St. Paul's Pastor Accused of Defrauding Church Funds

By Dwayne Stephenson and Jason Schwartz

DELRAY BEACH – A local pastor is under fire after searing allegations that he inappropriately used church funds.

The Rev. Howard B. Barr Jr., increased his salary without the church’s approval, Larry Davis, chairman of the budget committee for St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, told police this week.

Davis told police that on Feb. 18, 2012, the deacons met with Steven Gilbertson, the church’s CPA, to discuss the church’s finances. Gilbertson told them the pastor’s salary was $54,000, which perplexed them.

“I told him that the salary from the church approved budget was $49,500 and did not recognize the $54,000 figure,” Davis said. “As chairman of the budget committee, I was aware of all church approved expenditures.”

Barr’s purported $54,000 salary does not include an additional $18,497 that the pastor received in 2012 and prior years for funerals, hosting revivals, revivals, Easter service, etc., Davis said.

The extra $18,497 was not reported to the IRS per the church’s 501c3 status, Davis said.

Barr, who has been pastor at St. Paul since 2007, declined to comment on the allegations.

The 42-year-old however addressed some of the allegations on Sunday immediately following his sermon when a deacon told the church of their suspicions and that they would be filing a police report the next day.

Amidst the barrage of shouts, Barr excused himself from the pulpit, went to the back of the church, and reemerged with financial papers in hand. He fired off figures and declared his innocence; papers that Davis says Barr withheld from him and the rest of the Budget Committee for six months in 2011, when Davis says he normally received a statement every month.

“For six months I was told that the CPA was not sending financial statements to the church anymore and I did not receive them.  I had been receiving them for five years,” he said.

When Davis confronted Barr in a meeting, telling him he had to look after the needs of the church first, Barr allegedly snapped back in a 10-minute tirade, admonishing Davis that as a deacon he should look after the pastor’s needs first.

Barr also said “I should search myself to see if I should be a deacon at St. Paul as he did not appoint me,” Davis said.

In a 2012 memo to the Budget Committee, Barr directed the committee to pay him $100 for each funeral he conducted for members of the church, Davis said. This $100 payment was not brought before the church for approval, he added.

Davis said he met with Gilbertson’s assistant to get an explanation of the inconsistency with the salary and she told him that “Pastor Barr called her and told her to adjust his tax withholding so that he would not have a big tax bill at filing.”

Barr also told the assistant to keep his take home pay the same, which would increase his salary from $46,200 to $49,500 in December 2011 for the 2012 fiscal year, Davis said.

Contact the reporter at Jason@Delraybeachtribune.com or 561-665-0151.

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About Pedro Heizer

I'm a person of simple taste, all I need is some country music, Batman, Star Wars, sports, coffee, and most importantly Jesus Christ, because what profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? View all posts by Pedro Heizer

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