Saturday, 26 February 2011

Judgment in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports Armstrong sentenced to probation, $99,247 restitution.

A judge Friday sentenced the Rev. Donald Armstrong to four years probation for his no-contest plea to one count of misdemeanor theft of funds from the Colorado Springs church where he once served as rector.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Gregory R. Werner also ordered Armstrong to pay restitution in the amount of $99,247 that was diverted to pay for his son’s and daughter’s college education. The money came from a trust fund originally set up to pay for the education of seminary students…

And the Colorado Springs Independent has Armstrong avoids jail time, must pay $99,247 in restitution.

The Rev. Don Armstrong won’t have to serve any jail time for misusing funds while he was rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

That ruling came Friday afternoon from 4th Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner, who upheld an earlier plea agreement that gives Armstrong two concurrent four-year probation terms for no-contest pleas involving his stewardship of a Grace scholarship fund called the Bowton Trust.

Werner did order Armstrong to pay $99,247 in restitution to Grace for money that went from the Bowton Trust to pay for his children’s college-related expenses. Werner singled out those funds because, he said, Armstrong had fiduciary responsibility over the trust as Grace’s rector.

The judge also ordered that, during his probation, Armstrong will have to do 400 hours of community service outside his current church, St. George’s Anglican Church. The 61-year-old rector also must disclose all of his current finances and is prohibited from managing the finances of any church or group in a fiduciary role…

An earlier and very long article in the Independent Judgment day for the Rev. Armstrong reviewed the whole background to this case in considerable detail. Worth reading. It also reports that:

The 61-year-old is as comfortable as ever in pushing his conservative theology from the pulpit, as in his sermon Feb. 6 when Armstrong chastised the daughters of George W. Bush and John McCain for “speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage,” adding, “how quickly we should see it as human-centered thinking, not God’s teaching.”

Armstrong remains a priest in good standing in CANA, under Bishop Martyn Minns, which is part of either ACNA, or part of CoN (Anglican Communion) or possibly both.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 10:08am GMT | TrackBack
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Curious indication of CANA's approach to sin that Armstrong is still a priest in good standing, while Marshall Brown, for ten years a priest at Truro Church, Virginia, was fired in January for viewing pornography on a church computer. http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/302405

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 12:35pm GMT

Mr. Armstrong was prosecuted for something that goes on frequently in many parishes - scholarships for clergy children. I was a rector in the US for over 30 years so saw similar situations. I have not heard of others being so prosecuted. This was IMHO a politically motivated prosecution. Whether one is on one side or other of the Church dispute that is at the heart of this situation Mr. Armstrong's situation was a result of some kind of earlier "agreement." The parties fell out! This does NOT in any way justify the practice of scholarships to clergy children as a way for vestries to give "under the counter" benefits. It is my belief that this practice must stop wherever it is being practices.

Meanwhile the Judge's wisdom seems to be clear in the way this was dealt with. He understood both the collusion of priest and vestry as well as the politics of the situation. Mr. Armstrong is now punished, the congregations are even more at loggerheads and the Church is not edified.

Posted by: Ian Montgomery on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 1:39pm GMT

One does wonder about the seminarians who did NOT get the funding that would have gone to them if this incident had not occurred......

Posted by: ettu on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 1:56pm GMT

One of the reason's that Fr Armstrong was prosecuted Ian, was that a substantial proportion of the money for the scholarships for his kids was paid from a private endowment, the Bowton Trust. which is earmarked specifically and solely for the education for the priesthood of needy, male, ordinands. I believe I am correct in saying that none of the income generated by the endowment was used for its intended purpose during his incumbency. Are you telling us that this is "something that goes on frequently in many parishes"?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 2:47pm GMT

Monsieur Lapin, we all know that the fundamentalist, oops, orthodox approach to sin is that it must somehow have something to do with sex to really count as sin.

Posted by: JPM on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 3:16pm GMT

Judgement in Colorado Springs! Sounds like a good old western.

No cavalry to the rescue, but the Anglican Church in Nigeria!

Posted by: robert ian williams on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 5:24pm GMT

No penitence from Armstrong or Ian Montgomery (above) it would appear.

I am appalled.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 6:13pm GMT

One does wonder about the seminarians who did NOT get the funding that would have gone to them if this incident had not occurred......

Posted by: ettu on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 1:56pm GMT

oh forget them ! -- Armstrong and CANA have

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 6:14pm GMT

Ian said: "something that goes on frequently in many parishes - scholarships for clergy children."

I hope the practice in this particular parish is not common - as the purpose in paying for his children's education was to pad the Rev. Mr Armstrong's salary while skirting the IRS. I would hope very few parish's would engage in this type of corruption. Most diocese require at least some basic form of audit for parishes - which should catch this type of illegal activity.

Tax evasion is, ultimately, the only crime of which Al Capone was ever convicted - that is the company Mr Armstrong now keeps...

Posted by: scott on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 7:33pm GMT

"Mr. Armstrong was prosecuted for something that goes on frequently in many parishes"
Perhaps this is so although I have never seen it done and I have a certain degree of insight into at least the USA side of this - is it OK in different countries?
In any event I would reiterate that this was not a victimless crime that was just a "wink and a nod" arrangement between the vestry and the rector.- rather it actually did take support away from those for whom it had been intended - seminarians - and for that reason it's degree of injury to others should not be underestimated or "swept under the rug"!

Posted by: ettu on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 9:09pm GMT

We've met the ACNA/Nigeria dodge before:
Algernon. By the way, did you tell Gwendolen the truth about your being Ernest in town, and Jack in the country?
Jack. [In a very patronising manner.] My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!

Posted by: Steve Lusk on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 12:57am GMT

Ian,

Mr. Armstrong was not prosecuted for something that goes on frequently in many parishes - scholarships for clergy children.

He was prosecuted for plundering a scholarship fund for seminarians, to pay for his children's education instead.

His children were not seminarians, either.

Mr. Armstrong is a thief, and got off quite remarkably lightly for his theft.

Posted by: Roger on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 3:57am GMT

Mr. L Roberts writes: "No penitence from Armstrong or Ian Montgomery (above) it would appear. I am appalled."

I think you have misread my comment. I believe that the Judge made a correct sentence. More so I wish that the practice (under the counter benefits) stop wherever it is found. This is tax evasion. It should have been caught by an audit. I have found that the requirements to audit are less than scrupulously observed in too many parishes. I had a treasurer resign once rather than face the audit that I insisted upon when arriving at a new congregation. They had not performed one in several years!

Indeed the money should have gone to the specific purpose of the trust fund. Again I believe that the churches should be exactingly careful to follow such trust fund intentions. The use of trust funds should also be subject to audit as to conformity with their stated purpose. That seems incidentally to be needed at the highest level of TEC.

Meanwhile I still believe that Mr. Armstrong's prosecution to have had strong political motivation since he was singled out and no similar inquiry made elsewhere in Colorado - to my knowledge.

I further plead for complete transparency and accountability is all the financial affairs of congregations, dioceses and Provinces of the AC. Sadly I am not holding my breath.

Posted by: Ian Montgomery on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 11:49am GMT

I feel deeply sorry for Mr Armstrong.

I also feel deeply for both church groups

Strong leadership is often a double edged sword, they all deserve our prayers.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 7:54pm GMT

On the facts. The Bowton scholarships were available to all male Coloradans studying for the Episcopal priesthood. In the US to satisfy conditions for a tax exempt benefit, the scolarship must be open to a class of people and any recipient must have had no part in the decision regarding receipt. In Armstrong's case,he was the prime beneficiary, was a major decision maker, and neither of his children were elligible. He is going to have major problems with the IRS. On how the misuse was identified...a banker trustee started asking questions. Interesting, in documents I
read eary on, Armstrong wanted to control the "Network (now ACNA)" funds. +Duncan wanted them controlled out of Pittsburgh. There could be many reasons for this, +Duncan would have known that the ACI was being bankrolled by Armstrong and had questions. He may simply have wanted financial controll or he may have concerns about Armstrong but, from ACNA's point of view, it seems that keeping clear of Armstrong was a good idea. It will be interesting to see what +Minns of CANA does. Alford plea or not, what Armstrong did is illegal and he will have issues of restitution. One hopes that there will be funds remaining for Grace's 99,000 and civil suit? after the IRS gets done with him.

Posted by: EmilyH on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 2:11pm GMT

Amazing isn't it -- out of all the detailed accountings in this Co Sprgs affair, ACI is mentioned not once. Was that because the police, prosecutors, Diocese just didn't look hard enough?

Posted by: odd on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 6:39pm GMT

On the ACI and the police. To be fair, yes the police did look. There was confusion The Anglican Institute (AI) was receiving some funding with, I believe the permission of the Bishop and was providing an educational lecture series and conferences, at least two. Somehow that morphed into the Anglican Communion Institute. Precisely how and when, and what accounts were used to fund it I, and I expect the district attorney, do not know. Its members, Seitz, Turner and Radner denied that they received any compensation for their work, but, as I recall Armstrong was stating that, in one year, they were funded at $70,000...This could include their travel expenses. ACI had a very prestigious board..when and if it ever met (like the Bowton scholarship trustees during Armstrong's tenure) is questionable. These "3 guys with a website" certainly moved, immediately, to get as far away from Armstrong as they could when the scandal broke. It is sad that they didn't seem to ask the pertinent questions of their friend and financier earlier. Also, during this time, The John Jay Institute was being run out of Grace with brand new state of the art classrooms. This is a right wing nursery (recently moved to Philadelphia), for the religious education of young politicians and lawyers. it was founded by the same person, Alan Crippen, who founded the Witherspoon scholarship program for the Dobson (Focus on the Family) group. Grace took out a huge loan, without the required permission of the bishop, in this time frame. I wondered if the loan was to create the "state of the art" classrooms being used by John Jay. The IRS had come after Dobson for issues regarding misuse of tax exempt status for political purposes. John Jay was receiving free rent at Grace. If, and I am only conjecturing here, Grace was using its tax free status to provide this service to John Jay, during this time, I wondered if Armstrong was compromising its tax-free status. No surprise, he was on its board.

Posted by: EmilyH on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 12:44pm GMT

ACI doesn't amount to anything '3 guys with computers'; yet it has a prestigious board and so must have had expenses. Don Armstrong 'bankrolled it.' 'I and the District Attorney' don't know all the details.

You make it sound like you work for/alongside the District Attorney, know what or what was not asked by the numerous investigators in this affair. They did their very thorough work and the fact is: in not one detail was ACI named, either as beneficiary or as culpable.

Might as well keep this on topic.

Posted by: odd on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 1:53pm GMT

EmilyH has kept close, well-informed tabs on the Armstrong case for several years now, odd. Doubt if any poster on this topic, here or elsewhere, is better informed than she. Nice of you to try to spin this to ACI's advantage, but ACI's relationship to Armstrong is very much on-topic. A "Caesar's wife" thing, as I have said before. As Emily indicates, there was some pretty fast foot-work (squid ink in its wake) on the part of ACI's members when the Armstrong business came unstuck.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 6:05pm GMT

"Man (Mr.Armstrong) cannot serve two masters". Is it to be 'Mammon' or God ?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 11:53pm GMT

The FBI interviewed the leadership of ACI, extensively, now probably three years ago. They were satisfied and we were never approached again. ACI was not even mentioned in any of the detailed accounts.

I suppose we are to believe the innuendos of Emily and Rabbit are probative, but not the FBI.

The leadership of ACI from this period was unpaid and drew no stipends of any kind. No money came inappropriately to it. The FBI determined this as well.

This case is closed. It never involved ACI.

Posted by: seitz on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 12:07am GMT

Actually, in my memory, there was a great deal of discussion of ACI, more importantly AI and how the two related. I am going back some time here. My memory is that it was in specific regard to how accounts were related and how checks were being drawn. Frankly, I got lost here although I tried to follow it as closely as I could. In no way am I suggesting that Seitz Radner or Turner had any knowledge of or complicity in Armstrong's financial doings and hands-on knowledge of his financing of ACI. Mr. Seitz's revelation on the FBI's involvement was news to me since their jurisdiction is limited to intrastate issues, crime on a federal property and some international concerns, why it got involved and questioned ACI,...it's international board, a money trail involving many states or out of the country? No idea. Armstrong ACI was funded at $70,000 in one year. Seitz, Radner and Turner, (aside for travel? What were those expenses?) say they didn't get any...so, if Armstrong was telling the truth (if?) where did the money go? If it was going overseas, then I would expect that the FBI might want to follow?? Why am I so interested, actually, it has little to do with the religious questions involved. It has to do with the damage done to the giving community by the few bad apples who violate their trust. In the US, charities, and churches, receive a tax exempt status based on trust. When an Armstrong violates that trust, he jeopardizes both the charity's IRS 501c3(6) etc status and the trust of the giving community.

Posted by: EmilyH on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 1:39pm GMT

"It has to do with the damage done to the giving community by the few bad apples who violate their trust. In the US, charities, and churches, receive a tax exempt status based on trust. When an Armstrong violates that trust, he jeopardizes both the charity's IRS 501c3(6) etc status and the trust of the giving community."

Fine. Then focus on that. Armstrong misused a trust for his children. He accepted a Alford plea. He is on probation for 4 years and must pay the trust funds back. None of this has anything to do with ACI. ACI had no knowledge of the Bowton Trust, which was a Grace and St Stephens affair.

Posted by: seitz on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 3:57pm GMT

Useful stuff on ACI, Grace Church & Armstrong at this 2007 post by Sarah Dylan Breuer (Breuer is now a member of TEC's Executive council) -
http://www.sarahlaughed.net/anglicana/2007/04/when_is_an_inst.html - and at this 2008 Preludium thread - http://anglicanfuture.blogspot.com/2008/04/anglican-communion-institute-and.html, where Dr Seitz claims a surprising ignorance of the recent history of the organization that he heads ("That Bishop Salmon was the 'head' of AI is news to me. I know nothing about AI").

Where a body claims the moral high ground as forcefully and frequently as ACI does, it's a "Caesar's wife" matter, not a "never indicted" one.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 4:19pm GMT

Mr. Seitz, you allowed Mr. Armstrong to portray your organization as something much grander than it was (it was you comment about the 3 guys I think now 6) and a website) than it was. You allowed him to acquire funds in your name and, if, as you contend, you had no knowledge of his financial (and your organization's) financial affairs, who was providing oversight? Since many on the board were overseas, was there anyone domestically providing oversight? Also, your contention that the FBI saw no concern with the AI/ACI may well be true. The activities in which Armstrong engaged in the AI/ACI's name may not have been in its jurisdiction.

Posted by: EmilyH on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 6:14pm GMT

1. If you want to know what ACI is, who is involved, simply visit anglicancommunioninstitute.com;
2. you say Fr Armstrong made ACI out to be grander than it is/was -- that is news to me; I am content with ACI's 'grandeur' and its mission; I'll let others decide if it is 'grand' as I suspect that has to do with party strife/predilection;
3. Grace Church provided oversight of Fr Armstrong and his check-signing/auditing; for portions of that, he has been held accountable by a court; nothing of that had anything to do with ACI;
4. it is not my contention that the federal investigators found 'no concern' -- it is a fact established by their judgments made to us directly; and also by the outcome of the trial/proceedings, which say not a word about ACI.
5. your final sentence is Nancy Drew investigation via a blog. Simply direct your questions to them yourself.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 1:30am GMT

Again, I state that the concern registered by the federal investigators, given their jurisdiction, may well have been proscribed. ACI's involvement in this mess was most probably Armstrong using its account to obscure his money trail. But, until 2007, there is no evidence that ACI (an educational organization not a church) filed tax returns, disclosed financial information etc. Although it was portrayed on its website as something quite prestigious, its board did not appear to meet. Its then key members, Seitz Radner and Turner had left to Armstrong all responsibility for its funding, its board and digital image. Within just a few days of the exposure, you had abandoned Armstrong and were operating out of Texas. I applaud you for your efforts to rectify things with the IRS. You are now a legitimate charity. Your tax returns (at this point only 2009), are now readily available. It is too bad that these steps were taken so late. The consequences of failure to monitor the financial picture, (not addressed in your above answer for ACI)can really prove instructive to all not-for-profits, particulalry those that are operating under the umbrella of a "church" ---not required to file informational tax returns. The information contained in those returns like, for example, overhead for ERD, or your compensation as President of ACI (10 hrs/week,$37,750 plus benefit package $11,387) might raise eyebrows but people can make choices about how, and where their monies are expended. FYI, like it or dislike it, the American Anglican Council puts out a really transparent return. My kudos to them.

Posted by: EmilyH on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 12:58pm GMT

I repeat, "Caesar's wife", Dr Seitz. The precipitate, near unchristian speed with which you deserted the ship of your former benefactor, proclaiming yourselves just "four [Or was it three? Or maybe six?] men with a website" indicates, to me at any rate, strong awareness on your part of the adage "bad company is a disease, who lies with dogs shall rise with fleas". Re-framing and "Nancy Drew" smears do not alter the past.

The link I posted yesterday to Preludium was corrupted by the inclusion of a terminal comma. It should read http://anglicanfuture.blogspot.com/2008/04/anglican-communion-institute-and.html

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 2:19pm GMT

ACI filed no tax returns because it drew no salaries.

How being prestigious entails lots of money flowing is your own perception of reality.

ACI did the work it did in the period in question and did not need to be tax-exempt or not-for-profit because no income was being drawn. We all had full time jobs and did this work from conviction and as an extension of our working relationship with leaders in the Communion.

We rectified nothing with the IRS as there was nothing to rectify.

When I moved to TX, we returned to the not-for-profit status we had at SEAD. Prior to that, I was living in the UK.

I suspect it is irritating to learn that ACI has actually been a labour of love and conviction, and so no money was required for the hours put in by its main contributors.

grace and peace--

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 2:46pm GMT

"Again, I state that the concern registered by the federal investigators, given their jurisdiction, may well have been proscribed."

I can assure you that the questions posed by federal prosecutors touched on every aspect of this. Nothing was proscribed in the manner you intimate. They were very thorough and very competent. I prefer their judgments to your second-guessing.

"ACI's involvement in this mess was most probably Armstrong using its account to obscure his money trail."

That is simply a lie. Armstrong was sentenced for misusing a Trust Fund. ACI was not used to shield or obscure anything. Call the Bishop and ask him. Ask the federal prosecutors.

This is simply harrassment on a blog.

And, one suspects it will never cease, that being what it is.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 4:06pm GMT

"....being prestigious." The Humility.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 12:47am GMT

Dr. Seitz... The requirement to file a 990 tax return has nothing to do with whether or not you were paid salaries. It has to do with the size of your revenue, your status as a church or an auxiliary organization and whether or not you claim the benefit of tax exempt status for your donors. I assert that ACI can not claim that it had nothing to do with the events involved. Armstrong was ACI. He was your executive director. He was your agent and acting as such. ACI, it's board, was responsible for his actions. The fact that there was no effective oversight I posit is an officer/board issue. I don't know what measures your current board has implemented to provide oversight. My experience is that your salary is considerably higher than most not for-profit executives I know for a quarter time job but that is an issue for your donors and board.

Posted by: EmilyH on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:46pm GMT

I know you 'assert' this. You are wrong. Don Armstrong was sentenced for matters that did not involve ACI. He was not an 'agent' for ACI in anything he was charged with or sentenced for.

These are facts.

As the saying goes, 'You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.'

Now I will return to my high-salary job.

grace and peace--

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 5:53pm GMT
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