NY Trinity Church Rector Accused of Lavish Overspending

Ten of the 22 members of Trinity Church's board of directors have been forced out or quit over alleged subversion of the institution's mission and extravagant spending by the rector of the Episcopal church in Lower Manhattan, the Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper.

Former directors accuse 67-year-old Cooper, who heads the world's richest Anglican parish with over $1 billion in Manhattan real estate, of departing from Trinity's original mission and wasting money, New York Post reported Sunday.

Accusations against Cooper include misreporting of numbers of worshippers on Sunday services; demands for a $5.5 million SoHo townhouse; an allowance for his Florida condo and a fat salary; trips around the world at church's expense; wasting more than $1 million on development plans for a luxury condo tower; and spending $5 million on a publicity campaign. His compensation was worth $1.3 million in 2010 and it included a salary of $346,391 and deferred compensation of $507,940.

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A former board member alleged that Cooper concentrated on studying the condo development, "not at all paying attention to the principal focus of those that hired him, which was try to solve the problem and try to make the church more of a powerful force in the philanthropy world."

Trinity gave out only $2.7 million in annual grants, far less than its capacity, pointed out a former director of the board. On the other hand, the church spent $5 million on its publicity in one year. Having about 6 million square feet of commercial space, the church is one of the largest landowners in Manhattan.

"You have diminished Trinity Church, and you have created a glaring atmosphere of deceit," wrote another director as she resigned. Eight of the 10 directors quit last month.

Last summer, Cooper agreed to step down in exchange for lavish retirement package, but later refused to go. "When the fox ends up guarding the henhouse, it never ends well for the chickens," ousted board member Thomas Flexner, global head of real estate for Citigroup, was quoted as having written in a Feb. 13 resignation letter. "But this is what has happened at Trinity."

Some current board members are backing Cooper. "Even during these challenging economic times, Trinity's ministries are strong, flourishing and addressing a full range of social and spiritual needs," Susan Berresford, board member and former president of the Ford Foundation, was quoted as saying.

"Trinity Church is on a firm financial footing. Church attendance is growing and the parish's impact locally and globally is valued," Christopher McCrudden, board member and former vice president of Princeton University, said. "I'm happy to be part of a Vestry that has been instrumental in supporting this growth and achievement."

Cooper, a former rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was appointed as the rector of the 314-year-old Trinity Church in 2004.

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