Additional (Sordid) Details Emerge in the Bishop Bruno Case

I’m late to the game on the Bishop Bruno case, but have come across additional fascinating and sordid details.

Over at Episcopal Cafe, I flagged the LLC that is referenced, albeit obliquely, in the Corp Sole audit report. My further comment was that LLCs typically exist for two reasons — to limit liability and to conceal ownership.Turns out the LLC is called “Katella Howell LLC.” Formed in Delaware, it is controlled by +Bruno’s Corp Sole. 

At this point, details become less clear, but it appears the LLC owns three commercial parcels in Anaheim’s “Platinum Triangle,” which is prime commercial real estate located near the stadium. Originally, it looks like the LLC held a 50 percent interest in the assets, but now may hold 100 percent. There is a multi-million dollar mortgage on the parcels.

Meanwhile, it appears that +Bruno has seized the St. James bank accounts and spent all the funds. At last report, the accounts were overdrafted.

Does the larger church hold an interest in these assets? Of course it does. +Bruno has successfully litigated that issue. 

But that is not the same as saying that the diocese can just sweep in and take these assets. They were given with the express understanding that they would be used by and for St. James the Great. To divert those funds to a different purpose is unethical and possibly fraudulent.

It’s also interesting that the developer in the original sale was allegedly a buddy of +Bruno. Who is the developer in this second sale? And why would they buy property subject to a reversionary clause in the deed, as is the case with St. James, knowing that they would not acquire clear title? Plus it seems a given that the larger church will assert its property interests should +Bruno manage a weasel sale of the asset.

Shifting gears, my observation is that there is lots of confusion about the case, conflating this matter with the property litigation.

In the latter, +Bruno has successfully litigated and argued that all church property is subject to the Dennis Canon. Thus, the larger church holds a legal interest in parish assets. Moreover, he acknowledges in the Corp Sole audit report that that Corp Sole assets are subject to the Dennis Canon.

Thus, this is not a property litigation case. Instead, it is a disciplinary matter, protected from judicial scrutiny under the Establishment Clause. Yet some commentators contend that the church constituion must be made clearer in the national church is to succeed in this case. But again, this is not a justiciable issue.

I also found intriguing the church attorney’s arguments about the lockout. Noting that we are an inclusive, welcoming church, he contended that the lockout was “conduct unbecoming” for purposes of Title IV, our disciplinary canons. I concur–trying to interfere with the practice of anyone’s faith is facially conduct unbecoming for members of the clergy. And the more +Bruno focuses on power and winning, the more erratic and ugly his behavior seems to be.

So, I am committed to sharing this story far and wide. Folks at St. James deserve better than the treatment they have received at the hands of +Bruno.

If anyone from the Save St. James the Great coalition–or anyone else–has details about “Katella Howell LLC” and its activities, please contact me. Your privacy is assured and I will be happy to share details. Or details about any of +Bruno’s shameful antics in this matter.

About Eric Bonetti

I'm a cradle Episcopalian, living in Northern Virginia. My interests include writing, policy, sports, cooking, volunteer work, good food and wine, and teaching kids' cooking classes. I retired in 2017 and now just work for fun. I'm also a regular contributor to Episcopal Cafe, and have been published at HuffPo and other major sites and publications.
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