Rev. Matthew Dutton-Gillett, rector at Trinity Church, has been put on administrative leave after admitting that he misused church funds for personal use.
Increased financial scrutiny, including a financial review by parish leaders, determined that Dutton-Gillett had misused at least $125,000 in church funds for personal spending, which had not been reimbursed, over at least the past five years, according to a press release from the Episcopal Diocese of California.
Dutton-Gillett, who had been leading the congregation since 2009, admitted to misusing the funds. Bishop Marc Andrus of the California diocese put him on administrative leave, according to the press release.
Dutton-Gillett could not be reached for comment. Before working at Trinity Church, he had about 17 years of experience working in different ministry settings, including at St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The Episcopal church, located at 330 Ravenswood Ave. in Menlo Park, is a community of about 150 to 170 regular attendees, said Stephen Andrew, a Menlo Park resident who helps the church with administrative tasks, in an interview.
In recent weeks, the church community has already had to adapt to the new changes wrought by the state's shelter-in-place order, and switched to viewing services virtually. Now they'll also have to deal with a change in their community's leader.
The Rev. Thomas Traylor has been named "priest in charge" and will lead services for the time being, said Stephanie Martin Taylor, spokesperson for the Episcopal Diocese of California. He started April 17 and will be supported by the Rev. Aaron Klinefelter, associate rector, and Rev. Frannie Hall Kieschnick, priest associate.
It's not yet known how long Dutton-Gillett will be on administrative leave, nor whether he will come back, Taylor said.
The church plans to follow its established canonical policies as it moves forward with an investigation of the misused funds and its own disciplinary process, she said. The church's separate disciplinary process is confidential, involves religious and spiritual considerations, and could involve punitive measures, such as deposition, the Episcopal equivalent of being defrocked, or completely barred from ordained ministry, she added.
During the disciplinary process, Dutton-Gillett won't be able to participate in sacramental, pastoral or administrative roles. He also won't have access to the church building or records, according to the Rev. Canon Abbott Bailey.
The church also intends to file a police report, but had not yet done so as of April 20, Andrew said.
The news has been hard on Trinity Church's parishioners. Many see or saw Dutton-Gillett as a beloved faith leader, Andrew said.
"This, of course, comes as a terrible shock," Taylor said. "He was leading the congregation through COVID-19."
"Our life together depends on trust, and in some measure, on parishioners’ generosity, and it is deeply disappointing when this trust and generosity are not honored, but abused," wrote members of the church's executive committee to parishioners.
"However, we believe that the increased financial scrutiny which helped bring this misuse of our funds to light will also help ensure the security of your contributions to our common life now and in the future. To that end we are in the process of reviewing existing financial procedures and controls and instituting new ones," they added.
The misused funds are not expected to cause operational problems for the church, Andrew added.
Video services will continue to be offered online Sundays at 10 a.m. More information here.