Showing posts with label Bob Malm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bob Malm. Show all posts

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Bob Malm: Club Protest Membership Countdown


By virtue of trying to shutdown criticism by going to court with his facially false claims that he had been threatened, pseudo-priest Bob Malm and Grace Episcopal signed up for the two-year membership at Club Protest. No refunds, late payments result in an extension of membership. And his decision to include Mike in his vendetta, his multiple lies in court, and his efforts to subpoena a dying woman, all mean Bob gets the special VIP add-on package — my online presence will continue ad infinitum. That’s right, Dysfunctional Bob gets the lifetime virtual membership. Hey, Bob always did think he was special. Well, he’s right.

So, this countdown timer doesn’t mark the countdown to an end to open hostilities. But it does mark the payout of Dysfunctional Bob’s basic Club Protest membership.That said, I have always believed in under-promise, over-deliver, so I will no doubt extend Bob’s basic membership well beyond his original contract. And Grace Episcopal gets in on the action, for free.

By the way, if you see that the counter has passed zero and is counting up, that means that perjuring priest Bob Malm and the parish are enjoying their special free bonus time.

Hey, if he behaves, maybe we can even spot Bob some core body fitness tips. Heaven knows he’s been looking rather well-fed in recent years. And it fits — Grace Church aka St. Dysfunction is looking a whole lot leaner and meaner these days.

See you at Dysfunction Junction aka Malm Square(d)!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Mark Your Calendar!

Mark your calendar now for the resumption of protests directly outside Planet Malm, beginning January 25, 2020.

Our first Sunday back will be marked by several special guests, who will be joining us from out of state. We’ll also be filming, as we do now when demonstrating and leafleting, so we’ll be looking for plenty of Grace Episcopal’s one-gun salute to Jesus.

So come on out and help us develop our next “God’s Grace for All” video!




Sunday, January 19, 2020

Check it Out: BlakeWrites Covers My Story

More media coverage of perjuring priest Bob Malm, Grace Episcopal Church, and St. Gabriel’s in Marion Massachusetts today as online publication BlakeWrites covers my story at https://www.blakewrites.com/articles/abuses-of-power-by-clergy

Bob Malm, perjuring priest

Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: SNAP Enters the Fray

Earlier today, I got some good news, which is that the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) will start sharing information on my change.org petition to hold perjuring priest Bob Malm accountable. Additionally, executive director Zach Heiner signed my petition.

Good news as we move into 2020.




Friday, December 27, 2019

Planet Malm Draws 3K from Savings for Party, Cuts Employee Health Benefits

Let’s just hope that those who attended Chris’ farewell party enjoyed the barbecue. 

Too bad church employees don’t get a similar send off.




Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Disgraceful Waste: Bob Malm Flushes $2 Million of Church Funds Down the Toilet on His Personal Residence

Speaking of dysfunction, in 2014 the Grace vestry decided to write off half of the value of a loan it had made 10 years earlier to Bob Malm. The loan had been provided so that Bob could purchase a private residence. But writing off half the loan, especially at a time when the church was in relatively dismal financial condition, was a bad and irresponsible decision, as we’ll see below. And before you ask, as a vestry member, I was the sole person to vote no on the forgiveness, which amounted to $100,000 of a $200,000 loan.

But there’s more to it than just the loan. As we’ll see below, the loan is just the tip of the iceberg in a series of spectacularly ill-advised business decisions made by the vestry at Bob Malm’s urging. In this matter, Bob placed his perceived personal interests ahead of those of the parish he claims to serve, while the vestry lost sight of its fiduciary obligations.

First, an important disclaimer, which is that a loan for a personal residence is the one exception to the canonical prohibition on churches lending money to their clergy. Thus, there is nothing inherently wrong about a church lending its rector money for the down payment for a personal residence.

That said, it is important to note that, at the time Bob decided to buy a personal residence, he resided in a perfectly livable rectory, much larger than his current home. Yes, it needed work, perhaps as much as $200,000 worth, but it was comfortable, convenient, and owned free and clear by the church.

But Bob appears to have had it in his head that if he had his own place it would be a nest egg for retirement. That of course, presupposes adequate maintenance and upkeep—neither of which has happened in practice. Thus, Bob traded a large, poorly maintained home for a small, poorly maintained home, all while spending a small mountain of donated cash. Nice move, Bob. 



So, despite considerable misgivings and resistance on the part of the vestry, Bob bludgeoned a proposal through the vestry to help him buy a private residence. This he did by dint of much noisy argument, and by remaining present during the vestry vote on the matter, with the result that more than one vestry member feared that, if they voted no, they would face retaliation. Yes, imagine that.

But the proposal went further. At Bob’s urging, the church tore down the rectory, an asset with a value of roughly $700,000, at an all-in demolition cost of about $200,000. (Such projects are surprisingly costly.) Thus, the parish was down about $900,000, of which roughly $200,000 was a wash versus the cost of updating the rectory.

To get Bob into his new residence, the parish extended what was then a $100,000 loan for the down payment, and boosted Bob’s total compensation via a housing allowance and other perks from a little more than $70,000 a year, plus the use of the rectory, to a total well more than double the original figure.

To make matters worse, the original loan amortized accrued interest. In other words, the loan just sat there like Jabba the Hut, getting bigger and bigger over time, with no payments or interest due. Thus, Bob’s personal residence needed to increase in value by 7% every year if the loan was not to erode any potential profit that Bob would make at the time he resold the house. Hardly a done deal in the best of times, and a very tall order indeed for a small, older home with few updates and much deferred maintenance.



Jabba would look better with a hair transplant, don’t you think?

When the note first matured in 2009, Bob already had signaled that he would likely seek another position, one in a different church. But it appears that Bob did not find another church willing to match his insanely generous compensation package, nor provide a laissez-faire governance regime in which, to closely paraphrase one of Bob’s former assistant rectors, “Bob could get away with murder.” So, in true Grace Church fashion, the vestry decided to add insult to injury for all parties and kick the can down the road. The maturation date on the loan was set back another five years, conveniently ignoring the deferred maintenance and interest that was piling up on Bob’s personal residence and thus eroding the parties’ equity in the property.

By this time, Bob still had made not a single payment of interest or principal. Making monthly payments, regardless of the imprudent terms of the loan, would of course have been sensible, but Bob has never been one to let such niceties intrude. As a result, when the loan matured in 2014, the value of the loan had ballooned to $200,000, double its original size.

So, in 2014, the vestry decided to “solve” things by writing off $100,000 of the loan, in recognition of Bob’s years of “service,” and requiring repayment of the original loan over a five-year period. That’s right—the church walked away from the original deal and gave Bob a $100,000 bonus. Keep in mind, too, Bob is far from stupid. He knew full well what he was getting into. So, why should he not have been held to the terms and conditions to which he agreed?

There are, of course, circumstances under which this may have been appropriate. For example, if the parish were awash in a sea of cash. Or if Bob’s job performance were exemplary. As in, if he adhered to the terms of his letter of agreement. Or grew the parish. Or had regular mutual ministry reviews. But the reality is that, while Bob can be engaging on an interpersonal level, he views being a priest as, in the words of someone close to him, “Just a job.” So no need to get too caught up in notions of Christian charity—that’s not part of Bob’s worldview, and I can tell you firsthand he doesn’t extend that approach to others.

Bob Malm’s Mediocre Job Performance

Moreover, Bob’s attitude towards being a priest is reflected in his work performance. Consider:
  1. For years, parish business records were a hot mess. 
  2. One of the parish registers has gone missing. 
  3. For more than a decade, church financial records were facially disorganized, and no audit was done, nor was any meaningful effort made to clean up the books. (The parish does an agreed-upon procedures review, which has no external attestation value. In other words, it doesn’t prove anything, but instead recites information provided by the client.) 
  4. Staff has often behaved badly, and one staff member was a hoarder. Bob consistently refused to address these issues.
  5. There still is no strategic plan.
  6. Bob comes and goes pretty much as he pleases; there have been times when he has taken leave far in excess of that permitted under his letter of agreement, and without vestry approval.
  7. Basic canonical requirements, such as a written finance manual, are still not in place, more than 25 years after Bob started his job. (See the Manual of Methods in Church Business Affairs for this and other requirements that Bob has conveniently ignored.)
  8. Even his sermons have become pointedly short, and more than one parishioner has said that Bob seems thoroughly burned out. Bob has become both increasingly lackadaisical and autocratic, while appearing convinced that he is somehow special. Yes, he can turn on the superficial charm when he chooses to, but that’s all it is — superficial charm. I mean, if Bob really cares about the church and its people, as some members claim, why the dysfunction and the indifference? And it’s not like there’s any dearth of folks who’d be willing to help fix things; many parishioners are both intelligent and highly skilled.
Where does that leave things? As things stand, Bob is paid better than a great many Episcopal bishops. For example, below are 2017 salaries for bishops on the staff of the presiding bishop, including Todd Ousley, the bishop in charge of pastoral development:

Nor does locality account for Bob’s overly generous compensation. See, for example, data below for priests in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which has some of the highest salaries in the country:


Another data point is reflected below, which is the Church Pension Group’s (CPG) 2016 salary survey of Episcopal churches of Province III, which reveals that Bob is compensated at annual rate more than 40 percent higher than comparable clergy in the region (look at the Program category)—and that is without factoring in his $100000 bonus in 2014! (CPG’s numbers include housing and any bonuses paid; the imputed value of a rectory is included).



Bob has about another year of payments left on the original $100,000 loan; meanwhile, the church (including its component entity, the school) is preparing to spend $1.2 million on HVAC improvements that will primarily benefit the school, with half the money coming from the church. The faux slate roof needs to be replaced, the stained glass windows need costly restoration, the parking lot needs repaved, and the original elevator needs to be overhauled.

The Debacle by the Numbers

Total Loss to Grace Episcopal Church, 2004-2018
Total
-$2,000,000.00
ItemCost
Loss of equity, rectory$700,000.00
Write-off, accrued interest$100,000.00
Total compensation increase, 14 years$1,200,000.00
Avoided costs, rectory repairs$200,000.00
Rectory tear-down costs$200,000.00

These numbers become particularly compelling when we look at the capital expenses and extraordinary costs the church will face in the next few years:

Anticipated Capital and Extraordinary Expenses, 2018-2021
Total
-$1,137,500.00
ItemCost
Miscellaneous HVAC repairs$45,000.00
HVAC replacement, church share$600,000.00
Elevator refurbishment, church share$30,000.00
Stained glass restoration$60,000.00
Parking lot repaving, church share$25,000.00
HVAC blueprints, church share$22,500.00
Faux slate roof replacement$60,000.00
Replace failed double-pane windows$40,000.00
Replace exterior rotted wood trim and rake boards$40,000.00
Replace obsolete fire alarm control panel$15,000.00
Contingency funds (needed for HVAC replacement and other major projects in light of facility age)$200,000.00

Outcomes

Keep in mind that, when all this work is done, there still will be major challenges with the building. For instance:
  • The nave still will not be able to maintain temperature during hot summer days or major events. 
  • Plumbing will still be obsolete, with piping in original parts of the building at actuarial end of life (for the record, copper pipes, which comprise most of the plumbing in the building, do not have an indefinite lifespan). 
  • Neither elevator will meet modern Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. 
  • There still will be no ADA-acessible entrance. That means not just a ramp, but Braille signage and an electro-mechanical door opening system to assist wheelchair users and others of limited mobility.
  • Interior directional signage will remain crude and non-ADA compliant.
  • Interior finish, notably much of the 1994 renovations, will still be at end of life. 
  • The commercial kitchen will still be obsolete.
  • Several local HVAC units will remain out, including the one in the rear fire tower.
  • The lower hallway under the original narthex will still lack adequate HVAC.
  • Humidity and temperature control in the undercroft will remain spotty at best due to poor air flow control and the oversized, 20-ton unit that services the space. As a result, summer humidity levels routinely exceed 70 percent, which is neither healthy, nor good for the grand piano and other musical instruments in the choir room.
Nor is the HVAC work likely to come in under budget. Builders are doing well right now, and with the third floor of the building out of service, it will be clear to bidders that the church has little leverage. Further, older buildings such as Grace’s physical plant have one consistent characteristic, and that is their ability to throw curve balls into the path of anyone doing capital improvements. In short, procurement under duress rarely is the most cost-effective procurement, and even more so in a building that is now more than 60 years old.

Nor do things look much better for Bob Malm. Although comparable homes in the area have appreciated by about $200,000 since the date of this purchase, the extent of deferred maintenance on Bob’s private residence, the antiquated layout, the very small size, the perilous exterior steps, the lack of landscaping, the original windows and the obsolete bathrooms leave Bob in a position where he will be lucky to break even. Moreover, despite the influx of donated cash, Bob’s penchant for lengthy vacations, expensive private schools for his children, cosmetic procedures, and other indicia of keeping up with the Hillers left the family in precarious financial condition for many years. See, for example, the judgment recorded in 2010 by Suntrust Bank,  now a matter of public record, six years after the church’s original loan, against Bob’s wife Leslie, for what appears to be an unpaid personal loan; it appears the default occurred on August 2009. (Source: Alexandria General District Court public records)



Similarly, public records reveal what appear to be unpaid dental bills for two of Bob’s children at about the same time; the cases were scheduled for hearing on 12/15/10, but the cases dismissed. My opinion: Getting your kids sued for medical bills is not cool. Actually, it’s pretty damned dysfunctional.  (Source: Fairfax County General District Court public records)


Rising interest rates, bad credit history, and the fact that the original mortgage has an adjustable interest rate also suggest that the house will get more costly over time. A re-fi may take some finagling, and terms for a new loan likely will not be great. So the entire transaction winds up looking even worse with the passage of time, not better.

At the end of the day, Bob engaged in a highly speculative real estate transaction, and now has been bailed out by the church for his remarkably bad business decision. It also is troubling that the loan to Bob was recorded off the books, not showing in the financial reports, for the first ten years. This raises some disturbing issues concerning financial transparency, candor, and accuracy of financial reports. If nothing else, why did the church’s “auditors” not insist that the underlying receivable be reflected in the financials? It is a basic premise of good governance that insider deals such as this be reported publicly. Again, why was this allowed to happen?

Summary

In summary, the church’s current financial posture is best described as a hot mess. Over time, Bob has increased the church’s carrying costs, while reducing its assets and eroding both giving and attendance. Yet the decline in the church’s financial position would be more than adequate to pay cash and carry for upcoming expenses, and even more so had the cash involved in underwriting Bob’s desired lifestyle been appropriately invested.

Meanwhile, the church is placing itself in existential peril, for its continuing declines in giving and attendance could well result in its being unable to meet its financial obligations as this wave of capital expenses hits in the coming years. And regardless of the ultimate outcome, the parish is out more than $2 million dollars as a result of Bob’s self-serving lack of business acumen. At the same time, it is shocking, appalling, and outrageous that Bob Malm should get both a 2014 bonus of $100,000, and annual compensation that exceeds that of many Episcopal bishops, given his feckless job performance. Even his decision to pursue a personal residence, at a time when he couldn’t so much as come up with a down payment, shows a remarkable lack of concern for the wellbeing of the parish and a dearth of common sense.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

More Signs of Financial Trouble at Grace Church



As we move into 2020, signs abound of financial trouble at Grace church. These include further declines in pledging, which I believe are due in large part to a growing awareness of just how toxic Grace Church has become.

Over the past two weeks, the number of pledging units has stalled out at 160, for a total just shy of $561,560. That’s a bad sign, for a variety of reasons:
  • In the past, pledges have continued to come in throughout the final weeks of the year. The lack of an increase during the past two weeks suggests that the pledge campaign has largely run its course.
  • While there are always a few additional pledges in the new year, the increase historically has ranged from 20-40 units. In recent years, the number of pledges has tended towards the lower end of that range. Moreover, late pledges tend to be smaller pledges. Thus, even assuming 30 additional pledges at an average of $3966, that’s only $118,980, for a total of $680,540. That’s a far cry from the $895,000 or more of past years, and leaves the church with gross annual revenue of approximately $830,540. Thus, the parish faces the prospect of draconian cuts to an already tight budget.
  • The underlying causes of the church’s decline remain unaddressed, which include a systemic culture of toxicity evinced by behavior that includes:
    • Bob Malm’s perjury
    • Suing members and calling them “domestic terrorists”
    • Sugarland Chiow’s multiple courtroom fabrications
    • Trying to drag a dying woman into court
    • The childish, malicious conduct of people like Alison Campbell and Lisa Medley
    • Members urging others to commit suicide
    • Unhealthy ways at every level of dealing with conflict
  • It will not be possible to begin the process of addressing these issues any time soon, as it will take some time for Michael Guy to settle in. 
  • The legacy of 30 years of Bob Malm’s feckless and dysfunctional “leadership” won’t be erased overnight, or even in a year.
  • The transition process isn’t cheap, and Grace really needs to bring in paid outside experts to address its toxic culture. Even then, Bob Malm’s various misrepresentations about the underlying issues make change problematic, for it is hard to parse the challenges facing the church when prior leadership has engaged in manipulative conduct.
  • Real leadership is perilously thin in the parish. Indeed, when confronted with a toxic culture like that of Grace church, real leaders typically move on, versus turning a blind eye to unethical conduct such as bullying. And even those regarded as leaders in the parish have no qualms in talking about other people, versus talking to other people. That’s a big problem, and one has only to look at some of the comments from Kemp Williams and Jean Reed to see use how bad things have become in that department.
  • It can be difficult to ask members to increase giving when so much money has been squandered in the past on Bob Malm’s inflated salary, his $100,000 bonus, the tear-down of the rectory, his overly generous leave, and silliness like taking $3,000 from savings for a farewell party for Chris Byrnes—a Head of School that many teaching professionals do not regard as having been particularly effective, and who spent much of her time engaging in divisive empire building.
  • Things are complicated by well-intentioned but disingenuous comments like Jason Roberson’s statement in the November edition of Grace Notes,  in which he falsely claimed that the church is “growing and flourishing.” It is doing neither, and such comments undercut confidence in the messaging coming from church leadership.
  • As discussed in previous posts, if the church really is to be a center for “outreach and healing,” it could start by contributing its fair share to the diocese. $80K a year is ridiculously low and far beneath the norms established by the diocese. Going forward, less money wasted on feckless clergy and more spent on outreach would be a good start.
Of course, financial issues are just one small outward manifestation of larger, structural issues. In other words, the church’s financial woes will only be resolved when it solves its spiritual and ethical woes. And with diocesan leadership that is prepared to support Bob Malm and Sugarland Chiow in their misconduct, it’s unlikely that this is going to happen.

The future looks grim indeed for Grace Church.


Friday, December 20, 2019

We’re Episcopal, Aren’t We? Is Grace an Episcopal Church?



There’s a good article on the Wartburg Watch this week, in which friend and fellow blogger Dee Parsons asks the question, why are so many SBC churches in the closet about their SBC affiliation? That got me to thinking—-what about churches that claim to be part of a denomination, but really aren’t? In other words, is Grace really an Episcopal church?

To be sure, at first blush Grace would appear to be fully an Episcopal church. Its governing documents, as poorly done as they are, contain the accession clause required under church canons. Most clergy are Episcopal. The hymnal and Book of Common Prayer are Episcopal. The bishop visits once a year and has to approve clergy hires. Even the sign out front says Episcopal.

But scratch the surface and things aren’t so clear. Given its size, the parish makes only a token financial contribution to the diocese. Similarly, during Bob Malm’s tenure, the diocese did little to address issues in the church, thus allowing problems to fester for decades. (Ironically, the diocese is now in court trying to defend this situation, inter alia claiming that Bob Malm took me to court on his own. That ignores the more than 18 times Bob contacted the diocese about doing so, as well as his claim that the decision to take me to court was a form of  “discipline” that he and other parish leadership decided to implement. Additionally, Bob received legal advice and other diocesan support for his efforts, including a letter of endorsement from Bishop Shannon Johnston.)

True, the church is inclusive in the sense of welcoming gays and lesbians. But it has never welcomed non-gender binaries or transgenders, and Bob Malm is very uncomfortable with these issues.

It is this latter aspect that is particularly troubling, and that is Bob Malm’s role in the parish. During this tenure, more than 1 out of every 5 dollars in church revenue went to Bob. Bob personally chose the executive committee, in violation of church canons. Even the nominally self-governing school allegedly restructured so that Bob could send his son James to school there—a claim that, if true, would be highly unethical.

Similarly, the demolition of the rectory—a decision made at Bob Malm’s insistence—wound up costing the church more than $2 million in the years that followed. And Bob was ruthless in ensuring he took every bit of leave available to him, with no regard for the welfare of the parish. Indeed, he once told me that issues with the parish administrator would have to wait, as he was going on vacation.

And so it is with Bob’s claims that I am mentally ill. While few if any parishioners knew or cared if I blogged about my experiences at Grace, Bob worked the traps hard to stir things up at the school, the diocese, and within in the parish with his fabrications.

At the very heart of the matter is Bob’s ongoing effort to obtain recognition and adulation from parishioners. While a healthy pastoral relationship points people to God, Bob points people to himself. In so doing, he routinely undercut relationships amongst parishioners, using derogatory language about almost all parishioners at one time or another. (Recall his references to Jan Spence as an “asshole,” and to Lisa Doelp as “like a little spy.”)

It is this paradigm, in which Bob created a parish in his own image, to reflect his personality and to meet his own needs, that led me to dub Grace Church “Planet Malm.” 

In short, while the church is nominally Episcopal, its real reference point is Bob Malm. It is nothing more than a cult of personality, now missing the underlying personality. As such, it is not a church, but rather a religious club organized within The Episcopal Church.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Breaking News: Grace Episcopal Lawsuit Moves Forward



Earlier today, the Alexandria General District court heard my motion to compel. It also received various motions from Diane DiBlasio, the attorney for Grace Episcopal, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and Bishop Susan Goff. The defense motions included a motion to dismiss with prejudice and a motion requesting a bill of particulars. The latter sets forth the reasons a plaintiff believes she or he has a legal cause of action.

The only motion on which the court ruled was the request to schedule a bill of particulars. Thus, I will be filing that pleading by the end of January, the defense will file its response by the end of February, and we will hold the next hearing in March.

Afterwards, I had a moment to chat with Diane, who is very professional and capable. My heads-up to her, which I hope informs her efforts and those of her clients, centers around Bob Malm’s perjury during the discovery phrase of my appeal. (Recall that Bob falsely claimed that my mom, or someone purporting to be her, “time after time” contacted him. This he cited as a primary reason he believed mom’s blog to really be mine.)

So, it will be interesting to see if the diocese, Bishop Goff, and Grace Episcopal want to defend Bob Malm’s perjury. That said, if past performance is any indicator, all three will do their utmost to defend his conduct.

It’s also interesting that defense counsel attempted to assert that this is an internal ecclesiastical matter. With the parish having taken the matter to court in the first place, it is difficult to conclude that this indeed is not subject to judicial review. That said, in fairness to defense counsel, she had little to go on.

Bob Malm, perjuring priest.

Grace Episcopal, the clergy perjury parish.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Grace’s Claim that It’s Been Careful With Expenses in Amusing, Disingenuous


One of the amusing things is the claim in Grace church publications that it’s been careful with expenses, and thus people should fulfill their pledges. That’s not only a partial truth, but it’s disingenuous as well.

Let me be clear: Over the past couple of years, the parish indeed has been careful with cash flow. In saying that, I am choosing my words carefully.

But over time, the parish has been anything but prudent. 
  • It way overpaid for Bob Malm, a feckless rector if there ever was one. Indeed, Bob was overpaid by 40-70K a year and compensated more highly than the bishop in charge of pastoral development at church headquarters. And Bob did a whole lot less work, of that you can be assured.
  • It tore down the rectory, an asset worth roughly $700,000, instead tossing a ton of cash at Bob Malm, totaling more than $1 million during Malm’s tenure.
  • It wrote off $100,000 in debt that Bob owed the church, giving it to him as a bonus.
  • It contributed $3,000 from savings for Chris Byrnes’ farewell party, a silly and wasteful extravagance at a time when church employees got a sheet cake at coffee hour as their good bye.
  • It cut employee health care benefits to “balance the budget” at a time when it was paying Bob Malm a $100,000 bonus.
  • It has consistently deferred maintenance, resulting in costly after-the-fact repairs.
  • It has consistently underpaid its commitment to the diocese, while claiming that it is a “center for outreach and healing.” I call bull on that.
  • It lost thousands of dollars via stale checks that disappeared into the parish administrator Charlotte Payne Wright’s office, only to be found after the latter’ s departure. And you cannot convince me that people didn’t call to ask why their checks hadn’t been cashed. 
  • It failed to establish a finance manual as required by denominational policy, which if done properly would have established policies and procedures sufficient to prevent the loss of funds described above.
Moreover, it failed to account for the cost of Bob Malm and Sugarland Chiow’s misconduct. Nothing in life is free, and Bob’s committing perjury, Sugarland’s false courtroom statements of law and fact, their efforts to drag a dying woman into court, all carry with them a cost. The cost is that people are departing the parish for less toxic environs, while the Sugarland Chiow’s, Lisa Medley’s and Alison Campbells of the parish cling like barnacles to the hull of a sinking ship. The result is declining revenue and attendance, and to date I have seen no meaningful effort to address these issues.

Speaking of Lisa Medley, Bob’s conduct also served as a benchmark for parishioners, and I believe that it was he who made people like Lisa think that their childish, hateful behavior was okay. Indeed, Leslie Malm proved to be every bit as childish, deceitful and hateful as Lisa, and that is saying something. 

So, this pledge season, remember: This is not only a parish where people urge others to commit suicide, it’s a church where Lisa Medley thinks it’s okay to publish details on people’s giving on social media. 

And as you contemplate those facts, consider: The parish has been careful with its funds only because it’s run out of funds to squander. If there were funds left to blow, Bob Malm would have had a party that would have made Chris’ pale by comparison.





Saturday, December 14, 2019

Positive Signs at St. Dysfunction, aka Grace Episcopal Church



As Grace church begins the lengthy process of transition, there are some positive signs. The church, diocese, and vestry deserve kudos for these changes.

First and foremost, we see the wardens and vestry finally assuming their proper role under the Episcopal canons. Instead of Bob Malm personally choosing the executive committee, which is a violation of the canons, and then controlling decisions via his hand-chosen inner circle, we are seeing the wardens and vestry actually exercising leadership as they communicate with the parish, make decisions, and try to map out a path forward for the parish.

Second, we are seeing the parish back away from Bob Malm’s knee-jerk instinct towards controlling and restricting the flow of information. This includes publishing pledge totals (versus deliberately vague information), and greater transparency about decision making. 

The problem with Bob Malm’s approach is that secrecy is deadly to a voluntary organization like a church, which depends on the labor, giving and participation of members. Instead of accurate information, secrecy begets the ugly gossip that has roiled for years right behind the scenes at Grace church, ranging from rumors of affairs, to speculation about the sexual orientation of married persons, to claims that one person had a penile implant (seriously!). Such rumor and speculation may seem like harmless fun, but it’s ugly, damaging, hateful, and a powerful disincentive for outsiders to join the church. And it’s often used by persons like Alison Campbell when they want to play the Mean Girls game.

Ironically, Bob’s efforts to control information, which were intended to curtail my access to information, had zero effect on me, other than giving me one more topic to blog about. Data regarding parish giving and governance is readily available via other sources and, like all organizations, there are always plenty of internal sources to leak data. Indeed, more than one member has speculated that all the secrecy means there must be something to hide—which, given Bob’s perjury and other misconduct, is spot-on.

Going forward, the church would be well-served by returning to publishing vestry minutes. The reality is that posting this information on the bulletin board outside the office door does nothing. Yes, persons may glance at it, but no one is really going to glean much information as they try to read it standing in a busy hallway. Similarly, few are going to go to the trouble of contacting Amy Medrick, which in itself alerts clergy to their interest in governance issues.

Similarly, the parish annual report should be on the website. Not providing it keeps nothing secret, and I am well aware of the sharp declines under Bob Malm  in pledging units, average Sunday attendance, and other barometers of parish health.

Same for the parish budget. As I have said in previous posts, both the budget and the so-called audit should be available on the website. Lisa Medley claims there is “complete transparency,” but that is absolute bullcrap. Indeed, the vestry does not see the audit engagement letter or the results, let alone parishioners, and existing safeguards were not adequate to prevent Richard Newman from being overpaid for many months, until Jeff Aaron spotted the issue. (I have always suspected that his disclosure of the matter resulted in Bob Malm shoving him out the door. Bob does not like it when his negligence comes to light.) Nor were they adequate to detect the thousands of dollars in unaccounted-for stale checks and cash found in the parish administrator’s office after she retired in 2014.

Keep in mind, too, that the parish will soon have to compile a parish portfolio as part of the search process. All this data needs to be included, and not in a glossed-over manner. The reality is that Bob Malm’s tenure ended with the parish in a period of precipitous, perhaps terminal, decline marked by conflict, outrageous clergy misconduct (aided and abetted by Sugarland Chiow and the vestry), declining giving and participation, and an utter lack of any sort of strategic plan or vision for the future. Indeed, during his final five years, even Malm’s admirers felt that he was thoroughly burned out, indifferent, and focused simply on paying the bills long enough to make it into retirement.

The good news in all of this is that the current wardens are well-suited to the task at hand, and hopefully future wardens will be as well. That said, there remain serious questions about the ability of the parish to recognize, let alone address, the mess left behind after 30 years of Bob Malm.