Discplinary hearing date set for June 20 for LA bishop
A hearing date of 20 June 2016 has been set for the Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, to answer charges of misconduct brought by St James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, California. On 6 July 2015 members of the Orange County congregation filed a complaint under Title IV alleging “140 canon violations” by their bishop including: “negligent, grossly negligent, reckless or intentional misrepresentation”, “conduct unbecoming” a bishop, and unlawful sale or conversion of consecrated property. On 13 Oct 2013 St James the Great was relaunched by Bishop Bruno after a nine year lawsuit with former members of the congregation who had left the diocese for what is now the Anglican Church in North America. Following a successful outcome in court, the diocese regained control of the property and installed a new vicar, Canon Cindy Voorhees. Bishop Bruno is alleged to have urged the congregation to support financially St James the Great “on the implied basis that the congregation could continue on its current basis and in its existing church property,” the complaint stated. However, the complaint alleges that while the bishop had charged Canon Voorhees and the faithful remnant to rebuild the congregation the bishop was secretly negotiating to sell the oceanside property to recoup financial losses he had incurred. On 17 May 2015 the bishop told the congregation, which was now financially self-supporting and experiencing strong growth, he “had entered into an agreement to sell the building to a real estate developer,” for $15 million, even though the property was valued at $24 million. While the complaint did not suggest the bishop received a kickback for selling the property at half its market value, the complaint alleges the bishop needed a quick infusion of cash to finance two other property transactions. It also raised questions of fiduciary misconduct by giving insiders the opportunity to sell the property rather than advertise it or offer it at market value. When asked to account for the proceeds of the sale, Bishop Bruno allegedly told members of the congregation “I don’t have a fiduciary responsibility to you!” In a statement released last week, the congregation, which has been locked out of its church for almost a year, reported the sale agreement entered into by the bishop and the developer had expired and there was now no binding agreement to dispose of the property.