July 27, 2008
Proceed At Your Risk
An Illinois Hearing Board considered charges of misconduct against an attorney in his capacity as pastor of the Grace Conservative Baptist Church. The attorney did not participate in the hearing and charges of conversion of church funds were deemed admitted. However:
In this case, although the allegations of the complaint were deemed admitted, the Administrator presented the testimony of three witnesses, who testified about the underlying misconduct, rather than testifying strictly about aggravation. Their testimony contradicted some of the admitted allegations of the complaint. We cannot ignore that testimony and have considered it when making our findings. As cited above, this is not the first time admitted allegations have been impacted based on evidence presented by the Administrator at the hearing. The Administrator should have been aware that when presenting evidence beyond aggravation, he does so at his own peril and at the risk of having admitted facts becoming contested facts.
Here, the allegations that Respondent converted funds were deemed admitted. However, after hearing the testimony of the Administrator’s witnesses, we find that the evidence is insufficient to find that Respondent converted funds. Conversion is defined as any unauthorized act that deprives someone of their property permanently or for an indefinite period of time. In re Rosin, 156 Ill. 2d 202, 206, 620 N.E.2d 368 (1993). The Administrator alleged that Respondent converted church funds when he failed to repay the $25,000 loan, paid almost $60,000 for Parks’s mortgage, and spent more than $40,000 in cash and credit card charges for personal expenses. We find that none of these amounts were converted.
The hearing board found other misconduct including dishonesty and proposes a suspension of one year and until further court order. (Mike Frisch)