'Hour of Power' Church Insiders Got $1.8M, Crystal Cathedral Flilings Show

VIDEO: Holiday traditions at the landmark may end if cathedral is forced to close.
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At least 23 insiders at the bankrupt megachurch Crystal Cathedral received $1.8 million in compensation in the past year, half of that paid in so-called housing allowances, new records show.

The trustee overseeing the case had previously objected to the salaries or housing allowances of three staffers, including two family members of the founding pastor, Robert H. Schuller.

The new documents show that at least three more insiders got $100,000-plus housing allowances including Schuller's son Robert A. Schuller, his son-in-law Paul Dunn, and his daughter Carol Milner. Dunn, a resident of Hawaii, received over $300,000 in housing allowance. The tax-exempt housing allowances are allowed under IRS rules to ordained ministers.

The court documents indicated that $832,000 in housing allowances went to eight people connected with the California church.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the trustee would file objections to the payments outlined in the new documents.

Previously, court documents listed payments to others including Robert A. Schuller's youngest sister, Gretchen Schuller Penner, and her daughter, Neva Penner Klaassen, whose duties overlapped in producing the church's "Hour of Power" TV program.

Gretchen Penner, first employed in March 1999 as executive director of programming and director of prayer ministry, had a 2009 salary of $69,525. The total 2009 compensation for her daughter, Neva Klaassen, was $55,099. Klassen began working as programming manager in July 2004 and managed the scheduling of music guests and directed the Sunday evening services, according to her job description.

Calls to Frank Cadigan, assistant U.S. Trustee, who is overseeing the chapter 11 bankruptcy were not immediately returned. The U.S. Trustee program is under the umbrella of the Justice Department.

The U.S. Trustee had also objected to the salary of Crystal Cathedral's chief financial officer, Fred Southard, who received a $132,019 housing allowance and $12,242 salary. The court document states that records "fail to set forth" why the church "needs to employ Mr. Southard as CFO and Director of Finance, when there is apparently a full time accounting staff employed" by the church in Santa Ana, Calif.

"Mr. Southard's role may be duplicative and discovery needs to be conducted in order to determine whether Mr. Southard's continued employment is necessary," according to documents filed on Friday.

Southard was employed in his current position since 1978 and worked approximately 60 hours each week, according to court records. The Orange County Register reported that pastor Robert A. Schuller had the highest salary of $196,478 followed by Southard, who had total compensation of $156,710, including his housing allowance.

The megachurch, founded by the Schullers' father and television evangelist, Robert H. Schuller in 1995, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October to restructure its staggering debt.

In a sermon just a week after filing for bankruptcy, Robert H. Schuller pleaded with his congregation for help.

"I need more help from you," Schuller said, according to the Orange County Register. "If you are a tither, become a double-tither. If you are not a tither, become a tither. This ministry has earned your trust. This ministry has earned your help."

Schuller's voice cracked with emotion as he told congregants about his family home and cornfield in Iowa getting flattened by a tornado when he was a teenager.

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