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Decision No. 806

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October 24 1997
In Re: Review of Decisions of Law of Bishop William W. Morris in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference Relating to Financial Recompense of a Clergy Member Denied an Appointment as a Result of a Flawed Grievance Process.

Digest of Case

There is nothing presented to the Judicial Council which would require that Rev. Lee C. Robison be compensated retroactively for any time prior to 1994-95; however, for that year, he is due the equitable salary and other benefits which were provided to other clergy in full connection and under appointment in accordance with the policy of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference for the 1994-95 year.

Statement of Facts

At the 1997 Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, an elder in the Annual Conference presented Bishop William M. Morris with the following eleven questions of law: 1) By the authority of paragraph 436 of the 1988 and 1992 Book of Discipline, as seen in light of Judicial Council Decision 777, is not Rev. Robison entitled to financial recompense of salary and monetary value of benefits for those years that he was denied an appointment (from June 1989 to June 1994) as a result of his being illegally placed on so called "Voluntary Leave of Absence", by officials of the Church who either knew or should have known, that a competent grievance or complaint did not exist; upon which an valid charge could be made according to paragraph a, the 1988 Book of Discipline, and the equivalent paragraph in the 1992 Book of Discipline; and, accordingly, there existed no basis for placing him involuntarily on so called "Voluntary Leave of Absence?" 2) Does not the Judicial Council in its decision #777 provide a moral and legal imperative to total financial recompense (herein referred to as salary, pension benefits, housing, health insurance premiums and other remuneration) for the year (June 1994-95) that the Rev. Robison was specifically, illegally placed on Involuntary Leave of Absence by the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference? 3) Is not the Rev. Robison entitled to the monetary value of unpaid benefits (housing and health insurance, remuneration provided for clergy in full connection and under appointment in the Alabama-West Florida Conference) for the year 1994-95, in addition to equitable salary and pension benefits? 4) Since the process was "fatally flawed from the outset" per JCD #777, and since the Rev. Robison was in full connection and available for appointment, should not the Rev. Robison have been given an appointment upon his return to Alabama-West Florida Conference jurisdiction, in June 1989? 5) Does not the payment of equitable salary for any year in which an appointment was illegally denied mandate by implication, fairness and precedent of Judicial Council decisions (for example JCD #492 and #777), include the payment for all (i.e. salary, pension benefits, housing and health insurance premiums) benefits which were part of standard compensation for a clergy person in full connection and under appointment in the Alabama-West Florida Conference? 6) Is not the Rev. Robison entitled to total financial recompense (salary, pension benefits, housing and health insurance which were a standard part of compensation for clergy in full connection and under appointment in the Alabama-West Florida Conference) for the year 1989-1990? (12 months) (See digest of JCD #492.) 7) Is not the Rev. Robison entitled to total financial recompense (salary, pension benefits, housing and health insurance which were a standard part of compensation for clergy in full connection and under appointment in the Alabama-West Florida Conference) for the year 1990-1991? (12 months) (See digest of JCD #492.) 8) Is not the Rev. Robison entitled to total financial recompense (salary, pension benefits, housing and health insurance which were a standard part of compensation for clergy in full connection and under appointment in the Alabama-West Florida Conference) for the year 1991-1992? (12 months) (See digest of JCD #492.) 9) Is not the Rev. Robison entitled to total financial recompense (salary, pension benefits, housing and health insurance which were a standard part of compensation for clergy in full connection and under appointment in the Alabama-West Florida Conference) for the year 1992-1993? (12 months) (See digest of JCD #492.) 10) Is not the Rev. Robison entitled to total financial recompense (salary, pension benefits, housing and health insurance which were a standard part of compensation for clergy in full connection and under appointment in the Alabama-West Florida Conference) for the year 1993-1994? (12 months) (See digest of JCD #492.) 11) Since the effects of inflation diminished purchasing power from June 1989 until Rev. Robison was given an appointment in 1995, should not the financial recompense include an amount equal to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for each of the years in question, compounded by the amount of the CPI, be added to the cumulative amount from the previous year, for each of the years in question? i.e. CPI (1989) x total financial recompense (1989) = y (for 1989). CPI (1990) x total financial recompense (1990) + Y x CPI (199)(sic) = z (total financial recompense for 1989 and 1990 adjusted for inflation); and so forth for each succeeding year until he was given an appointment. As to questions #1 and #6-11, the bishop responded that at no time did the Judicial Council find that Rev. Robison had been improperly placed on leave of absence for any year prior to the 1994-95 year. For that year, he was paid an amount equivalent to equitable salary and given pension benefits. Therefore, no retroactive compensation for years prior to 1994-95 is required. As to questions #2, #3 and #5, the bishop replied that housing or housing allowance is not considered compensation according to Decision 547, and that, in Decision 777, the Judicial Council mentioned only equitable salary, therefore nothing more is owed Rev. Robison for 1994-95. As to question #4, the bishop ruled that it was speculative in light of the fact that another bishop made the decision, and moot in that Rev. Robison received honorable location in 1996. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2613 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale Bishop Morris's ruling is affirmed in part and reversed in part. When the Judicial Council rendered Decision 777 in 1996, it stated "It is not possible for the Judicial Council to determine whether this [the request/willingness to accept leave of absence] reflected voluntary willingness or resignation to the inevitable." There is no new evidence which enables the Judicial Council to change this determination and, therefore, no remuneration is required for the years prior to 1994-95. As to that year, in accordance with Decision 777, Rev. Robison is to receive, retroactively, the equitable salary and other benefits which were provided to other clergy in full connection and under appointment in accordance with the policy of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference for the 1994-95 year.

Decision

There is nothing presented to the Judicial Council which would require that Rev. Robison be compensated retroactively for any time prior to 1994-95; however, for that year, he is due the equitable salary and other benefits which were provided to other clergy in full connection and under appointment in accordance with the policy of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference for the 1994-95 year. This copy subject to final editing and correction.

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