Monday, January 14, 2013

Allegations of Financial Impropriety

by Fr Kelley at St Mary of the Angels are ongoing. One feature of these allegations is how frequently they morph. During the short period I acted as interim treasurer at the parish in 2011, I got to know something about the finances and what was and wasn't going on: in general, the parish was in the black, and its expenditures were reasonable, considering the age of the building (1930) and its state of deferred maintenance.

The bank which is the tenant of the parcel the parish owns determined in early 2011 that it hadn't been paying enough rent (I'm not kidding). They cut the parish a check for roughly $70,000 to make up the difference. The vestry decided that this money would be applied to refurbish the building exterior, renewing stucco, roofing, paint, and rain gutters. The money was put into a CD until payment would be required. The work was put out for bid during summer 2011, and the contractors made the renovations during the fall. There were no irregularities in this process, and the work was definitely needed, since there had been a major roof leak the prior winter. The budget for the renovations came out very, very close to the amount of the CD, and there were no overruns.

I was interim treasurer at the time the work was done and the bills came due. I pointed out to Fr Kelley and the wardens the need to cash the CD. This was done; Fr Kelley accompanied the authorized signers to the bank, we got a cashier's check for the CD, carried the check over to the bank where the parish had its main business account, made the deposit, and started writing checks to the contractors. The project was, in fact, very well managed; the only glitches I'm aware of were the disturbance in the neighborhood caused by the noise and dust from sandblasting the old stucco, which was unfortunately unavoidable, as well as a penalty payment to the parish's rubbish disposal company for excess weight due to the sandblasting residue. Stuff happens, otherwise, the whole thing went well and was completely on the up-and-up.

Fr Kelley was never an authorized signer for any parish account other than the rector's discretionary fund. This is typical of church finance generally. The normal parish accounts require two authorized signatures on any check. Fr Kelley accompanied the authorized signers in picking up the cashier's check for the CD and depositing it in the business checking account simply out of normal conscientiousness -- this was a big sum for an important project.

One of the early allegations against Fr Kelley on the financial side was that he "stole" $70,000 from a parish CD. I can only assume this referred to the CD dedicated to the building renovation from the bank's rent payment -- there were no other CDs in this amount.

When these allegations first surfaced in mid-2012, I e-mailed ACA Presiding Bishop Marsh outlining the circumstances above, indicating that the money had been budgeted by the vestry, all expenditures were in accordance with the budget, Fr Kelley was not an authorized signer on the accounts, and no money from the renovations had gone to him. Since I had been the parish's interim treasurer at the time, I offered to answer any other questions he might have or provide any other substantiation or clarification he might need to resolve this issue. Marsh never replied.

I also discussed the renovation project and my role as interim treasurer in writing the checks with the parish's outside auditor in early 2012. The auditor never found any issues relating to the project.

However, one of the allegations against Kelley in the ACA kangaroo proceedings against him in fall 2012 had morphed into the idea that he'd "tried to" open an account to deposit the $70,000, presumably for his own use. Although there was absolutely no evidence that he'd "tried to" do any such thing, and there were two witnesses to what had actually occurred (the routine transfer of a cashier's check from one bank to deposit in the parish's normal business account in another for an authorized use), Fr Kelley was "convicted" (or whatever the actual word is) on this spurious allegation by the ACA.