The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is on the verge of selling the property formerly occupied by the St. James the Great congregation in Newport Beach to a local developer, with escrow expected to close July 3.
An attorney for the diocese told members of a hearing panel, which is still deliberating over misconduct charges related to the property leveled against Bishop J. Jon Bruno, that the bishop entered into a sale agreement in April with Newport Beach-based Burnham-Ward Properties LLC.
Neither the diocese nor the developer responded to requests for comment Friday, June 23.
According to the developer’s website, Burnham-Ward has been involved in a number of local projects including Westcliff Plaza in Newport Beach, City Town Center and Batavia Business Park in Orange, and OC Mix in Costa Mesa.
On June 17, the hearing panel issued an emergency order prohibiting Bruno from selling the property and ordered him to provide details of any such planned sale.
Julie Dean Larsen, an attorney for the diocese, responded via email to the panel on June 22 saying the bishop had entered into a confidential sale agreement with the developer, which prevented him from divulging any details to the panel.
On the morning of June 22, both parties agreed to modify the confidentiality agreement, which then allowed the bishop to share the information with the hearing panel, the attorney’s email stated. Larsen added that Bruno is obligated under the contract to sign documents to close escrow.
An attorney for the panel has asked the diocese to provide copies of the sales contract, the confidentiality agreement, changes made to that agreement, correspondence and internal communications.
St. James congregants are upset and shocked that the bishop would try to sell the church in secret when there is a disciplinary hearing decision pending.
“I would hope that the hearing panel would carefully scrutinize the discovery and depositions leading up to the hearing, and testimony on behalf…