For­mer West Vir­ginia

Group's $25,000 check went into Brans­field’s per­sonal bank ac­count

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY SHAWN BOBURG AND ROBERT O’HAR­ROW JR. [email protected]­ robert.ohar­[email protected]­

bishop Michael J. Brans­field says a group’s $25,000 do­na­tion was a per­sonal gift.

As Michael J. Brans­field pre­pared to be­come West Vir­ginia’s bishop in 2005, a small char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion de­voted to Catholic causes cut a $25,000 check. The John A. Quinn Foun­da­tion recorded the money in public tax fil­ings as a char­i­ta­ble do­na­tion to the Dio­cese of Wheel­ing- Charleston, Brans­field’s new home.

In­stead, the money went into Brans­field’s per­sonal bank ac­count, Brans­field ac­knowl­edged in a re­cent in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Brans­field stepped down as bishop in Septem­ber 2018 amid al­le­ga­tions that he mis­spent mil­lions of dol­lars in church money and that he ha­rassed or abused young priests and sem­i­nar­i­ans, trig­ger­ing a scan­dal that has res­onated far be­yond West Vir­ginia. Brans­field has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Brans­field said the $25,000 check was in­tended to help with the move to West Vir­ginia. He said it was as a gift from foun­da­tion board mem­bers he had come to know dur­ing his 25 years in var­i­ous po­si­tions at the Basil­ica of the Na­tional Shrine of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

“It went to me to pay for my ex­penses and help me to do the things I wanted to do and buy the things I wanted to buy,” he said. “I needed all new things to go there. It was money I used to pay for things, clothes, para­pher­na­lia.”

Quinn Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent Eileen Quinn told The Post in a brief telephone in­ter­view that she does not re­call the gift. Other board mem­bers from that pe­riod did not re­turn calls.

The group’s trea­surer, Mar­garet M. Comstock, de­clined to say whether the money was in­tended as a do­na­tion to the dio­cese or as a per­sonal gift to Brans­field. She de­clined to say who the check was made out to.

She told re­porters to stop call­ing mem­bers of the group.

“Mr. Brans­field will re­ceive the jus­tice he de­serves, and the Foun­da­tion will as­sist the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties if called upon,” she wrote in a state­ment.

Un­der In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice reg­u­la­tions, foun­da­tions may use their money only for char­i­ta­ble pur­poses and not to en­rich in­di­vid­u­als.

The Post dis­cov­ered the gift from the Quinn Foun­da­tion while ex­am­in­ing Brans­field’s fi­nan­cial ac­tiv­ity be­fore and dur­ing his 13-year ten­ure as bishop in West Vir­ginia.

The foun­da­tion, a long­time donor to Catholic in­sti­tu­tions in Wash­ing­ton, re­ported in its tax fil­ings for 2005 that it had given $25,000 to the West Vir­ginia dio­cese, de­scrib­ing the money as a grant to a tax-ex­empt char­ity.

But the West Vir­ginia dio­cese said it never got the money.

“No grant was re­ceived by the Dio­cese of Wheel­ing- Charleston from the Quinn Foun­da­tion in 2005 or since,” said spokesman Tim Bishop. “As such, any ques­tions should be re­ferred to Bishop Brans­field di­rectly.”

Brans­field told The Post that he knew the Quinn fam­ily from his long ten­ure in Wash­ing­ton.

The foun­da­tion was es­tab­lished in 1968 by John A. Quinn, the founder of a me­chan­i­cal con­tract­ing firm in Mary­land that is no longer in busi­ness. The foun­da­tion has do­nated mil­lions of dol­lars to the Arch­dio­cese of Wash­ing­ton, Catholic Univer­sity and other Catholic or­ga­ni­za­tions, tax fil­ings show.

Brans­field said he some­times gave the foun­da­tion ad­vice on where to do­nate its money. He said the 2005 check was the only money he per­son­ally re­ceived from the foun­da­tion.

As bishop in West Vir­ginia, Brans­field spent mil­lions of dol­lars of dio­cese money on per­sonal travel, ren­o­va­tions to his church res­i­dences and cash gifts to other Catholic cler­ics, an in­ter­nal church in­ves­ti­ga­tion found.

Last month, fol­low­ing an in­ter­nal au­dit, new West Vir­ginia Bishop Mark Bren­nan called on Brans­field to re­pay the dio­cese more than $792,000. Bren­nan also said Brans­field will have to pay $110,000 to the IRS in taxes on church money that was used for per­sonal spend­ing and that should have been re­ported as in­come.

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