Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Summary Judgment of Donald Armstrong

For those who may not be familiar with this Colorado cleric, here's a brief review:

Don Armstrong was the former rector of Grace Church, Colorado Springs. He was also the former Executive Director of the Anglican Communion Institute, of which Ephraim Radner is a prominent contributor. Armstrong was inhibited by his bishop last December for alleged financial irregularities. Last March, Armstrong and the leadership of Grace and St. Stephens decided to leave TEC and jump to the Church of Nigeria. This jump to CANA was made the very same day that the charges in the presentment against Armstrong for misuse of funds were revealed by the diocese.

At the time, Armstrong's initial response to this first glimpse of the nature of the charges against him was to basically claim that they were much ado about nothing.

Tuesday, evidence was presented against Armstrong at an Ecclesiastical Court in the Diocese of Colorado. Neither Armstrong or his attorney were present. Armstrong claims that since he is now part of CANA, no Episcopal diocese has authority over him.

The Motion for Summary Judgment is quite revealing. A caution regarding this 20 page document. It was originally in pdf, and I simply could not get it hosted properly. I think it has to do with the Microsoft v. Adobe war, personally. For whatever reason, it was very unstable. So, I made it into a Word document. It is still somewhat unstable, and the formatting is not exactly the same as the original. But the content is a verbatim transcription of the original motion.

If you can open the document, here's just a taste of what you will find. In what follows, "Ms. Betzer" is a reference to Sheri Betzer, who was engaged by the Diocese of Colorado to investigate the allegations. Ms. Betzer is a forensic accountant, CPA Certified Fraud Examiner and former IRS agent:

.... In about March 2003, after Fr. Armstrong’s conversation with Ms. Ressler, payments for the educational expenses of Fr. Armstrong’s children ceased being booked as a Bowton Trust expense. A3. Bookkeeper Alice Snere recalls that Fr. Armstrong instructed her in March 2003 to stop booking these expenses to Bowton and to book them to Anglican Institute or ACI as outreach expenses. A318. He instructed her to transfer enough funds from Grace Church’s operating account to ACI’s operating account to cover the monthly payments for the children’s tuition and Jessie Armstrong’s car lease. Id. He told Ms. Snere that ACI would in the future be receiving Bowton Trust income and directed her to book the education related payments against anticipated Bowton Trust income...

...At the November 2006 vestry meeting, many months after Ms. Betzer had obtained Grace Church's books of accounts, Fr. Armstrong proposed that ACI repay one or more loans totaling $170,000 that Grace Church had extended to ACI. A36; A286; A308; A70. No interest would be charged. A286. The vestry subsequently approved this proposal, although Fr. Armstrong provided no details or documentation for the loans to ACI. A36; A286; A308; A70. Dr. Timothy Fuller, who at the time was a vestry member and member of ACI’s board of directors, is aware of no loans extended to ACI by Grace Church. A36-37. Ms. Betzer estimates that $170,000 is approximately the amount of money that, since 1998, Grace Church disbursed to pay Fr. Armstrong’s children’s purported education expenses and that was booked either as an ACI outreach expense or as a receivable from ACI. A5.

62. Grace Church provided to Ms. Betzer a copy of its “2005 Annual Parish Report”, which reported on the annual parish meeting that took place on January 29, 2006 - before Ms Betzer’s first visit to Grace Church. A5. A copy of the report is reproduced at AI4-A20. On the last page of the report, Grace Church’s management provided to the parishioners a “2005 Outreach Report” itemizing the 2005 sources of funds for outreach (which it listed as “Receipts”) and the spending of funds (which it listed as “Disbursements”). A5; A20. Specifically, it stated that Grace Church disbursed “$40,116.00” for “Anglican Communion Institute.” A5; A20. That amount is the product of 12 months times $3,343, or the monthly payments Grace Church made to “Donald Armstrong - College Fund” during the 12 months of 2005 and booked to ACI outreach. A5; AlO; A12; A13. The QuickBooks data for 2005 show no disbursements to ACI for the entire year...
One wonders if the declaration that the ACI has "dissolved" their relationship with Don really gives them enough cover? The organization comes up quite often in this story.

One would also hope that Bp. Minns has been given a copy of this motion. After all, Don is under his wing, now. This is cause for the IRS to start taking an interest in any organization foolhardy enough to shelter this rascal.

J.

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