Showing posts with label Grace Episcopal Church Alexandria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grace Episcopal Church Alexandria. Show all posts

Friday, April 3, 2020

Breaking News: Grace Episcopal Alexandria Again Sued

Grace Episcopal Church Claims its Threatened by Domestic Terrorism
Grace Church’s Filing Calling Mom a “Domestic Terrorist”


It’s been a long time coming, but earlier today Mom’s estate filed suit against Grace Church, the diocese, and several named individuals. Due to the state of emergency in Pennsylvania and the closure of the relevant courts, it may be several more days before things are official. But barring the unforeseen, I expect that everything will be complete by May 10.

One of the interesting things in all of this will be seeing how the church explains its claims that Mom defamed it, and why it tried to drag a dying woman into court in violation of state law. Needless to say, I have alerted the news media, and I expect that we’ll see a great deal of additional publicity emerge. 

It should also be interesting to hear explanations from the church as to how Mom’s collective pseudonym, “The Killer B’s,” which she borrowed from Pittsburgh sports teams and her favorite classic rock band, is an act of “domestic terrorism” as claimed by the church in the Pennsylvania courts. In fact, in talking with the clerk of courts in the relevant jurisdiction, it is fair to say that she howled with laughter. 

Hearing folks explain how Mom or someone claiming to be her allegedly repeatedly set up appointments with Bob Malm, only to no-show, should also prove interesting. I fully intend to make the transcripts available to the media.

So, the Episcopal Church has now been sued by a dead woman. Nice.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Grace Episcopal Alexandria Food Pantry Places Parishioners and Students at Heightened Risk of COVID-19

Grace Episcopal Food Pantry Creates Elevated Risk of COVID-19 Exposure to School Students and Others

Let me say upfront: I fully support efforts to alleviate poverty and food insecurity. But the presence of the food pantry at Grace Church creates serious ongoing issues of potential exposure to COVID-19 for students at the church school, as well as parishioners and staff.

The problem is that the food insecure and marginally housed or homeless persons typically lack access to medical care and testing. Further, they often are unable to maintain social distancing, and will lack access to COVID-19 testing for the forseeable future.

"This virus is quite transmissible through relatively casual contact, making this pathogen very hard to contain," says James Lloyd-Smith, co-author a UCLA study on the topic. Moreover, the virus can travel on shoes for at least five days, according to another study. This results in widespread transmission, including to areas that would otherwise seem unlikely to experience exposure.

While children may be less affected by COVID-19 than those in older cohorts, those with asthma and other preexisting conditions are at elevated risk. Further, children at Grace School may unwittingly bring the virus home and expose parents, grandparents and others in vulnerable cohorts.

The New England Journal of Medicine also reports that the virus can live for at least three days on door handles, light switches and other high-use hard surfaces. Ibid.

Thus, with the Grace Church food pantry remaining open during this period of social distancing, floors and hard surfaces in and around the Commons — which includes the entrance to the school —have the potential to spread the virus through all parts of the building, particularly via foot traffic. Given the high percentage of persons age 65 and above in the parish, this creates enormous risk when in-person worship resumes at the church.

For these reasons, all persons at high risk of infection should avoid entering the building until such time as a vaccine and wide-spread testing are available. Additionally, those at risk should pay close attention to efforts to develop some form of treatment for the disease; as things stand, all medical professionals can do is provide mechanical ventilation and other supportive measures until the disease has run its course. And the elderly should carefully contemplate the words of American Health Care Association Mark Parkinson, who said, “The grim reality is that, for the elderly, COVID-19 is an almost perfect killing machine.”

Meanwhile, parents are well-advised to avoid re-enrolling their children at Grace Episcopal School.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Another Reason to Avoid/Leave Grace Episcopal

As I’ve pointed out many times on this blog, the level of discourse at Grace Episcopal Church reveals just how very toxic the church is.

Below is a screen cap of a defamatory posting, believed to come from Lisa Medley’s circle. The fact that mocking a dying woman is considered acceptable at Grace Church, along with false and defamatory comments alleging domestic violence, tells you all you need to know about this sad, dysfunctional, toxic, dying church.

And in just a few hours, parishioners will do the Ash Wednesday thing, with absolutely no sense of irony or hypocrisy.




Thursday, January 30, 2020

Petition Demanding Susan Goff Address Bob Malm’s Perjury, Misconduct Passes 2000 Signatures, Even as Diocese Continues to Ignore Problems


You have to hand it to The Episcopal Church—it is remarkably stubborn in its defense of abuse. In fact, if it took such an extreme stand on women’s rights, LGBTQ+ issues, and other important social issues, it would have been ordaining women in the 1700’s.

Doubt it? More than 2,000 signatories later, Bishop Susan Goff continues to hang out in that antebellum heap, Mayo House, trying to ignore Bob Malm’s perjury. She’s never once even had the integrity to talk directly with me, but she knows enough to be able to sign off on the notion that The Episcopal Church will only deal with clergy perjury if there are criminal charges, despite the fact that the clergy disciplinary canons expressly forbid “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation“ as well as “any conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.” See for yourself:




And here is a screen cap of the petition:



And people actually wonder why the Episcopal Church is collapsing.

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!




Friday, January 17, 2020

Here’s How Grace Church Uses Its Pledge Income

One day in 2013, as I was doing repair work in the undercroft, I noticed that the window sills in the vesting rooms were dirty. Not just a little dirty—disgustingly, filthy dirty. As in not cleaned for several years. Layers of dead flies, dust, and pieces of cut grass that had been blown through the increasingly decrepit windows by the lawn mowers, together with water stains and more.

I took the following photo and sent it to Bob Malm by email, asking who was responsible for cleaning the vesting rooms. (Given that the parish has a paid sexton, one would think he would do it. But then, having caught him sleeping in the building on one occasion, and having been unable to locate him in the building on other occasions when he was supposedly working, that may be an unwarranted assumption.)

Predictably, Bob didn’t bother to respond.

So I asked parish administrator Charlotte Payne Wright who is responsible for cleaning the vesting rooms. Her telling response, “I’m not sure anyone is.”

The upshot is no one knew or cared. And yet Bob Malm subsequently claimed in writing that “no one at Grace is shirking their responsibilities,” despite the fact that it clearly had been at least four and a half years since anyone had bothered to clean the vesting rooms, as evinced by the date of the bulletin from the Great Vigil of Easter.

That begs the question: What does this utter indifference to the care of the physical plant suggest to members? To visitors? What does it say about the role of the building in divine worship? About stewardship of the money and resources entrusted to the church?

And what does Bob Malm’s non-response and claims that he actually was doing his job say about him? About the vestry? Does this sort of conduct warrant a $200,000 annual compensation package and a 2014 annual bonus of $100,000?

Nor is this the only example of ignoring basic standards of cleanliness and maintenance. Indeed, such examples are myriad. And in another instance, when I brought up similar issues, Bob’s response was, “I have neither the time nor the interest.”

Given Bob’s annual month at the beach, his week for the Boston Marathon, and his many trips “out of town,” I have no doubt perjuring priest Bob Malm was telling the truth when he said he didn’t have the time, and he clearly had zero interest.

This sort of feckless leadership and the fact that it was acceptable for so many years at Grace Church surely is worth keeping in mind if you are considering getting involved in the church, or making a pledge to the church.

Caveat emptor!

Filth in the vestry rooms, left untouched for 4.5 years.

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.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

See for Yourself: Twitizen Refers to Bob Malm as “Bat Guano Crazy”

This was her comment after reading Bob Malm’ email to Dee Parsons claiming the right to use the court system to impose “discipline” (his word choice), on me, a former member of his parish.




Wednesday, November 13, 2019

See for Yourself: Email to Diocesan Chancellor JP Causey Requests Compliance With Subpoenas

Shortly after I filed suit against Bishop Susan Goff, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and Grace Episcopal Church, I asked the judge to issue subpoenas against Bishop Goff and the parish. These included a requirement that I be permitted to inspect and copy the relevant documents, including all emails and documents relating to the dispute. Further, I asked to see copies of all documents to support the parish’s claim that my mother contacted Bob Malm repeatedly, and copies of the exact blog posts that the church claims are threatening. 

True to form, the diocese and parish have thus far ignored the court.

Today, I followed up with diocesan chancellor JP Causey and the parish is this email, asking for a response by close of business on Friday.

Early next week I will file a motion to compel against all three defendants.

Stay tuned.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Second Lawsuit


Steps are now under way to file a second lawsuit against Grace Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Susan Goff, and several other parties, including multiple church staff, volunteers, and independent contractors. I anticipate the suit will be filed in Pennsylvania and will involve multiple plaintiffs. Several of the defendants will be added once the initial suit is filed.

Not a great time for Planet Malm

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Letter from Dee Parsons, Editor of the Wartburg Watch

My friend Dee Parsons, editor of The Wartburg Watch, recently sent this letter for possible use in upcoming litigation involving Bob Malm.

Check it out.











Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Shunning: Often the Most Obvious Sign of an Abusive Church

There’s a good article on shunning on the Open Mind Foundation’s website. In the article, the author correctly notes that shunning is often the most obvious sign that a church is abusive—which should be food for thought for anyone considering getting involved at St. Dysfunction, aka Grace Episcopal in Alexandria, and rector Bob Malm’s fun and games, which include trying to drag the terminally ill into court.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

See for Yourself: Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow Doesn’t Know What Terrorism Is

Amidst the overheated, inflammatory rhetoric coming out of Grace Episcopal aka St. Dysfunction, one of the amusing and notable things is that Jeff “Sugarland” Chiow doesn’t know what the word “terrorism” means. Interesting for someone who allegedly has served in the US Marine Corps and an example of Sugarland’s apparent indifference to the facts behind his legal pleadings. Of course, this also touches on Bob Malm’s credibility, since the relevant legal pleading was made on Bob’s behalf.

To be fair, definitions vary, but it is almost universally accepted that terrorism must contain a political motivation.

This notion is reflected in the US Patriot Act, which appears to be the most recent legislative definition set forth by the government.

Meanwhile, Big Daddy Sugarland’s assertions that Grace Episcopal is threatened by “domestic terrorism” will soon have been seen more than 100,000 times by social media users in the DMV region. No doubt Del Ray residents, neighbors, potential church members, and parents and family members of GES students find Sugarland’s claims most reassuring. Indeed, one imagines that area bankers will think carefully before lending money to a church whose attorney claims it is the subject of an ongoing terrorism threat.

(Screen cap source: Wikipedia)




Saturday, October 6, 2018

New Data Reveals Episcopal Priest Bob Malm’s Vendetta Continues to Damage Church

Results from the annual parochial report recently went live on the national church’s website. Grace Episcopal Church’s data reveals that Bob Malm’s multi-year vendetta against me and my family continues to erode participation in Sunday worship by approximately 17 percent. 

Average Sunday Attendance, or “ASA” in Episco-speak, is considered a key barometer of church health.

Coming at a time when the church has lost over 120 pledging units, and faces massive upcoming bills for capital expenses, the news suggests that Grace Church is lurching towards insolvency. And yet Bob Malm continues to place his personal vendetta ahead of the well-being of the church and its members.

That speaks loudly to Bob Malm’s “ministry” and the ethical reference points under which Bob operates.




Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Protests this Week

As always, I’ll be protesting at least two days this week. So far, days will be today, Wednesday, during drive time, and Friday, also during drive time. I’m also hoping, weather permitting, to get in a round of leafleting, most likely in Potomac Yards.

More to come!




Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Denial: It Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

In reading over recent reports about the sorry state of Grace Church’s budget, there is one theme that runs throughout. It’s a theme that is both amusing and appalling. What is that theme? It is the notion that the multiple failures in the building infrastructure, particularly in the HVAC systems, were both unexpected and cost more than anticipated. 

For the record, neither is true.

When I served as junior warden in 2014, I repeatedly warned about underinvestment in the building. Indeed, that was the theme of my article in the annual report. Similarly, in his final days at the church, David Adams warned both of the lack of replacement reserves, and the lack of a replacement reserve study.

The same issues came up in 2015, with Lisa Medley offering bitchy innuendo when the property committee yet again sent its recommendations to the vestry, only to again be ignored. 

Nor was this unprecedented. During the last capital campaign, HVAC experts recommended replacing HVAC piping in the building, only to be ignored.

Moreover, I personally sent several memos to Bob Malm while serving on the vestry, pointing out that cost structures were unsustainable, that income was inadequate, and reserves perilously thin. True to form, Bob made the right noises, but otherwise brushed things off.

Throughout all this, the stupid expenditures and inept financial planning continued, including:
  • Thousands of dollars from management reserves to pay for Chris Byrnes’ farewell party.
  • Proposals to pay for employee health benefits from reserves.
  • An annual (entirely unneeded) donation to Grace Episcopal School.
  • Proposals to kick the budgetary can down the road by drawing on reserves to “balance” the budget.
  • The granddaddy of all stupid expenditures, a $100,000 bonus to Bob Malm.
Nor are projections of infrastructure failure unpredictable. The replacement reserve study I paid for but declined to give to the parish due to bad behavior by Bob Malm, Lisa Medley and others made clear that multiple HVAC failures would occur in the next few years, as did multiple warnings from our HVAC vendor and MACC, the building controls company.

Of course, on an individual level, current vestry members indeed may regard the recent HVAC issues as unexpected. But on an organizational level, and in discussions with Bob Malm, these matters have been brought up ad nauseum. 

In short, this is a case of denial, not surprise. And people further show their stupidity, as in the case of members of Bob Malm’s family, by claiming that somehow these issues were exaggerated, or that I somehow caused these infrastructure failures. Funny how the latter have accelerated since my departure from the parish. But that is the sloppy thinking you get from Bob and members of his family.

To make matters worse, instead of saving for the future, the church now proposes to borrow to pay for the past. As in failing to plan, failing to save, and failing to maintain its current infrastructure.

Even the effects of my current dispute with Bob Malm were entirely predictable. Churchgoers are notoriously conflict adverse, but Bob Malm decided nonetheless to issue his infamous Edict of Shunning. Since then, he hasn’t learned a thing, instead doubling down on dumb with his bogus protective order, his lies to the Circuit Court, and his efforts to drag a dying woman into court—the very antithesis of Jesus’ message. As a result, Grace will increasingly be seen for what it is: a church in name only, where lying, shunning, bullying, and even misuse of the legal system are all okay.

Needless to say, until folks get a clue, things will only get worse for St. Dysfunction, aka Grace Episcopal Church.