Diocesan Leadership on the Lawsuit Against the Bishop and Diocese

Diocesan Leadership on the Lawsuit Against the Bishop and Diocese

The following statement was originally delivered at the 129th Convention of the Diocese of Oregon and the livestreamed video may be viewed on our Facebook page.

Bishop Michael Hanley

My Friends, I come before you today saddened by the lawsuit filed the other day by a former member of the diocesan staff against the diocese and me personally.

The Episcopal Church takes these matters seriously and these allegations, which first surfaced in 2015, have been investigated throughly by several bodies. These allegations are false. Please know that I have participated fully in all of the proceedings.

The goal of all clergy Title IV proceedings is reconciliation and I continue to hope and to pray for such an outcome.

I now invite the Rev. David Sweeney, Ms. Sharon Rodgers and Mr. Rick Grimshaw to provide further comment.

David Sweeney

Good Morning. I’m David Sweeney, President of the Standing Committee. In news reports about the matter the Bishop referred to, allegations against him by a priest of the diocese were referenced.

The allegations were brought forward in spring of 2015 against the Bishop by a priest of the diocese and were referred to Bishop Clay Matthews. The Standing Committee listened carefully and took these charges seriously. They were formally investigated through the Episcopal church Title IV process. The determination of the resulting Bishop’s panel was “No action taken except for pastoral response.” The original Title IV process was pursued during the tenure of Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.

The decision of the Bishop’s panel, which included the Presiding Bishop, was appealed and reopened during the tenure of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The outcome of the appeal of the Title IV process was again, “No action taken apart from pastoral reconciliation.”

To date no reconciliation meeting has taken place despite efforts to schedule it.

Sharon Rodgers

Good morning. I’m Sharon Rodgers, a member of the Board of EBOF, the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon Foundation.  Ours is a seven member board made up of the bishop,  two priests, a deacon and three lay members who all have equal voice and vote.  For a period of years beginning prior to Bishop Michael’s election and consecration as our bishop, and continuing after his consecration, the proper forms were not filed by the diocesan finance officer to maintain the non-profit status of the foundation.  In spite of repeated requests to address this problem it continued uncorrected until after our current controller was hired.  With the help of work done by interim staff, Tong Lee succeeded a few months ago in restoring EBOF’s  non-profit status.

During the same period of time that the restoration of the tax-exempt status was being sought, the EBOF board engaged outside legal counsel to clarify whether or not the significant portion of the EBOF funds donated by a Mrs. Wheeler many years ago for the use of the chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital could be used for purposes unrelated to the hospital.  It was the finding of the outside firm that the Wheeler funds are unrestricted.  In addition, Bishop Michael met with a member of the Wheeler family about the use of the foundation funds and was assured that they supported using the funds to support the ministry of the diocese.

Only after the legal opinion had been rendered did the board begin the process of seeking applications from and making grants to congregations and other ministry bodies in the diocese.  The amount of money allocated each year by the board is in keeping with the by-laws of the foundation, and follows a typical non-profit model of using only a portion of the interest earned, never touching the principal.

The assets in the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon Foundation are part of the Diocesan Investment Fund which are managed by the Board of Trustees.  The EBOF board takes very seriously our responsibility to share the donated funds in the foundation in a way that enhances the ministries being lived out by the congregations of this diocese.

Rick Grimshaw

Good morning. I’m Rick Grimshaw, Vice President of the diocesan Board of Trustees. I’m here to provide the facts regarding the allegations of the former diocesan Chief Financial Officer from the Board’s perspective.

We will not comment on confidential personnel matters, or the circumstances of the employee’s leaving the diocese.

We can report that, for over three years, the Board of Trustees was frustrated when we repeatedly did not receive timely and accurate financial reports, hindering us in performing our fiduciary duties to the diocese. The Board commissioned an audit by an outside accounting firm to help resolve this problem. Based on their recommendations, the Finance Office of the diocese was reorganized, and a new staff position of Controller was established. Outside consultants were hired to assist. They guided the new Controller, staff and diocesan Treasurer for many months, enabling the diocese to catch up, successfully completing several years of audited financial statements. These financial statements and audits were completed using the services of a separate outside accounting firm, which used generally accepted accounting practices. Recommendations made by the outside accounting firm have been implemented.

The former Finance Officer also filed multiple claims with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. You have heard from the head of the Standing Committee about the matters resolved under Title IV. As soon as the employee’s claims were made known, Bishop Michael recused himself from all deliberations of the Board of Trustees and the Standing Committee concerning these matters, plus the ongoing supervision of the former Finance Officer. Both governing bodies retained outside attorneys, and met often in Executive Session, without the Bishop or staff, to supervise and guide these multiple efforts.  The various complaints made to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries were fully investigated, deliberated upon and dismissed in recent months.

David Sweeney, Sharon Rodgers and myself, representing two of the governing bodies of the diocese and the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon Foundation, are happy to answer any questions delegates may have informally as the weekend progresses, as we are able.

We thank you for the opportunity to share our perspective.