Bruno admits attempting secret sale of St James Newport Beach

 

Bruno admits attempting secret sale of St James Newport Beach

Author: 

George Conger

An attorney representing the Bishop of Los Angeles before a church hearing panel investigating him for misconduct, has conceded the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno had entered into an agreement to sell the rectory and parish properties of St James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach.

On 22 June 2017 Julie Dean Larsen, the deputy chancellor of the Diocese of Los Angeles, wrote to the hearing panel chaired by the Bishop of Southern Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Herman Hollerith IV, that her client had not been able to answer their questions of June 9. 14 and 21 if he had made a deal to sell the property, because he had signed a confidentiality agreement with the buyer.

“Until earlier today, the [Bishop Bruno] could not provide the Hearing Panel with any information regarding the Newport Beach Property sale without violating a Confidentiality Agreement between the Buyer and the Seller.  Earlier today, the Buyer and the Seller agreed to modify the Confidentiality Agreement and are waiting on documentation of the modification, which the Respondent will provide to the Hearing Panel,” Ms. Larsen wrote in an email.

She further stated:

“Pursuant to the modification of the Confidentiality Agreement,  Respondent can inform the Hearing Panel  that a sale and deconsecration of the NPB Property was authorized and reaffirmed by the Standing Committee on November 16, 2016.  A  confidentiality agreement and sales contract regarding the NPB Property were entered into by the Bishop as Corporation Sole and Burnham-Ward Properties LLC on April 19, and May 20, 2017, respectfully.  The sales contract has been fully complied with by the buyer and seller to date.  Escrow on the sale of the property is to close on July 3, 2017.   The Bishop, as Corporation Sole,  must sign documents for the Escrow to close.  If the Bishop refuses to sign the documents, the Bishop will be in default under paragraph 16 which allows the buyer the option of terminating the agreement,  seeking specific performance of the agreement in court within 60 days, or seeking out-of- pocket costs.    The parties agreed to modify the confidentiality provisions of the agreement during a conference call at 11:00 am today, June 22, 2017.”

On 17 June 2017 the Hearing Panel issued an emergency order forbidding Bishop Bruno or his agents from selling the disputed church properties in Newport Beach -- the subject of the dispute between the bishop and the congregation.

The bishop’s attorney had objected to answering the panel’s request that he answer their question as to whether he had sold the properties. Diocesan Chancellor Richard Zevnick and Ms Larsen stated the evidence submitted to the hearing panel documenting the proposed sale was a “‘screen shot’ provided to the Hearing Panel by non-party,” and “As with the unsolicited submissions of other non-parties, this document should be rejected by the Hearing Panel and not made part of the record.”

They further stated the “screenshot” was not “relevant”; that it “lacks foundation”; that it was “ambiguous”; and that Bishop Bruno was not able to “cross examine” the individual who had provided the evidence of sale”

They  further argued that a third party’s providing information to the Hearing Panel and the Presiding Bishop that Bishop Bruno was selling the property under dispute, was “prejudicial” to their client.

The panel rejected the bishop’s arguments and have ordered him to provide all relevant documentation for the proposed sale.

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