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The High Life of Florida Bishop Samuel Johnson Howard
VirtueOnline-News ^ | 8/25/2005 | David Virtue

Posted on 08/25/2005 12:34:40 PM PDT by sionnsar

[All, not sure of how much here is smoke, and how much a smoke-making machine. All I can say for certain is that I don't want my bishop to read this, because we're paying him nothing like this! Only half *\;-), because IMHO we do not pay him enough. --sionnsar]

Million dollar home, other expenditures mark bishop's early tenure

Special Report

By David W. Virtue

JACKSONVILLE, FL (8/25/2005)--The Bishop of Florida, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, barely 18 months into his new job, has been raising and spending tens of thousands of dollars, including the purchase of a million dollar home for him and his wife.

Several sources told VirtueOnline that the bishop was under pressure from his wife who demanded a fancy home, country club memberships and more, after living in New York City where Howard was a priest at Trinity Wall Street (the richest church in the world).

The purchase of a home valued at more than $1 million dollars was done with significant amounts of the monies obtained from private sources through an alleged housing trust. The initial purchase price was $850,000 with an additional $105,000 spent for improvements. The diocese placed no lien on the home for the money.

Howard's financial package and total compensation package is $206,237.00, with a baseline salary of $86,000; a housing allowance of $39,291.00; health $16,500.00, Pension $22,704; and travel of $20,000. He leases a late model Cadillac for up $12,000 a year making him one of the highest paid bishops in Province IV. The result was a cut in missions.

VirtueOnline has obtained documents outlining the purchase of a primary residence at 3138 Waltham Square, Jacksonville, a wealthy enclave in the county of Duval, with a mortgage of $450,000 between the Howard's and EverBank and an additional $175,000 purchase money balloon mortgage between the Bishop, his wife and the Diocese.

His housing did not flow through the books, a diocesan source told VirtueOnline. The diocese was supposed to loan him up to $100,000 as a down payment towards the house, and the Diocese was supposed to be a part owner on a second mortgage, VirtueOnline was told. "It all ran through Fred Isaac, the chancellor of the diocese' office," said the source.

"Fred went out and solicited varied moneyed people in the diocese and got a lot of money donated. It is likely that these "monied donors are not the only source. Monies have trailed in through 815 and Trinity Wall Street at least some of which goes unaccounted for. Could Howard have been bought out? It is an unanswered question. None of that money came into the office but was funneled through Isaac's office," said the source.

Howard's predecessor, Bishop Stephen Jecko lived in a modest home he purchased for $106,000 in San Pablo, Jacksonville in 1993 and sold nine years later in 2004 for $175,000. He and his wife moved to Amelia Island and built a new home. He now assists Bishop James Stanton in the Diocese of Dallas. The Jecko's have sold their Amelia Island home and moved to Dallas.

The notice of the trust agreement for Howard's home was not recorded until October 21 2004, and the referenced trust is dated September 21, 2004 while the deed and mortgages were executed in May, 2004.

An informal volunteer lawyer group is reviewing these documents now to determine if there are any special terms to address what everyone fears to be the true deal, and to consider the legal effect on the mortgages of the later recorded trust agreement. "We really need to see the underlying trust agreement to complete the analysis," an attorney told VirtueOnline. The problem is no one seems to ever have seen any documentation of this "trust agreement", including those on the immediate staff of the diocese.

It appears that at the time of closing there was no intention for the Howard's to hold a portion of the ownership interest in trust for the Diocese which meant that they held a 100% ownership interest, and that the trust in favor of the Diocese was created later to address the questions raised when word of the transaction leaked out. At that time it appears the diocese brought $175,000 to the closing table, hence the mortgage back to the Diocese, with no agreement in place at that time for the Diocese to have any legal interest in the home with most people presuming that this debt will be forgiven over time, said the source. No one is aware of the Howard's having made any payment on the diocesan mortgage during the past 18 months.

While there is no evidence of actual impropriety, it is the expectation that all bishops should avoid even the appearance of impropriety, and the acceptance of such a lavish gift at the outset (and in the midst of serious moral and theological conflict in the Episcopal Church) makes him vulnerable to suspicion that he is beholden to those who both provided the down payment and those who are responsible for the ongoing debt service.

Furthermore there is no agreement requiring the Bishop serve for any specified period in order to keep the gift, so the presumption is that it was an outright gift. The only thing that mitigates against that is an after-the-fact trust agreement (that no one has seen) which imposes some restrictions on him, said the source.

The source told VirtueOnline that when he first came into the diocese as Bishop Coadjutor Howard demanded a bigger portion of the budget and wanted to bring his administrative assistant Paul Van Brunt with him from Trinity Wall Street. He was told no. He was then allowed in and is now receiving a package of between $50,000 and $60,000 with a new title as Communications Director and Youth Director.

Pete Woodward who was then on the Finance Committee said that Van Brunt was granted an unapproved salary increase of 60% within 6-8 months of his arrival. It was never approved by any diocesan sub-structure. Kurt Dunkle Canon to the Ordinary and fresh out of seminary is now getting close to a $100,000 package and has never served a single day of his life as a parish priest.

A source told VirtueOnline that Dunkle was brought in because he had money and connections. "He just came in and took the office over."

Another employee of Howard's is Gay Ann Silver also from Trinity Wall Street with the title Archdeacon for Ministry. Her package is said to be in the vicinity of $100,000. She has been there less than a year.

VirtueOnline has learned that Howard regularly runs up monthly American Express expense bills of between $8,000 and $10,000. When Howard first became bishop he brought in a consultant by the name of Maria Campbell whom he paid $39,000 as a single fee to redo the diocese. She was the former treasurer of the Diocese of Alabama and CEO at Trinity Church, Wall Street, Howard's previous parish before coming to Florida.

A source told VirtueOnline that the ONLY recommendation coming forth from the $39,000 consultant was to fire the 'treasurer" -- Becky Peeples. Howard had been orchestrating a way to remove the treasurer long before Maria Campbell came in and everyone was aware of it. The current diocesan treasurer is a volunteer layman who is not on staff.

"He has powerful people in Jacksonville with deep pockets who feed his discretionary account to the tune of $10,000 a month. Part of that money goes to Howard and part of it to Isaac's office," said another source.

In a letter, retired Bishop Stephen Jecko wrote to Isaac's in October 2004 about the new bishop's compensation package and cites a promissory note in the amount of $100,000, at 3.29% interest that was executed as part of Bishop Howard's package for the purpose of purchasing a home "This was never approved of by me and the Finance and Investment Committee," wrote Jecko.

"You need to know that this is the first I've ever heard of such a loan. I did not know of it, and I certainly didn't approve it." Jecko was highly critical of the package given to Howard and said so in the letter to Isaac. The bishop shared his concerns with two lay members who also showed concern about Howard's forthcoming package. "G. would ask me questions from time to time about what was appropriate or "in range." I remember indicating in response to G that it was not unheard of for a diocese (or a parish church) to help invest in new homes for the clergy in an equitable arrangement for which both parties come out winners."

Bishop Jecko went on to criticize the new bishop's housing needs and said this: "This is for the provision of "normal" housing. I do not consider an $850,000 house (plus renovations of $105,000) to be "normal" housing, even for a bishop," he wrote.

Jecko said he objected to his name being used publicly to indicate that he approved this deal when he knew nothing about it.

In a letter to Fred Isaac, the diocesan chancellor, Jecko wrote: "I do not wish in any way to be connected to this transaction, and your letter seems an attempt to calm the folks down by dropping my name in connection with the deal. Why is my name suddenly so important? I want you to find a way to publicly remove my name from this issue at least with everyone who got your letter, so that I won't have to find other public ways to distance myself from this matter."

Another source said that Isaac implicated Jecko in writing and that Jecko requested Isaac retract his written statement implicating Jecko in the housing transaction, but Isaac refused to do so.

Said a former priest in the Diocese of Florida, "Your readers need to know that it is the people of the diocese (including the widow's and their precious mites) who are paying for this house, not the Howard's, there is no way his salary could cover the mortgage even if his compensation package could pay the mortgage, who ever agreed to this and that kind of compensation."

Bishop Howard is also starting to play hardball with parishes who don't cough up their full assessment. One of the larger Network churches in the Diocese of Florida, All Soul's Jacksonville, resolved to send 9% of its 10% asking to the Diocese of Florida and to redirect the additional 1% to the Anglican Communion Network. This was in 2004.

When All Soul's sent their 9%, Bishop Howard returned the check because it did not, in his mind comply with the letter of the diocesan resolution, i.e., the Network was not a valid choice for their 1%, even though they were supporting the diocesan budget with their 9 %. (The Diocese of Florida has retained 9% of the 10% assessment with the 1% to be directed either to the ECUSA or to missionary work outside of the diocese.)

About five years ago, diocesan convention resolved to change it to 10% for all congregations, hoping that every congregation would actually tithe the diocese would have more than enough money. At the special diocesan convention in the fall of 2003, it was resolved that congregations would continue to give 10% to the diocese but that, given the results of General Convention , a congregation could designate that 1% of the 10% could go either to either ECISA or to certain orthodox non-ECUSA missionary work as selected by Diocesan Council.) "The truth is Bishop Howard wants it all. All money is to go through him with no local options," said a source.

When the Rev. Neil Lehbar rector, Church of the Redeemer, Jacksonville, stood up and asked when his church and the others who were withholding funds from the diocese would be "put on notice." Howard replied: "You are already on notice."

More recently Howard refused to allow the 2,000-member orthodox parish of St. John's Tallahassee to obtain a loan to finance organ renovations because they did not pay the 10% of their budget the bishop was hoping for. They pledged about $120,000, with another $100,000 going to diocesan programs or schools, but this did not apparently satisfy the bishop. The parish has had a long established financial agreement with Capital City Bank. On June 30, the Canon to the Ordinary faxed a letter to the bank, with copies to the Rector, advising the bank that a "Notice Limiting Future Advances" signed by Bishop Howard had been filed in the public records of Leon County."

Seven orthodox priests in his diocese have requested alternative pastoral oversight but have been told that the bishop will only entertain DEPO and not AEO. Dunkle blasted their actions as political. The seven parishes have appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference.


VIRTUEONLINE wrote to Bishop Howard with the following questions:

1. What was the cash payment and what were the sources including your own funds, if any did you bring to the closing table at the time you bought your million dollar home? In additional to yourself, who is paying for the mortgage and utilities and maintenance?

2. I understand that the purchase of a home valued at more than $1 million dollars was done with significant amounts of the monies obtained from private sources through an alleged housing trust. Is this true? Who controls the trust? The Diocese? Fred Isaac? Other?

3. The initial purchase price was $850,000 with an additional $150,000 spent for improvements. Did the diocese place a lien on the money for the home, that, in the event you sell they get their portion back? Is there any documentation of this agreement? Where is the written agreement?

4. Did anyone else other than you approve the sale of a parcel of land near Beach Blvd.? I understand it was recently sold mortgage free by yourself for $535,000 to Victory Lutheran Church this property? Did it ever pass through the Standing Committee, Council, or Budget and Finance Committee?

5. If so has the money ever been entered into Diocesan records? And if so, how has the money been designated? for the bishop? for mission? for ECUSA support? If NOT, where is the money and who is controlling it or determining its use? Who approved?

6. Why is your financial package a closely guarded secret? A line item in the budget says suggests it is over $250,000. Please explain an unspecified line item in the Diocesan Budget equal to $250,000.

7. VirtueOnline has learned that you regularly run up monthly American Express expense bills of between $8,000 and $10,000. Would you please confirm or deny this? VirtueOnline would like a confirmation to your answer?

8. Who audited the Diocese of Florida for 2004? Who audited your accounts? Were they ever audited? Was it a group from New York or a group from Isaac's office? Has the audit findings ever been reviewed by Standing Committee, Diocesan Council and/or Budget and Finance Committee?

9. Do you have and make use of a discretionary fund? Who has access to, monitors and/or audits your discretionary fund to ensure that your use of it is in compliance with Diocese of Florida policy? Do discretionary funds float through the Diocese or only through Fred Isaac? It is rumored that you receive upwards of $10,000 per month for discretionary use? Who is accounting for receipt of such funds?

10. It has been said that you are receiving substantial funds from outside sources that are never passing through the Diocese. It has also been reported that monies have been received from 815, from Trinity Wall Street and from wealthy individuals from both within and outside of Florida. How are these monies being channeled?

11. You have explained to the diocese that the reason for purchasing such a substantial home was so that your home could accommodate gatherings of the clergy on more informal basis. How many such gatherings have you have in your home during the past 18 months?

I await your responses.


David W. Virtue DD


August 21, 2005

Dear Mr. Virtue:

You have asked some questions about our diocesan finances. The bishop asked that we, as President of the Standing Committee and Vice Chairman of Diocesan Council, respond to many of your questions. We ask that you include the totality of this letter in whatever article you write.

About the bishop's home, each of our committees - together with the Finance Committee - has reviewed all the issues surrounding the episcopal residence. We feel very fortunate that there were generous donors to fund this new asset for the diocese. Our share, approximately 42%, will continue to be an asset for the diocese for decades to come, all without any further financial contribution for acquisition, maintenance, or operation (i.e. utilities, ad valorem taxes, etc.) from the diocese. The bishop's share of the home (approximately 58%) was fully funded by him and he has full ownership of that share, together with upkeep and tax responsibility for his share and the diocesan share. We have always viewed this as a very good deal for the diocese.

Regarding the sale of property to the Victory Lutheran Church, this transaction was entered into by the previous bishop, Steven Jecko. To the best of our knowledge, prior committees approved all the sale details. While the diocese never likes to sell usable property, we understand Bishop Jecko felt this was surplus and not suitable for an Episcopal congregation. We do, however, look forward to the use of the proceeds for congregational development in the diocese. Bishop Howard had no part in the decisions about sale of this land.

Your question about the bishop's financial package is curious. There is no "unspecified line item of $250,000" in the diocesan budget. The bishop's salary and benefits (cash compensation, health insurance, pension, car allowance, etc.) are clearly labeled as such in the budget. All of the other diocesan staff positions are similarly listed. This is the same budget which was prepared by the Budget Committee, approved by Diocesan Council, and ratified by the entire Diocesan Convention. So, we are unable to respond to your question about "closely guarded secrets."

You also ask questions about expenses and audit. All income and expenses, whether a part of the general diocesan budget or not, are audited on an annual basis by a Jacksonville accounting firm. This CPA firm works for the Diocesan Council, the body which has canonical responsibility over the accounts of the diocese and the responsibility for the annual audit. An audit has been done each year with the audit for 2004 now underway for the diocese, Camp Weed, and The Episcopal Foundation.

Finally, we are not aware that the diocese receives any funds which do not pass through the diocese. Nor are we aware of any funds from "815 or Trinity Wall Street." If you know better, tell us quickly; we want to acknowledge all gifts!

We do, however, count on the generosity of all sorts of individuals within (and sometimes outside of) the diocese. Recently, we broke ground on the McCarty/Snell Youth Pavilion at Camp Weed, our diocesan retreat camp. This facility, together with the new camper cabin, 14 new guest rooms, and the Varn Dining Room, are all being provided by the generosity of many congregations in the diocese, as well as wealthy and not-so-wealthy individuals in the diocese. We heartily hope all of this generosity continues!

I hope this answers many of your questions.


The Very Rev. Edward Harrison, President, Standing Committee
Ms. Lenora Gregory, Vice Chairman, Diocesan Council


TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 08/25/2005 12:34:41 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
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2 posted on 08/25/2005 12:35:38 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar
Off the top of my head...a few points... I thought he IRS had pretty much eliminated the whole "housing-allowance" scam..becuase of all the tax fraud that was going on..For those not basically makes the money income tax free..

IMHO, the issue is NOT whther the package is overly generous or not..( and in his NYC.. a small one bedroom apartment sells for $1.5 it may be one of perspective ) rather, it's the fact that it is NOT tranparent..

3 posted on 08/25/2005 12:43:24 PM PDT by ken5050 (Ann Coulter needs to have children ASAP to pass on her gene pool....any volunteers?)
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To: sionnsar
Off the top of my head...a few points...

If these were "gifts", then who paid the gift-tax return?

I thought he IRS had pretty much eliminated the whole "housing-allowance" scam..becuase of all the tax fraud that was going on..For those not basically makes the money income tax free..

IMHO, the issue is NOT whther the package is overly generous or not..( and in his NYC.. a small one bedroom apartment sells for $1.5 it may be one of perspective ) rather, it's the fact that it is NOT tranparent..

4 posted on 08/25/2005 12:43:42 PM PDT by ken5050 (Ann Coulter needs to have children ASAP to pass on her gene pool....any volunteers?)
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