New allegations arise against Mountainbrook pastor

Pastor Thom O’Leary

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

New allegations against the embattled lead pastor of Mountainbrook Church have arisen, though officials are refraining from disclosing what the latest accusations entail.

Thom O’Leary, who has served as the lead pastor of Mountainbrook Church in San Luis Obispo for more than 22 years, was placed on paid leave last month amid allegations of groping and alcohol abuse. Mountainbrook Church indicated it would disclose more information about the ongoing investigation on Sunday, but congregants who attended a church meeting received no new details, sparking fresh criticism. 

The church board placed O’Leary on paid leave on Nov. 4, a few days after learning of allegations against him. Board members also placed O’Leary’s wife, Sherry O’Leary, on leave. Sherry O’Leary, too, is a pastor at the church. 

Mountainbrook Church has hired an outside firm to investigate the allegations against Tom O’Leary. The church released a statement saying it does not want to rush the investigation.

“While we understand that everyone wants to know what’s happening, it is far more important that we do this properly than to rush through it,” Mountainbrook Church said in a statement. 

However, church officials also told media new allegations have arisen against O’Leary that are both serious and credible. The allegations reportedly have come from male and female church staffers.

Local author Tina Swithin, a member of the church, previously stated on Facebook that O’Leary is accused of groping interns and/or staff members, as well as other acts, including showing up at church and around town intoxicated.

Swithin, as well as other members of the congregation, criticized Mountainbrook following Sunday’s church meeting for not revealing more information and for disclosing less to congregants than to media.

“They are sending emails to the media about new allegations and I, as a ten-year member of the church sat through a meeting that delivered zero information,” Swithin wrote in a Facebook post Sunday night. “I should have stayed home and watched the news.”

There reportedly has been no criminal investigation launched pertaining to the allegations against the Mountainbrook pastor.

O’Leary has close ties to local law enforcement. He serves as the chaplain for the San Luis Obispo Police Department and serves on the SLO Police Chief’s Roundtable.

Additionally, O’Leary has served as the pastor for the Cal Poly football team, and he also led a prayer beside President Donald Trump. The president described O’Leary as a “great pastor.”

While O’Leary and his wife remain on leave, Rick and Becky Olmstead, senior leaders of Mountainbrook’s parent organization VineyardUSA, are serving as interim pastors at the San Luis Obispo church. 

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