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Timeline of events published by Diocese of Maryland

Timeline of events published by Diocese of Maryland

UPDATE Evening 2/3/15: We have posted a followup to this item with new details.

UPDATE 2/3/15 The Diocese of Maryland has updated the timeline. The dinner was 9/4 and the consecration on 9/6

Update:  The Washington Post now has a story on their website regarding this latest update on the timeline.


The Diocese of Maryland has added a timeline of Heather Cook’s nomination, election, and career as Suffragan Bishop in the diocese to its page dedicated to answering questions in the aftermath of her arrest for vehicular homicide and other charges arising from a December accident in which a local cyclist, Thomas Palermo, was killed.

Much of the information contained in the timeline has already been made public; however, some details are new, in particular:

 September: Bishop Sutton suspects that Cook is inebriated during pre-consecration dinner and conveys concern to Presiding Bishop. Presiding Bishop indicates she will discuss with Cook. Cook consecrated a bishop.

 October: Bishop Clay Matthews from the Office of Pastoral Development for the Episcopal Church, meets with Cook. Details confidential to only the Presiding Bishop’s office.

In January, the Standing Committee of the diocese requested Bishop Cook’s resignation.


by Jon White & Rosalind Hughes


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Jean Lall

June Butler, I agree that Bishop Sutton should not have shared his private story as he did; that was part of my point. But since he did so, I was trying to interpret it. I am glad that you never felt in any way responsible for your father’s drinking; the pattern I described is, as I said, common in alcoholics’ families, but fortunately it is not universal.

My point is emphatically NOT that those responsible for this catastrophe should be let off the hook. What I was reacting to was some people’s tendency to rush to judgment. It took the police department in Baltimore 13 days to complete their investigation into the crash so that the state’s attorney could file charges and issue an arrest warrant. People familiar with such investigations thought that was quite reasonable, but all during that period there were demands for immediate action (throw her in the clink!), claims that there must be a coverup in progress, and a great deal of mind-reading and second-guessing of all authorities (civil and clerical) going on. The criminal justice system is dealing with Heather Cook and I expect that she will be given serious prison time. Proceedings against her are also moving forward within the Episcopal Church. Bishop Sutton, the Bishops of Easton past and present, and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will have to answer for their decisions as well. My concern is with the future. How can the Diocese and the whole church learn from this tragedy, increase its understanding of addictions, and reform its procedures and canons to make such tragedies less likely to occur in future? It seems that there was a long series of events, many of them hidden and only now coming to light, some of them overt but not taken seriously enough at the time, which culminated in that dreadful crash on Roland Avenue on December 27, 2014. The urgency to see heads roll (or people being “marched out the door” tout de suite) is understandable, but it’s going to take time and patience to understand the full picture so that we make changes that go deep, rather than satisfying ourselves with quick solutions.

June Butler

Jean Lall, I thought 13 days was a reasonable time for the police to complete their investigation. They wanted to get the charges right. I certainly hope the church learns from this tragedy, but I don’t see how lamenting the impropriety of comments on social media takes us forward in the learning process. I see nothing wrong with calling for accountability from the people in the church who were responsible for letting Heather Cook slip through the cracks and become a bishop in the church. Those same people did Heather Cook no favor, by enabling her behavior.

Nancy Bennett

Speaking of “perfectionism” here is a quote from the facebook page “JusticeForTomPalermo” on Jan 6th:

“In 1988 she was the Chaplin at my school and drove me and another student to a movie 45 minutes away. We were young, but could smell the alcohol and her driving was so scary and erratic. Honestly- we are lucky to be alive. She was so drunk and we were too scared to tell the school. After all-she was the Chaplin. Who would believe us? I am sick hearing this story. I feel guilt that maybe had I said something years ago the investigation could have started sooner. Maybe not, I just don’t know.”

1988. Oh yeah — but a *full* investigation of her background did not turn up the teeniest tinyist evidence that the woman was an alcoholic. The 2010 DUI was a “once time event.’ was in the sense that it was the first time she got arrested. People are going to be coming out of the woodwork now to recount events at which she was drunk over the last decades. Watch and see.

Nick Porter

They aren’t going to do it for the sake of providing information though,Nancy, they are going to do it to separate themselves from her.

Nancy Bennett


The problem with taking away a person’s license is twofold: 1) in American society today, unless you live in one of a few very big cities, you simply cannot function without a car. You can’t hold down a job, you can’t get food, you can’t go to a doctor. The courts recognize this and will often say something like: “you can only drive back and forth to work” or whatever. 2) Because of #1, there is a huge temptation for people who have lost their licenses to just keep driving anyway. How many times do you read of someone who is charged with DUI *and* with driving without a license? Personally, I haven’t been pulled over by a cop for 10 years. How would anybody even know whether I had a license or not?

Since it’s just about impossible to keep someone from driving, the next best thing is just to make sure they don’t drive drunk. Ignition locks do this very well.

It’s also very important to determine if the person caught driving while impaired is actually an alcoholic or not. Is this just a social drinker who didn’t pay enough attention to how much they were drinking and was “just over the line” and “just this time” or is this a real alcoholic? A social drinker will be sufficiently chastened/punished by a big fine and their name in the paper not to do it again. An alcoholic will not.

It was totally clear at the 2010 hearing that Ms. Cook was an alcoholic. Her .27 BAC meant that it was a miracle that she didn’t kill someone or herself on that occasion. At this point the judge should have said something like: “You have the choice of either losing your license for two years or giving up drinking entirely. If you choose the latter, you will be subject to random testing (at your expense) for five years. If you fail any of these tests, you will spend 10 days in jail.” I think we can be fairly confident Ms. Cook would have chosen the testing. In such an event it is highly likely Mr. Palermo would still be alive.

Philip B. Spivey

Nancy: You provide a seemingly reasonable alternative. I am aware of the rationale the courts use not deprive folks driving privileges. In my way of thinking that IS the problem. I’ll provide you with, what I hope is, a valid analogy.

If you will concede that an automobile is a potentially lethal weapon, what would you say to someone who has a neurological impairment that leads to episodic black outs. Should this person be permitted to operate a vehicle, under any circumstances?

Folks who cannot abstain from alcohol (and other drugs) and who lack the judgement to operate a lethal weapon safely in pubic, should be deprived driving privileges.

In the case of the person with the neurological disorder and the person with the acute drinking disorder, I believe both are too impaired to operate a lethal weapon safely. Sadly, the law places the inconvenience we might suffer not driving over the fact that we a potential danger to our communities. Individual rights once again trump the rights of a community.

Nancy Bennett

I see your point, but one of the differences is that a person with a neurological disorder would probably consider themselves handicapped and would have come to terms with all the things they could and couldn’t do (for example, take a bath alone). Consequently they would probably accept that they couldn’t drive and work around it.

The alcoholic denies they have a problem, sees everybody else as the problem, and is probably just going to keep on driving because the truth is, they really do need to drive for many reasons and they are going to see that as a justification.

The long and short of it is — when you take away a person’s license for non-medical reasons, a large number of them continue to drive anyway. The more responsible and rational they are, the more likely they are to comply, take their punishment, and vow not to get into the same situation again. But we already know that alcoholics are not capable of that.

William Wheeler

Some of you should really read the update to this story. Bishop Sutton said he had “no evidence” that Cook was an alcoholic. Really??????!!!!!!!!
A 2010 DUI isn’t evidence? You telling the PB that she was inebriated at a private dinner before installation isn’t evidence? If some of you believe that Sutton is being pastoral through all of this, I will pray for you. I will pray God opens your eyes to see what your bishops have done and are continuing to do to absolve themselves and the church of any responsibility. It is sad to see so many people defend those who let you all down by enabling this woman.
I would lastly like to say kudos to this site for covering this tragedy honestly and openly. The same cannot be said for other Episcopal related sites. May God have mercy on us all.

Philip B. Spivey

As we continue to point fingers to “identify the person responsible” for these tragedies, I have believe that all of the players in this backstory are culpable —in different degrees— by virtue of ignorance or denial, i.e., looking the other way.. As with the law, ignorance or denial are no excuses. How difficult it must have been for Hercule Poirot to discern the person responsible for the coup de grace in “Murder on the Orient Express”.

We know who drove the car and killed a cyclist. We don’t know the identities of all the people who, over the years, looked away from Heather Cook’s drinking problem— including the law. If I were making the laws, ONE DUI would mean the loss of a driving licence for 2 years; great external motivation to get and stay sober.

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