Roger Dermody, one of four employees who as of June 1, is “no longer with the Presbyterian Mission Agency,” has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Presbyterian Church (USA), alleging that the denomination “repeatedly and falsely published that [he] had engaged in ‘unethical’ conduct while an employee of the PCUSA.”
The lawsuit contends that the “PCUSA’s investigation uncovered nothing to dispute any of the facts described by Dermody … and nothing to suggest that Dermody did anything ‘unethical.’”
However, the denomination repeatedly “published false statements about Dermody’s alleged misconduct, and failed and refused to correct those statements after the PCUSA found no support for them, all of which caused Dermody great injury.”
“The PCUSA’s statements were false and defamatory,” the lawsuit read, and have caused Dermody “substantial embarrassment and shame” as well as compromising his “future employment and financial prospects.”
Dermody is seeking a trial by jury, a judgment against the PCUSA for defamation, an award of compensatory damages to compensate him for “public embarrassment and humiliation,” and compensation for the adverse effects on his future career and earnings.
He is also seeking punitive damages to “punish the PUSA and to deter it and others from engaging in similar conduct, for exposing Dermody to public hatred, ridicule, contempt or disgrace or inducing an evil opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking people.”
New non-profit formed
Dermody and three other PMA employees were put on paid leave on Nov. 15, 2014, following an internal investigation which revealed the formation – without proper authorization – of an independent non-profit organization called Presbyterian Centers for New Church Innovation, Inc. (PCNCI). It was created to help expedite the work of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement in California.
One of the identified staff incorporated PCNCI, another applied for the $100,000 grant from 1001 New Worshiping Communities, and the others are in supervisory roles where oversight was expected.
Filed May 29 in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Louisville, Ky., the lawsuit stated that Dermody did not know that other PCUSA employees had “improperly created, incorporated and funded an independent non-profit organization to facilitate PCUSA-approved ministry work rather than work through authorized PCUSA corporations and bank accounts,” and that he had no part of any of those actions.
According to Dermody’s lawsuit, PCNCI was created in December, 2013 by “a California-based PMA staff member, and one of more other PMA staff members” to facilitate the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement. Dermody received no notification of these actions and did not give permission for any of the actions to take place.
The lawsuit states that the external investigation found no evidence that Dermody knew of, or played any part in, the incorporation of the PCNCI or the transfer of PCUSA to it. In fact, “the check that actually transferred funds to the inappropriate non-profit PCNCI account had been written to PCNCI and had been approved by the PMA Finance Department under the supervision of the PMA’s CEO.”
Once Dermody learned of the new outside organization in March, 2014, he “immediately joined with PCUSA’s legal counsel and human resources staff to recover all transferred funds, terminate the non-profit PCNCI’s unauthorized existence, and block a second transfer of grant funds.”
The lawsuits states that even though the “entire transaction was unwound and all funds were properly accounted for”, the PCUSA has spent more than $500,000 investigating the matter.
During a conference call with press representatives yesterday, PMAB Chair the Rev. Marilyn S. Gamm updated the costs to more than $850,000, but she said that figure does not include all of the fees from its current lawyer, John Sheller.
She also stated that the denomination has paid approximately $242,000 to the four employees involved in the investigation while they were on paid administrative leave from Nov. 15, 2014 until June 1, 2015.
The reason for the conference call was to notify the press that the four employees who had been under investigation for more than six months were “no longer with the Presbyterian Mission Agency.” The employees included Dermody, who until yesterday was the deputy executive director for mission of the PMA, and
- Eric Hoey, director of Evangelism and Church Growth;
- Philip Lotspeich, coordinator for church growth, and
- Craig S. Williams, staff person for the western regional office of the Presbyterian Centers for New Church Development
Craig Williams responds to 1001 announcement
Why wasn’t Linda Valentine’s resolution good enough in the 1001 debacle?
4 employees ‘no longer with’ PMA following 1001 investigation; Defamation lawsuit filed
Could be criminal fraud at some level here, not necessarily involving this man. Creating a ‘shell’ company to possibly divert funds to friends, etc. is/or could be, a massive conflict and possible fraud along other tax implications. I’d call in the local prosecutor in this case to learn more about the alleged creation of outer level companies to siphon money to.
The key here is that Dermody claims he knew nothing about the funds transfer, the joke here is what louisville is spending in legal fees to investigate this, and now to defend itself in a lawsuit.
If what he is saying is true, the discovery will be very interesting, and his attorneys will have a field day with the louisville sluggers. After all ther’re not used to being on this end of a lawsuit. It will be fun to watch them squirm.
Other than what I can glean in the various publications, to comment about the legal facts or outcomes would be premature, and in a sense its sad this man’s professional career has been sacrificed upon the altar of the PCUSA. Or, if that the end of the day he either deceived, lied, or engaged in malfeasance against the organization, again the legal system and disclosure of all documents will tell the tale.
But what if the PMA/PCUSA ‘accidentally’ destroys or misplaces such source documents and gosh-darn, cannot find them? And this is the same entity that mailed the church related material for Lent, like at the end of March.
If any lesson to be learned would be why would anybody in their right minds view this organization as a healthy place to work, or commit their professional careers to such an entity?
Give a million dollars to lawyers investigating the loss (and return) of a hundred grand. Yep, that’s stewardship the PCUSA way.
Would it not be interesting, perhaps comical, if the denomination prayed to the courts for graceful dismissal? And would it not be especially ironic if the courts rejected the request? When it comes to the antics of the church, good or bad, we can all use a little levity. But then I once heard that “Many a truth is said in jest.”
Roger claims he knew nothing that his direct reports did. Doesn’t that prove his incompetence? In the private world, not only he would be canned, but also Linda Valentine. Roger gets paid big bucks because he is responsible for those personnel and programs that are under his authority.
The investigation was necessary in order to regain the trust from the denomination. If the transfer of funds were not discovered early on (as it was), the potential for loss to the PC(USA) could have been huge. The denomination has checks and balances for a purpose. Now that Roger filed a lawsuit and additional denominational funds must be spent to litigate, all trust and future donations to the denomination will be hard to restore.
Why was the CFO of the new corporation never charged? I understand that she is still employed by the PC(USA).
What is sad, for me, is that there is a total disruption and upheaval
in the department that overseas EVENGELISM, CHURCH GROWTH, AND NEW CHURCH DEVELOPMENT. This is the area related to the great commission and the purpose that I wish was primary in this denomination
(As opposed to cultural Justice issues alone.). I cannot speak to the Guilt of these four individuals, but pray truth will prevail for all. But I can’t help but wonder if the purpose of this outside entity was Social Justice if this would be handled differently. Where is the grace? Or trust? Or team work I.e. Unity? There apparently was not unity of purpose amoung the leadership team under Linda Valentine so that they all trusted each other in moving with the same purpose. So then how can they say lets have PEACE AND UNITY IN THE REST OF THE DENOMINATION. I think this incident only reveals the lack of meaningful unity between the Evangelism arm of the denomination and the progressive element. But again, a whole unit of the denomination is now in chaos, spirits are broken, disillusion prevails and God’s will is hampered. It is sad!
This vengeful lawsuit will nearly paralyze parts of the PCUSA for the next two or three years. It’s all about revenge and money and inflicting emotional and financial pain on the defendants. It’s been ‘the American Way’ for several decades. On the bright side, it stimulates the economy in high end housing and high end auto sectors for the lawyers involved, resulting in higher tax revenues for local and state government bodies.
Very good question; I can only speculate the answer(s). Perhaps the former CEO is an asset to PCUSA and cooperating in good faith.
Robert “vengeful lawsuit”, you know thats a rich statement, the louisville sluggars wrote the book on vengeful lawsuits, to parting churches and pastors, it’s not totally clear who the victims are yet, but you can bet that louisville is not one of them!
Robert-I am curious about the information you know that allows you to characterize the lawsuit as essentially meritless. Could you elaborate?
Excellent point, James. As they say, ‘what goes around, comes around.’ This culture of lawsuits, revenge, lawyering up, etc. is everyday life in some circles. Our Holy Bible instructs us how to peacefully resolve differences. Going to court/lawyering up, is, or should be, the last resort, but sometimes there’s no other remedy.
In the corrupt, money hungry, lawyer friendly court system, you don’t need merit to proceed with lawsuits. Lawyers and judges know this secret. Just inflict enough pain and expense so the defendant caves and settles out of court. In this particular case, I don’t have any first hand knowledge. But I have friends who are lawyers, district and federal judges, and also friends who’ve been sued out of business into bankruptcy. This particular case, though, smells funny; where there’s smoke there’s fire. I’m a critic of the downward spiral of PCUSA, but I’m also objective to give them the benefit of the doubt in this particular, interesting, ‘follow the money’ case.
Both Rev. Lotspeich and Rev. Williams have made reference to monies offered to them by the PCUSA to keep silent. To me that is one of the most disturbing aspects of this whole confusing affair. How many money is a person’s reputation worth?
As my Scotch-Irish grandmother would tell me, sometimes when two sides are fighting, ‘there’s a pox on both houses.’
When a denomination does not follow scripture in one area, it is going to have trouble and chaos.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.
Sin is sin.
Grace and love does not give one a license to sin.
6:1,2; What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound. God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
O! are these those verses that aren’t God’s Word?
Matthew 34:35 Jesus said: Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.
I believe God’s hand of protection has been lifted from the PCUSA
This is part of the reason my wife and I left the PCUSA.
Formally of the Hessel PC Hessel Mi.
That was Romans 6:1,2
And Matthew 24:35.
Hey all. This constant commenting,speculating and condemning is not showing Jesus to the world. I know Roger and have been blessed to both work for him, call him a friend and have him preach at my ordination. I’m not adding my comments here to offer any info about what happened in this situation. I’m just putting this here to say I believe in Roger. Have seen his incredible love for Jesus and have witnessed his integrity. I simply stand with him.