, and manipulative behavior.
Nor has Dysfunctional Bob learned anything from all of this, as evidenced by his little tantrum along Russell Road. Even now, with Grace continuing to shed members, Bob still foolishly thinks screaming and yelling will accomplish something.
Of course, the best going away gift Dysfunctional Bob could give the church would be to actually lead by example. But even if Bob suddenly decided to actually be a priest, 30 years of his misconduct isn’t going to be undone with a few weeks of Christian behavior.
In Jeff Chiow’s case, there are other factors at work. Having claimed to be representing both Bob Malm and the parish in the role of legal counsel, Sugarland has ethical obligations to both. As a result, one can argue that, absent Bob’s permission, Jeff cannot publicly disclose Bob’s perjury and other malfeasance. But Jeff can and should disclose his own courtroom fabrications, which include false statements of both law and fact. And I suspect that, while few would come right out and say it, the relatively advancing age of the parish leads to a certain unease when it comes to Bob and Jeff’s decision to drag a dying woman into court. Something about what goes around comes around.
Of course, Jeff’s antics have caused tremendous reputational damage to the church. Bob can tell vestry members that I’m a “sad individual, starving for attention,” and otherwise try to discredit me, but the really ugly stuff involving Jeff, including his claims that the church is threatened by “domestic terrorists,” are all in writing and available for all the world to see.
Moreover, there’s no way Jeff can deny that he tried to subpoena a dying woman, conveniently ignored the relevant rules of civil procedure when he tried to get the Venango County Court of Common Pleas to issue a subpoena not authorized by Pennsylvania law, and more. Not to mention supporting Bob Malm’s facially obvious courtroom fabrications, including taking words out of context in order to support his claim that he has been threatened.
Thus, Sugarland is unlikely to be able to sidestep the fallout from his misconduct. Not only can prospective clients assess for themselves Jeff’s judgment and integrity as an attorney, but he and his family likely will remain part of the Alexandria community for the foreseeable future. In that context, they will face questions over time as Grace Church faces further challenges due to Jeff’s conduct. And if parishioners are true to form, sooner or later they will blame Jeff for the church’s woes and take their frustrations out on him and his family. Hardly fair to go after his wife and kids, but that is the way Grace rolls, as Mike knows all too well.
Speaking of kids, Jeff also has the issue of the example he sets for his own kids. Does he really think his kids are going to see the online documentation of his actions and learn positive lessons? I doubt Jeff is introspective enough to really parse these issues, but I also don’t think he should be surprised when his kids conclude they have little use for organized religion.
To Jeff’s credit, he is somewhat more cognizant of the damage that Grace is suffering due to Bob’s conduct. But like Bob, he thought he could bully his way through the issue, when what he should have done was to advise Bob that 1) It’s not a great idea to serve as both attorney and parishioner, and 2) Bob is foolish to try to use the a protective order as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). (These are lawsuits intended to stop public criticism.) With that, Jeff should have declined representation. That said, Jeff has nowhere near that level of common sense and good judgment, and he undoubtedly faced a lot of manipulation from Bob, who is masterful when it comes to these issues.
At the end of the day, it’s probably a safe bet that neither Dysfunctional Bob nor Sugarland Chiow are going to turn over a new leaf any time soon and show a little integrity, or conduct themselves like Christians.