In previous posts, I expressed concern about Bob Malm’s decision, jammed through the vestry, to tear down the rector and purchase a private residence. All-in, the decision cost the church more than $2 million—money it needed for other purposes. The folly of this decision is becoming increasingly evident, as Bob Malm has reduced the listing price of his former residence by $20,000. This despite the Alexandria housing market remaining among the most competitive in the nation,
To be sure, listing during the holidays is never easy, and often is regarded by buyers as a sign of desperation. And Bob’s agent has done everything right, including slapping a layer of paint over the worst signs of deterioration in the home.
Still, in a market when the average listing moves to pending in 17 days, and in which prices continue to rise, making Alexandria one of the most competitive housing markets in the nation, the fact Bob is cutting his asking price is telling. And the house is sold as-is, which makes clear that all involved recognize that there are issues.
In the meantime, the tear-down of the rectory locks the parish into offering a housing allowance for the indefinite future, probably extending until one of the more generous parishioners leaves their home to the church. This is problematic, for continuing declines in church income already are making for a perilously thin budget—one that leaves the parish teetering on the brink of existential crisis.
Nor did Bob exactly bust his butt. Filled with his inflated but shallow sense of self-importance, Bob noisily proclaimed that the church’s lack of growth was “unacceptable,” at one annual parish meeting. Yet it’s not like he was leading the charge to actually do something about it. (Sorry kids, Art on the Avenue and some banners on the lawn, along with a single lit drop in Potomac Yards, doesn’t cut it.) Meanwhile, Bob was spending summers at the beach, going to the Boston Marathon, and otherwise slipping “out of town” whenever convenient, in some years being gone for 11 or more weeks of the year.
With the ill-advised 2014 bonus of $100,000 to Bob, which shored up Bob’s position in the loan, he undoubtedly will walk away with some cash from the transaction to plump his already generous defined benefit plan retirement. But in so doing, Bob walks all over the church he claimed to serve. And again, I have yet to hear a good explanation as to why church employees should face cuts to their health insurance, while Bob Malm gets treated like royalty. Isn’t health care a basic human right?
The entire situation reeks of dysfunction and hypocrisy—two values works that neatly summarize Bob’s 30 years with Grace Church.