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Darien church in legal battle over rector accused of dishonesty

December 23, 2018

STAMFORD — It’s been a turbulent year for a Darien church whose status has been stripped and is now embroiled in a legal battle over its rector’s alleged dishonesty.

A Stamford judge is considering whether to dismiss a case brought by the lay leaders of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church who want to remove rector George Kovoor, alleging he misrepresented himself when he was hired in 2016.

In June, the church vestry sent Kovoor a termination letter, ignoring Episcopal Bishop Ian Douglas’ call for the rector to remain at the Mansfield Avenue parish.

Kevin Daly, an attorney representing the episcopal diocese, argued last week in state Superior Court in Stamford that the lawsuit should be dismissed since the church’s vestry was disbanded in October when the diocese demoted the church from parish to worshiping community. With the vestry gone, Daly said the lay leaders do not have a legal position to terminate the 61-year-old Kovoor.

“Previously, there was a vestry that had a certain role in the governance of the church,” Daly told Judge Trial Referee Kevin Tierney. “The vestry’s role was eliminated when St. Paul’s was converted from a parish to a worshiping community.”

Daly said the rules of the church allowed the diocese to demote St. Paul’s.

“Since these individuals no longer have a role in governing of the church, they do not have standing to address these claims and harms to the church,” he said.

Daly also said having a judge decide whether the lay leaders’ efforts are valid would require the court to enter into the area of church governance and doctrine, which is prohibited by the First Amendment that allows for freedom of religion.

However, Ralph Dupont, an attorney for the lay leaders, said they were only requesting a judge to settle a simple matter of contract law.

Dupont said the lay leaders wanted to fire Kovoor for allegedly misrepresenting himself by claiming, among other things, that he was a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II and needed to take four annual trips to England to perform his “royal duties.”

However, the lawsuit states Kovoor was only an honorary chaplain and was not needed in England. The suit also states there were other misrepresentations on Kovoor’s resume.

Dupont said since Kovoor was dishonest, the contract for his $70,000-per-year job should be considered null and void.

“There just is no contract,” Dupont said. “And if there is no contract, of course, there is no godly judgment that can be given on a contract that does not exist.”

The mini-trial will resume on Jan. 3.

jnickerson@stamfordadvocate.com

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