What the bookkeeper saw

Monday he was praised as a “great leader” by The Right Rev. Bob Duncan, Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network. Tuesday an Ecclesiastical Court in the Diocese of Colorado met for an evidentiary hearing regarding allegations of financial misconduct against him. The Rev. Don Armstrong chose not to attend the hearing. He left the Episcopal Church with a portion of his congregation and joined with CANA in March. The Grace and St. Stephens property remains occupied by Armstrong and his followers.

As reported by The Denver Post,

The Episcopal diocese’s five-member court, led by the Rev. Peter Munson, ruled that it still has authority over Armstrong because he has made no formal renunciation of his Episcopal priesthood. Church attorneys have asked that the court remove Armstrong from his office and order him to pay restitution of more than $610,000.

The court will probably issue a written decision late this week, diocese spokeswoman Beckett Stokes said.

The diocese is seeking to resolve the matter internally before considering civil or criminal action, Stokes said.

Armstrong faces five counts related to financial wrongdoings, including fraud and tax evasion, over a 10-year period beginning in 1997.

Read it all here.

The five members of the court (3 clergy, 2 lay) are elected at Diocesan Convention and operate independently of the Bishop of Colorado.

According to the Rocky Mountain News,

The whistle-blower who entangled the Rev. Don Armstrong in allegations of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in church money was the parish bookkeeper, an attorney said Tuesday.

Hopkins, bookkeeper from 1997 to 2001, said in a written statement that Armstrong instructed that his two children’s educational expenses be paid with money from the funds and trust. Armstrong has said those expenses were OK’d by church authorities.

According to the diocese’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Armstrong gave detailed instructions on how payments and money transfers were to be posted in the church’s books, and no one but Armstrong was allowed to open incoming mail. Armstrong would prepare the financial reports for the vestry and these did not correspond to the bookkeeper’s data. He did not explain to the bookkeeper how arrived at his numbers.

More from the Colorado Springs Gazette:

What the pastor missed was the testimony of two witnesses, one of whom spelled out how Armstrong diverted money from parish accounts to pay for the college education of his son and daughter, as well as for things such as cell phones and car repairs. The other witness testified that a trust fund from which Armstrong took the college money could not legally have been used for such a purpose.

Hal Haddon and Ty Gee, serving as attorneys for the standing committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, asked the court to recommend the maximum sentence and revoke Armstrong’s standing as an ordained Episcopal minister.

Haddon said he believes the IRS has opened a criminal investigation into the matter. An IRS spokeswoman said that she could not comment, and Armstrong spokesman Alan Crippen said that no one from the federal agency had contacted Armstrong.

Haddon then played the video deposition of Karl Ross, a Colorado Springs attorney who set up the Bowton Trust and has served since its inception on the board that distributes the scholarship money. Trust bylaws strictly forbid the money from going to anyone, such as Armstrong’s kids, who are studying subjects outside the ministry, and they also forbid the church from using the money at its whim without approval of the trust board, as it appears to have done, Ross said.

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