San Luis Obispo church pastor accused of groping and alcohol abuse

December 3, 2019

Pastor Thom O’Leary


Amid allegations of groping and alcohol abuse, one of San Luis Obispo’s most prominent churches has placed its lead pastor on leave, pending the outcome of an investigation.

Thom O’Leary has served as the lead pastor of Mountainbrook Church in San Luis Obispo for more than 22 years, according to his personal website. O’Leary also serves as the chaplain for both the Cal Poly football team and the San Luis Obispo Police Department.

Additionally, he serves on the SLO Police Chief’s Roundtable. Police officials said the department is not investigating the allegations against O’Leary.

O’Leary has also led a prayer beside President Donald Trump. The president described O’Leary as a “great pastor.”

Mountainbrook Church has not disclosed the specifics of why O’Leary is under investigation. But church officials have described the allegations as serious and credible.

“After launching an outside investigation of some serious allegations of some inappropriate behaviors, we have found the accusations credible,” Mountainbrook board member Bruce Burton said in remarks delivered at the church on Sunday.

Local author Tina Swithin, a member of the church, stated in a Facebook post 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.

“One of the victims is a woman I know… a very credible woman,” Swithin wrote in the Facebook post. “It has happened to her several times.”

Swithin said O’Leary is a man she looked up to and maybe even idolized and who led her away from being agnostic to becoming a member of a church. She also stated O’Leary baptized her and her daughters, and he had restored her faith that there were still really good men in the world.

Mountainbrook Church has also placed O’Leary’s wife, Sherri O’Leary, on leave. Sherry O’Leary, too, is a pastor at the church.

The San Luis Obispo church is expected to disclose more information about the investigation at a meeting scheduled for Sunday.

JB Bronson

Nepotism reigned, but only at the pastorship level.

The wife is the Executive Pastor? Sounds like a way to draw down a big family salary.

Thom, did you like the sound of your funny man voice so much, that you had to laugh at your own jokes?

Mountainbrook has a big following, but the “road to destruction is wide and many are on it…”

The preaching has been that safe…and now what?

We can put off dealing with the truth, but we cannot escape it.


My ex-wife and I attended MB when it was still a Vineyard Christian Fellowship, located at the old SLO Junior High School (I went through this Christian phase for a while trying to impress wife #1. I got over it, and her too). Pastor Thom was a bright-eyed former youth pastor who had just taken over the church from pastor Bob Craine. Craine was a very charismatic pastor and left some resentment and controversy in his wake too. Though I never knew what the controversy was.

In about 10 years’ time, the Vineyard Church became Mountainbrook, double maybe tripled in attendance, changed locations twice, and seemed to have a high turn over of associate pastors. Once they moved up onto the hill adjacent KSBY, it seemed they were destined to become SLO’s first megachurch. O’Leary was a hell of a speaker, very warm and charismatic. However, to me it seemed canned, more surface than structure. He talked a good talk, but his eyes were dead, and I felt nothing came from his heart (my opinion of course). He was more a rockstar than a man of god. He surrounded himself with some very attractive people on staff. Any casual observer of this whole mess would swear that they just drove for an hour, but just ended up here.located in Stepford, with all the plastic, artificial sweetener like trappings that Stepford could afford. Another concern of mine was that Pastor Thom, his wife, and four children all lived in a big house in a gated community off Edna road near Wolfe vineyards. I always wondered why my pastor needed to live in an MTV Crib’s home in a gated community?

In the end, my 1st wife and I divorced and I immediately went back to the heathen ways that I had become so comfortable with before marriage. Long story short (probably too late for that), I think Thom O’Leary grew up too fast, grew his church too fast, and was living life too fast. I think he became a little too entitled, and lost track of his compassion and humility now that his super-sized church made him feel like a celebrity. It all came crashing down with a little too much alcohol, and a little too much grab-ass. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending him or making excuses. I still remain the same sociopath that I have been in previous posts. But I knew this man and saw the hell-bent path of destruction he was on.

Remember churches are also businesses, who are in the business of marketing and selling deities. Just like a used car salesman, they all claim to have the perfect deitiy to fit your needs, lifestyle, and amount of guilt you wish to feel. O’Leary’s brand of deity was a hit, and he rode the high for a long time. Then one day he decided to use Jack Daniels for communion at home instead of grape juice, then woke up the next morning with the shakes, and right hand that smells like extra strength FDS. He can easily move on to another state and start from scratch. Hell, the sale of his house alone could yield enough money for him to buy the entire state of Idaho.