Ruling adds to push for temple vote

By Greg Mellen, Press-Telegram, Jan 12, 2009

COURTS: Judge reinstates nonprofit group at the center of a power struggle

LONG BEACH, CA (USA) -- One potential barrier to a vote for new leadership at a local Cambodian Buddhist temple was removed by a recent court ruling.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Di Loreto disallowed an earlier attempt to dissolve the Khmer Buddhist Association, which oversees the temple.

By reinstating the KBA as a California nonprofit corporation, Di Loreto opened the doors for a scheduled election Jan. 23.

David Pasternak, a court- appointed receiver for Wat Vipassanaram, filed the application to bring back the nonprofit, which had earlier refused to turn over financial documents to him.

The KBA oversees the temple at 1239 E. 20th St., six properties and millions of dollars in assets.

Di Loreto wrote in his decision that Siphann Tith, former executive director of KBA, had exceeded his authority and made claims that were materially false and fraudulent when he submitted paperwork to the Secretary of State disbanding KBA.

In October, Tith was jailed when he refused to turn over documents to Pasternak.

Tith and other leaders disbanded KBA and an entity called Wat Khmer Vipassanaram was formed under the umbrella of the Church of the Revelation, a self-described Gnostic church without a congregation or physical address other than a mailbox. It is run by John Ramirez, aka Johnny Rondo, who was implicated in an insurance fraud case in Texas in 2002.

The nine-member KBA board of directors has been locked in a struggle for control of the wat with templegoers supported by the monks.

The groups have been in court since a disputed election was staged last January.