Suit against Diocese to Go to Court

By Brian Liberatore
Press & Sun-Bulletin
July 8, 2006

Owego — A lawsuit alleging the local Episcopal Diocese failed to act on an accusation of sex abuse and retaliated against the former rector who brought up the complaint will go forward in state Supreme Court.

The former rector of St. Paul's Church in Owego, David G. Bollinger, claimed in the suit that Bishop Gladstone Adams retaliated against him for raising allegations against another former St. Paul's rector, Ralph E. Johnson.

The diocese blocked Bollinger for the last year from performing his duties at St. Paul's. The diocese claimed that Bollinger misused money while rector at the church. Bollinger said the diocese invented the claim as a means of retaliation.

Supreme Court Justice Jeffery A. Tait ruled Wednesday that two of the seven complaints in the suit against the Central New York Diocese of the Episcopal Church could stand. The diocese had asked Tait to dismiss the case.

Tait dismissed several of Bollinger's complaints: breach of fiduciary duty by Adams, misuse of diocese assets, defamation, interference with the plaintiff's personal financial accounts and the improper extension of the "inhibition" that kept him from performing his duties. Tait let stand two complaints: intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of services.

"It's further vindication of the position we've taken," Bollinger said Friday. He originally sought $4.35 million in damages. After Tait dismissed five of the seven complaints, Bollinger said the suit was reduced to about $1.25 million.

Bollinger claims that years earlier, he alerted Episcopal officials to Johnson's alleged sexual misconduct, but was rebuffed by Gladstone. Johnson resigned from the priesthood in May amid allegations that he abused a young boy in the 1970s.

Gladstone was not available Friday.

"The issue for me has been the cover-up," Bollinger said. "I tried to bring forth the fact that this happened and I was fired."

Bollinger also claimed diocesan officials broke into his bank account using identity theft. In his decision, Tait wrote, "as neither party has cited precedent addressing this issue (identity theft) ... it appears that this cause of action lacks the actual harm element and thus fails to state a cause of action."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.