Menlo Park: What are they trying to hide?
By the Editor
- Why must the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall bank records be marked “Confidential” and hidden from public review?
- Did Don Adams come to the SF Bay area to visit kin? Or was it to lay out a new MPKH “war strategy”?
- What do some of the original members of the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall think – one year after the merger with Redwood City?
- A SEAL, or not a SEAL? Questions raised about Circuit Overseer Paul G. Koehler’s credibility.
You want to look at my bank statements? Sure! Go ahead. You’ll see a lot more money going out than coming in. You’ll see a few checks written, lots of ATM activity, and the names of my creditors and clients. You’ll see where I shop, how many times I buy gas, and a few online purchases from Amazon.com for books and software. So go ahead! Look! I have nothing to hide.
Most Americans, after thinking about it, would probably agree that their bank statements hold few secrets. Of course, they reserve the right to protect their privacy, and if it’s none of your business then you have no good reason to look at their finances. Yeah, they might be embarrassed about how little money they actually have in their accounts, but would have to admit that no real secrets about their private lives would be apparent from just a look at their checking and savings accounts.
Let me ask you: What would you expect to see on the bank statements of a Kingdom Hall? A couple of utility bills, some cleaning supplies, and bathroom paper products? Payments to the Watchtower Society for literature and other materials? Donations forwarded to the Watchtower Society for insurance, circuit and district assemblies, building funds, and “the worldwide missionary work”? All those things should be expected and are unlikely to raise any eyebrows. The Hall’s bank accounts should balance fairly close to what the COBOE reported in the congregation’s monthly financial reports.
So what possible reason would there be to keep a Kingdom Hall’s bank statements “confidential”? What could be on those statements that the elders wouldn’t want anyone to see? Why wouldn’t any group of congregation elders simply say, “There they are! Take a look. Nothing to see here folks. Just some donations coming in, and a few bills paid out. Simple. Straightforward. Just numbers. Nothing to hide.”
But that’s not the case in Menlo Park. The attorney for the defense is trying to make sure that no one outside of court will ever see any of the Menlo Park bank statements. In fact, he wants to make sure that if any bank statements are entered into evidence as part of court documents (most become public domain after they are assigned a case number), that those will be forever hidden from public review, marked “Confidential,” and then removed from the public case files.
One more time: What’s on those bank statements that the defense is afraid to show us? My guess is that if we saw them, certain irregularities would pop right off the pages and give us reason to ask for plausible explanations. Read the court documents below and decide for yourself if there is a legitimate reason the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall’s bank statements should not be publicly available as part of normal court filings?
What is known is that the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall not only has business checking and savings accounts that have existed for several years, but also other bank accounts that were set up since the merger in July, 2010. There are seven checking and two savings accounts in at least two different banks, Wells Fargo and Chase.
The Menlo Park Police Department also wants to see those bank statements and account documents because both sides have filed reports that accuse certain people with embezzlement, fraud, and forgery. The defense seems to want to exclude the police. But why? If the statements will clear these alleged criminal charges, let the police look at them. Will the authorities ever see those bank records?
Again, I ask, why not? What is hidden within those documents that would embarrass anyone connected to those accounts? Why so many bank accounts?
I urge the judge in this case to check all the bank documents closely and listen to the charges by both sides and decide if those charges have merit. There shouldn’t be anything on those account records that would have any items that would bring shame upon the congregation. If there is, those responsible should be held accountable and punished.
A high-ranking visitor
While news about Menlo Park from Ex-JW.com has been a bit limited in recent weeks, several news worthy events have taken place in that little California community. Even with all the chatter on JW discussion websites and forums, only a few confirmed reports about the “theocratic warfare” taking place there have managed to leak out.
But the facts are very clear: Things are heating up within that little Kingdom Hall backed up against the southbound lanes of the Bayshore Freeway. A few dozen miles north, within the U.S. Federal District Court in downtown San Francisco, clerks are busy stamping, filing, and sorting new documents about this unusual case nearly every week.
Obviously, the events in Menlo Park have gotten the attention of the leaders of the Watchtower as well. It was reported that within the past few weeks that Don Alden Adams, the current president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (the principal corporation of Jehovah’s Witnesses), made a trip out to the San Francisco Bay area “to visit friends and relatives.” During his visit it was reported that he met with some of the brothers named as defendants and their attorney, Anthony V. Smith. After Adams returned to New York, one of the defendants apparently bragged that his legal team had “a two million dollar war chest.”
A new contact
The call came late one afternoon. I didn’t know this person and had never spoken to her before. Her voice was both firm and unsettled as she said, “You don’t know me, but I know who you are. Someone gave me your phone number and said it was safe to call you. So I am going to take a chance because there are some things I think you might want to know.”
She went on to say that she knew about the court case connected with the takeover of the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall in July, 2010 and had been to that Hall many times over the past year. “I’ve heard so many things that I don’t know what to believe any more. There’s gossip about every little thing going on, but one thing I know is things aren’t right and someone is lying.”
When I asked her to explain her charges, she responded,”I don’t want to say it is a ‘black and white thing,’ but sometimes it sure seems that way. The Redwood City brothers just came in and didn’t even try to blend in. They just took over. They act like all of us who were there when they came over don’t count for anything.”
She went on to explain why she was calling me. She described the mood in the Kingdom Hall as one of division, and that a lot of the original members “feel left out and ignored. They think we are all behind Brother Jason [Cobb] and Brother Jon [Cobb]. We don’t really know all the facts, so we just keep our heads down and our mouths shut hoping this all passes very soon.” After I asked her what her feelings were about the new members of the congregation, she responded, “They might as well have stayed in Redwood City. They’re not any closer to us [original members] then they were then.”
While she was very friendly and I could tell she wanted to offer more of her insight, it was also clear that she was afraid to completely open up to me – as is the case with most of my anonymous contacts. One thing she did confirm: local Witnesses know that the rest of the world is closely watching Menlo Park, and there are others like her within that Kingdom Hall who want the truth to get out. She told me that some still aren’t sure if they can trust me completely, but they do know who I am, and they are sharing my cell number and email with each other. Her last comment was, “Somebody messed up and they lied about it. Now they’re trying to make it sound like it’s no big thing. We all want to know what they’re trying to hide and why.”
Well, sister, so do the readers of Ex-JW.com and many other Jehovah’s Witness forums, blogs, and websites!
[Anyone wishing to contact the Editor about Menlo Park or other similar cases in North America, can email him at MPKH@ex-jw.com. Anonymity is assured and all correspondence will be held in strictest confidence.]
What was Paul Koehler’s USN rank and unit?
Circuit Overseer and apparent local mastermind behind the Menlo Park scandal, Paul G. Koehler, may have to respond to inquiries about his oft-mentioned past military service and rank. The question is whether his claims of being a member of the elite Navy SEALs is based on fact, or just a figment of his imagination?
It is understood that Jehovah’s Witnesses, as a general policy, do not serve in the military of any country. Certain countries do require all able bodied men (and some require women, as well) to dedicate one or more years in either military or other public service assignments. It’s just like paying taxes and is considered the duty of every citizen.
For those who became Jehovah’s Witnesses after they served in the military, their time in service is not held against them, because it “came before they found the Truth.” As a result, many current Jehovah’s Witnesses do have a record of honorable, and in some cases, heroic, military service – and they should not be ashamed of that service to their country.
For many Americans, the recent military engagement by the US Navy SEALs that resulted in the death of the world’s number one terrorist leader, Osama bin Laden, was something to cheer. Although most of the members of that now famed team will remain anonymous for the foreseeable future, they are still held in high regard for their extreme bravery and professionalism. For anyone able to say they were actually a member of a SEAL team at any time in their lives has to bring them a feeling of pride.
Mr. Koehler has allegedly claimed to have been a Navy SEAL and an officer during his years in the military. If this is true, we salute him and thank him for his service to our country. He can be justifiably proud and we honor his service.
However, certain persons and plaintiffs’ legal advisor, John Steele, have allegedly claimed that he (Koehler) never served in that capacity, and that his claim to have been in such an elite fighting unit is baseless. The plaintiffs have made this issue public and mention it several times within court documents. (See court document 63, page 1. Link below.)
This could pose a serious problem for Mr. Koehler. In the United States, claiming to be a former member of an elite military unit (Green Berets, Rangers, Special Ops, SEALs, etc.) or the winner of a combat medal (purple heart, Navy Cross, Congressional Medal of Honor) could result in severe penalties and even imprisonment.
The “Stolen Valor Act of 2005″ addresses the unauthorized wearing of any military decorations and medals. It makes it a federal misdemeanor offense to falsely represent oneself as having received any U.S. military decoration or medal. Defendants may be imprisoned for up to six months, unless the decoration lied about was the Medal of Honor, in which case imprisonment could be up to one year. There are addition statutes that cover lying about one’s military service. There are current court challenges testing the constitutionality of these laws under the Freedom of Speech amendment, but as of this date the Stolen Valor Act is still in effect.
Mr. Koehler has allegedly used references to his “military experience” to justify some of his tactics in dealing with rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses. That is a misuse of authority whether he actually has that experience or not. If it turns out that Mr. Koehler has misrepresented himself, then we would expect the upper levels of the Watchtower Society at either Branch or HQ levels to take action and remove him from positions of authority.
Links to Recent Court Documents