Utah pastor removed for allegedly failing to promptly report sex abuse
The pastor of the Tongan United Methodist Church in West Valley City has been removed from his position for failing to promptly report that young boys had been sexually abused by an older boy in the congregation, according to a letter written by a Denver church official.
The Rev. Havili Mone was suspended in August while officials investigated complaints against him. Bishop Elaine Stanovsky wrote in a letter dated Nov. 11 that when Mone first heard reports about the offenses, he "acted to heal the harm of abuse in a way that did not fulfill the expectations of The United Methodist Church and fell short of the professional standards for clergy in the United States."
Stanovsky had installed the Rev. Eddie Kelemeni, who is retired and lives in Hawaii, to fill in at the church, at 1553 W. Crystal Ave. (2590 South). She said in her letter that he will complete his time as interim pastor Nov. 30 and that a new pastor soon will be appointed.
The letter was sent Tuesday to church leaders with instructions to distribute it to members of the congregation, according to the Rev. Steve Goodier, a church superintendent.
Goodier said Thursday that Mone waited a few months after learning of the possible abuse before reporting it. He said the church has offered help to the children believed to have been molested.
At the time Mone was suspended in August, church members were not told the reason. About 150 members of the 600-strong congregation demonstrated in September in support of the pastor.
Stanovsky said that, effective Nov. 15, she intended to close the complaints against Mone, end his suspension and end his appointment to the church, which is named Laumalie Ma'oni'oni. Mone is taking a voluntary leave of absence from active ministry, and, as called for in church guidelines, will discontinue all pastoral responsibilities and relationships with members of the West Valley City church.
A West Valley City Police Department log obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune under a Government Records Access and Management Act request shows there were five calls from Jan. 1, 2010, to Oct. 23, 2012, reporting a sex offenses at the church, including three that were made after Mone's suspension. Those calls were made Sept. 27, 2011; Oct. 10, 2011; Sept. 18, 2012; Sept. 19, 2012; and Oct. 11, 2012.
Sgt. Mike Powell said the primary suspect is a 16-year-old boy but that several other cases are being investigated. The allegations involve up to 10 victims, all male minors, he said, and "range from lewdness up to and including sodomy."
Powell said the alleged incidents occurred at the church toward the end of last year and as recently as this summer.
"We want to stress, though, that the pastor in question here is not a suspect or a perpetrator," Powell said. "We did receive an allegation of failure to report, and that has been investigated and the district attorney is reviewing that."
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said his office is pursuing the matter in juvenile court and that there is an ongoing investigation. He declined to give any details because the case involves minors.
Outside of church duties, Mone was a familiar face during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, when he served as a torchbearer.
P Parents who need help with counseling for children who may have been abused by a Tongan United Methodist Church member can contact the Rev. Marv Vose at 719-250-3777.
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