- When Bob flew off the handle during a vestry meeting at Lee Meeks.
- When I criticized Bob for his indifference to disaffected parishioners leaving Grace Church.
- During Bob Malm’s tantrum along Russell Road when he drove up to me while I was protesting.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
In poker, there’s something called a “tell.” A tell is a behavior or expression that gives another player away. And there are several tells that serve as dead giveaways when dealing with Bob Malm. So, for whatever church is unlucky enough to have Bob in the future, here are a couple behaviors to watch out for.
First is the classic narcissistic rage, when Bob shouts and bellows in an effort to shut down criticism that threatens his ego. I’ve seen it several times, including:
You’ll also notice that Bob deploys a less dramatic version of this tell when he’s feeling emotionally insecure. In those cases, he ramps up the volume and uses a harsh, threatening tone with the other person. I’ve heard this numerous times in his conversations with his wife, Leslie, and a few times when he’s felt threatened by me, including at the infamous personnel committee meeting where he went off on me.
Another of Dysfunctional Bob’s tells: He prefaces moments where he says something he doesn’t really believe with, “Well.” As in his response to my criticism of Bob’s shambolic approach to parish management during our meeting with Bishop Shannon, where Bob replied by saying, “Well, I’m sorry,” but offered no commitment to improving, nor any explanation for his feckless nonfeasance. Needless to say, he wasn’t sorry in the least. He simply wanted to end that part of the conversation and move on.
Another tell: Bob not only ignores church conflict, but appears to actually encourage it with his nasty comments, like referring to Jan Spence as an “asshole,” or his claims that Lisa Doelp is a “spy.” (He once claimed his kids caught Lisa going through their bedroom furniture in the rectory. Somehow, I very much doubt his story is true.) That said, look for Bob trying to have his cake and eat it too as when, on Kyle Babin’s last day as music director, Bob gave him a hug and apologized for the bullying he experienced at Grace church. But if Bob really had an issue with bullying, he would simply have called people on their behavior.
Of course, Bob’s tells are part of a second-tier defensive strategy. Like any good narcissist, Bob does his utmost to keep both accountability and criticism at bay. This he does through flattery and superficial charm, as well as by controlling the composition of the vestry’s executive committee. If you watch closely, he typically chooses someone as senior warden who either is a non-entity, indifferent to their vestry responsibilities, or blindly loyal. And in cases where Bob can manage all three, even better.
Grace Church, you’ve been played. But future churches with the foresight to look for the warning signs can take action early on to keep Bob from manipulating them. Look for Bob’s “tells.”
Forewarned is forearmed!
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
As the final days of the 2019 pledge season wind down and the Grace Church vestry determines next year’s budget, it’s important to reflect on the values that Bob Malm brings to the church. Specifically, the lessons he teaches people about “respecting the dignity of every human being.” Or not.
Readers may recall the comments of one long-time parish employee, who noted the unhealthy way that people at Grace church talk to each other, and about each other, and Bob’s role in this paradigm.
Consider, for example, Alison Campbell’s fun and games with the altar guild during the time Bob Malm was out on disability, which involved stirring up the altar guild to try to cause problems for me, all while claiming that she was “just the messenger.” Leaving aside the disingenuous aspects of her actions, Alison undoubtedly felt justified due to my conflict with Kelly Gable. But in this, she overlooked both the fact that Kelly and I had resolved our differences, and the fact that it was not her place to get involved. Moreover, she ignored that fact that she never really understood that conflict in the first place, the spiritual aspects of her conduct, and the fact that her conduct has been profoundly damaging to the church.
And so it is with others, including Lisa Medley and her childish antics.
At the same time, Bob Malm has played a major role in these problems. For example, he saw no irony in saying to me, “There are people who have it in for you,” apropos issues with the altar guild. Of course, that aligns with Bob’s notion that people should solve their own differences—an odd idea when it comes to harassment, bullying, and other abusive conduct.
Of course, Bob also likes to stir the pot, and by doing so sets a bad example. For instance, I have personally heard him refer to Jan Spence as an “asshole.” Lisa Doelp he has referred to as, “like a little spy, always trying to find out stuff.” And the list goes on, including Peter and Cheryl Barnes and others, often postured as Bob taking you into his confidence. And folks, if you think you’re not included, I suggest you look up the word “delusional.”
It’s interesting too. Bob says that people should solve their own problems one-on-one, yet look at the many emails he has sent to diocesan officials, including Pat Wingo and Bishop Shannon; as well as to the Alexandria police department; and to Patti Culbreth, the head of school. And let’s not forget his messages to my friend Dee Parsons, and his use of Sugarland Chiow in court. All of these are replete with manipulative language, as well as references to me as “sick,” “twisted,” and “dysfunctional.” But the one person Bob has never contacted directly in an effort to resolve this conflict is me. Nor has he ever contacted my Mom. Nor has he contacted Mike, except as part of our now-abandoned agreement to end our conflict.
Healer, heal thyself.
Bob no doubt will read this and start his usual fun and games with Sugarland Chiow about defamation. But these issues are well documented, and parishioners can name many more incidents in which Bob has behaved badly. This includes his statement, allegedly made to Phil Smith and others as well as to me, about the former office staff, in which he said multiple times, “Don’t worry about it. They’ll be retiring this year.” Needless to say., many years came and passed, with no retirements. Where but a church can an employee like Bob lie to board members about important HR issues and keep his job? That’s right—nowhere.
By now, you’ve probably concluded that I believe Bob Malm to be toxic. If so, you’re correct.
The larger question, though, is how much longer the church is going to pony up roughly $200K a year for this sort of conduct.
If it doesn’t take action, I believe there will soon come a time where they will no longer be a Grace Episcopal Church, as it will have disappeared while wallowing in its own hypocritical filth.
“Thy own words shall impeach thee.” Sound familiar?