Forgery, theft trial opens for ministers

Pastor, son accused of diverting funds for personal gain

March 06, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A prosecutor will try to convince an Anne Arundel County jury this week that a former Glen Burnie church pastor and his son abused the trust of their flock and diverted church funds and property to themselves.

"He and his son took care of themselves at the cost of the congregation," Clifford Stoddard Jr. told the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury in opening arguments yesterday in the criminal trial of the two men.

Stoddard said that while the Rev. Bertram B. Hare "was preaching the final reward to his church, he was taking his reward."

That reward included, he said, the church-owned parsonage, which Stoddard said the father sold and used proceeds to buy his son a home, and thousands of dollars to pay personal expenses.

Hare, 72, is charged with forgery, running a theft scheme from April 1996 until December 1999 - he resigned from Calvary Temple of Glen Burnie two months later - and passing forged documents. His son, the Rev. Darryl B. Hare, 41, faces similar charges.

The defense lawyer for the Hares said they did nothing illegal at Calvary, and are expected to testify that much of the payments on their behalf were compensation and reimbursement.

The parsonage, for example, was church-owned and supported for the pastor's benefit, defense lawyer William M. Ferris said. But Bertram Hare's agreement when Calvary hired him was that he would buy out the former pastor's equity in the parsonage and that, as compensation, when the house was sold, the equity would be his, he said.

"I think what you'll conclude is maybe what he did was wrong, but does it rise to being a crime? No," Ferris said.

Trustees of the nondenominational church, which also operates a school, allege that Bertram Hare placed their signatures from other documents on authorization to sell the parsonage, and used church and school funds to enrich himself and his son while skimping on institutional expenses.

Yesterday, three trustees testified that they often signed documents at Bertram Hare's request without reading them. They rarely held meetings. Bertram Hare, who picked all but one trustee, ran the church after he arrived around 1983, they said.

He hired his son in 1986, and Darryl Hare rose to become the administrator of what was then Calvary Temple Christian Academy and assistant pastor of the church. The school is now Old Mill Christian Academy.

The trustees described an unusual payment method for Bertram Hare. Every Sunday, the church collected two sets of envelopes: the white envelopes were parishioners' donations for the pastor, the brown ones were their church offerings. Church officials counted the church offerings, but did not open the envelopes destined for their pastor.

Ferris told jurors to expect to hear about poor fiscal management practices at the church and school that led to confusing, sometimes makeshift, financial arrangements.

The situation has spawned two civil lawsuits. The trustees have appealed their Circuit Court loss in one suit; the other case is pending.

The trial is expected to include testimony from people connected to the church. But it also will include analyses of church finances in such detail that Stoddard admonished jurors to "stay awake."

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