LOS ANGELES (CN) – The rector of a Hollywood church claims in court that unelected board members have “laid siege” to the church, barricaded themselves inside and refuse to leave, even after a court denied their request to take control of church operations.
The Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. Mary of Angels Parish sued the Anglican Church in America, the Diocese of the West, seven members of what they call an unofficial board, the Bank of America and Citibank, in Superior Court.
The plaintiffs claim the defendants have refused to return control of church’s bank accounts to the new church board, which was installed after a May election.
The plaintiffs claim the defendants “seized control” of the church after getting a temporary restraining order and forcing the new board to hand over corporate records and property.
“Defendants proceeded to lay siege to the premises, and to change the locks to the church building and all interior rooms and offices at St. Mary’s. Notwithstanding the non-bank defendants’ admission that they lack power to remove any of the directors from St. Mary’s board of directors, using the corporate seal, the non-bank defendants fabricated board resolutions of a non-elected board, affixed the seal, and changed the signatories on all of St. Mary’s bank accounts at Bank of America, N.A., and CitiBank. None of these new signatories are elected members of St. Mary’s Board,” according to the complaint.
Defendants include Bishop Stephen Strawn and Canon Anthony Morello – who allegedly “purports” to be president of St. Mary’s – former board member Marilyn Bush, Langley Brandt, Diane Kang, Keith Kang, and Patrick Omeirs.
The plaintiff rector claims that Marilyn Bush presents herself as vice president of the church, though she was not approved by the elected board of directors and vacated her seat before the May 5 election.
After the court dissolved the temporary restraining order and denied the defendants’ application for a preliminary injunction, they still refused to recognize the new board, according to the complaint.
“Following the dissolution of the TRO, the non-bank defendants refused and continue to refuse, to return either the personal property or the corporate property to St. Mary’s board, notwithstanding its repeated demands that they do so,” the complaint states. “The non-bank defendants also refused to provide the board of directors with the keys to the newly installed locks, or to permit the board access to the second floor of the church building on the premises. In fact, the non-bank defendants, or their agents, have barricaded themselves on the second floor of the church building, and refuse to vacate the same. St. Mary’s has filed a separate forcible detainer action to regain immediate possession of the church building.”
The board says it notified Bank of America and Citibank that the restraining order was dissolved, and asked to change the signatories back to the official board. But it says the banks have failed to respond.
“We are very disappointed that a coup has been attempted by a small handful of dissidents who adamantly oppose St. Mary’s joining the Ordinariate,” Fr. Christopher Kelley (not a party) wrote in April on the church’s website. “They apparently decided to try to thwart the will of the vast majority of parishioners, and they tried to physically take over the parish.”
But on his website, virtueonline.org, David Virtue described events differently. He reported on June 20 that Kelley, allegedly a fired Anglo-Catholic priest, had ignited the dispute.
Virtue wrote that Kelley had “broken into and illegally occupied his former church, defied a court order, allegedly taken tens of thousands of dollars of church funds, been accused of stealing parish financial records, lying, deception, gossip, character assassination and dividing his small congregation by wanting to join the Roman Catholic Church through the Pope’s offer of an Ordinariate.”
The plaintiffs seek a declaration that they are the rightful board of directors, an injunction, and at least $500,000 in damages for conversion, intentional interference with business relations, trespass and breach of fiduciary duty.
They are represented by Alan Dettelbach, with TroyGould.