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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
       http://www.ocanews.org/news/ShortSummary.html November 21, 2005 (Reprinted from the Orthodox Forum) -Former OCA Treasurer Breaks Silence: -Old Scandal
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 9 7:15 PM
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       http://www.ocanews.org/news/ShortSummary.html

      November 21, 2005
      (Reprinted from the Orthodox Forum)
      -Former OCA Treasurer Breaks Silence:
      -Old Scandal Resurfaces Amid Fresh Allegations & New Details
      -Stunning new allegations of financial corruption and personal misconduct, as
      well as insider details of a cover-up have been leveled against the current
      administration of the Orthodox Church in America by its former Treasurer,
      Protodeacon Eric Wheeler. In a series of three letters dated October 15 to
      November 1 sent to Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the OCA, members of the OCA's
      Holy Synod, and finally, members of the OCA's Metropolitan Council, Wheeler
      demanded the Orthodox Church in America "clean house".

      The Scandal
      Many of Wheeler's allegations, including the
      existence of secret discretionary accounts totalling millions of dollars, first
      surfaced in 1999 when the former chairman of the OCA's Audit Committee, John
      Kozey, balked at signing the 1997-98 official audit. When Kozey revealed the
      problem of 'Discretionary Accounts' to the OCA's Holy Synod, and later,
      Metropolitan Council, Kozey was summarily dismissed, at least one member of the
      Metropolitan Council was forced to resign and Wheeler was 'reorganized' out of
      his position as Treasurer.

      Now Wheeler, who had a stellar career in the
      administration of the OCA, first as an administrator at St. Vladimir's Seminary,
      then as Secretary to Metropolitan Theodosius from 1988-96 and finally as OCA
      Treasurer from 1996-1999, has broken his long silence about these matters in a
      confessional mea culpa that has the OCA administration in an uproar, the OCA
      hierarchy splintering, and the Orthodox cyberworld abuzz since major excerpts of
      the three letters were posted on Orthodox-Forum@...

      Financial and Personal Misconduct
      In his climatic third letter which details the origin, nature and scope of
      the corruption, as well as the ensuing cover-up, Wheeler explains: "The
      prevailing financial climate at the (OCA) Chancery was always one of
      concealment. Everything pertaining to money had to be handled in a secretive
      manner since the bishops were not interested in the financial needs of the
      central church, the Metropolitan Council and church bodies lacked, or rather,
      could never be given real control over the money and the masses were not
      spiritually mature enough to handle the truth."
      Given this atmosphere, Wheeler writes, funds were
      needed "to safeguard the church from scandal, to cover embarrassing credit
      card debts incurred by the Metropolitan, to provide family members who leached
      off their relatives with a steady stream of assistance, to pay blackmail
      requests and to provide the means to entertain with dinners, trips and gifts of
      cash the visiting foreign dignitaries and 'friends of Syosset'."

      According to Wheeler, secret
      bank accounts were established in the Roslyn Savings Bank, funded by undisclosed
      donations to the OCA by the Archer Daniels Midland Foundation (as well as
      personal foundation of ADM's founder, the Dwayne Andreas Foundation) totalling
      almost $5 million – as well as off-the-book sales of merchandise and liturgical
      items from Russia to OCA clergy and parishes. Wheeler details how Temporarily
      Restricted Fund the OCA's Annual Mission, Seminary and Charity Appeals - were
      looted to cover operational expenses in an extensive shell game meant to cover
      financial irregularities. "On a regular basis", Wheeler writes, "petty cash checks were cut from these accounts in the amounts of $10,000
      with the cash being given to Father Kondratick. A review of the financial
      records of the church during this period will show a deficit in the Charity
      Appeal Fund of close to $275,000 dollars." Additional monies, according to
      Wheeler, were diverted from Church Planting Grants as well as the Department of
      Chaplain's Bibles for Russia campaign.

      Wheeler's insider description of the financial
      chicanery at Syosset occasionally borders on the comic as he explains how a
      proposed visit to the OCA's Representation Church in Moscow, St. Catherine's by
      ADM's Dwayne Andreas threatened to bring down the house of cards. Having
      diverted Andreas' annual gifts for a conference and communication center in
      Moscow for years to secret accounts, Wheeler writes: "The greatest fear was
      that Mr. Andreas would want to view the nonexistent conference center. A plan
      was put into place to present the offices of the law firm renting property
      within St. Catherine's complex as the "Andreas Conference Center" the only thing
      to be changed were the signs on the outside of the building."
       
      The Scandal Breaks
      Wheeler's tone changes, however, as he begins to
      detail the events which led to his own dismissal in 1999. Wheeler writes:"As the All-American Council neared in 1999 I felt it essential to present an
      audited financial report for the years 1996-1998. Not to mention the fact that
      the plenary session devoted to finances was to be four hours in total
      presentation, with 45 minutes of open questions for the Treasurer."

      With neither Metropolitan Theodosius nor Fr,
      Kondratick willing to address the unethical behaviors or financial
      irregularities, Wheeler himself balked. "On June 20, 1999, "Wheeler writes, "I finally broke down and explained the entire financial mess to Rob Taylor,
      a partner of the CPA Firm responsible for auditing the accounts of the Church.
      Taylor, however, only informed the Chairman of the OCA Auditing Committee, John
      Kozey, of the secret accounts. Kozey, in turn, informed all members of the Holy
      Synod and Metropolitan Council in early July, 1999 of the secret Òdiscretionary
      accounts."
       
      The Cover Up
      "It is telling," continues Wheeler, "that
      within a week ... Metropolitan Theodosius retained the services of a private
      lawyer, Michael Kennedy, and Father Kondratick retained the services of David
      Chesnoff, a lawyer from Las Vegas provided through the connections of Richard
      Rock and William Tarbey." In order to contain any potential scandal before
      the Metropolitan Council's meeting, the Holy Synod met and voted to officially
      allow discretionary accounts, as well as to prohibit audits of them. Now Wheeler
      reveals that: "The resolution signed by the Holy Synod during the All
      American Council in 1999 calling for the Metropolitan to deny any type of audit
      of the 'Discretionary Account' was actually prepared by legal counsel for the
      Metropolitan."

      Wheeler continues: "This
      scandal would not be resolved, at least from the standpoint of Metropolitan
      Theodosius and Father Kondratick, until the Spring of 2000 with the
      Metropolitan's Report to the Holy Synod. Richard Rock, formerly of Martinez
      & Murphy, would run the 'cover up' and worked with Father Kondratick to
      construct an entire paper trail for the 'so-called' discretionary account from
      1996 to 1999. The discretionary account would end up footing the bill for the
      personal attorneys for the Metropolitan and the Chancellor and the accounting
      fees for Heinz and Associates for their review (not an audit of financial
      statements) of the paperwork created 'after the fact' by Richard Rock."
       
      In the wake of the successful cover-up, Kozey was
      dismissed and several members of the Metropolitan Council who had passionately
      argued for greater financial accountability and transparency forced to resign,
      as neither the Bishops, nor clergy would confront Syosset. The affair seemed
      finished as Metropolitan Theodosius reported to the 2000 Spring Session of the
      Holy Synod that "... an external audit is not a canonical requirement and is
      an expensive and unnecessary exercise which causes internal turmoil rather than
      good order." The cover-up was complete.

      Charges Continue
      Charges of financial irregularities, however,
      continued to be leveled against Syosett. Most recently, widespread questions
      arose regarding the dispersal (or rather, non-dispersal) of the more than
      $275,000 collected specifically for the 9/11 Charity Fund. In response to these
      questions, and at the urging of his Diocesan Council, Archbishop Job of Chicago
      and the Midwest, representing the OCA's largest diocese, sent a letter in June
      2005 asking for a "broader explanation of church finances and accounts" at the
      All-American Council in Toronto.

      In a response dated June 30, 2005, the Chancellor
      of the OCA maintained that it would be "inappropriate" to release additional
      financial information to the All-American Council "without the prior
      approval of the Metropolitan Council and the blessing of the Holy Synod",
      claiming that the Metropolitan Council "is provided with all pertinent
      information concerning finances." This refusal caused one prominent
      Metropolitan Council member from the neighboring Diocese of Western
      Pennsylvania, Attorney Greg Nescott, to resign in July 2005 citing the"...continued lack of openness in the OCA's chancery and central
      administration."
       
      Wheeler Breaks His Silence
      Wheeler offers no single or dramatic reason for breaking his silence at this
      time. He does acknowledge that writing these letters "has been cathartic". His
      sole hope, he writes is "by conveying my side of the story, and by
      attempting to explain the financial abuse that has taken place over the years,
      we can affect a change in the approach to financial stewardship and
      accountability in the Orthodox Church in America."
       
      Responses Vary
      Clearly, Wheeler's letters have reopened the book
      on the many scandals that have plagued Syosset for the past six years.
      Publically, Syosset has been silent on the charges. Privately, Syosset
      supporters dismiss Wheeler's allegations as the work of a 'malcontent', saying
      "the issues have been resolved long ago".

      Not surprisingly, other members of
      the Holy Synod, however, seem to have taken Wheeler's charges to heart. Although
      rebuffed before the Council, Archbishop Job held a meeting of all his Deans on
      Thursday November 3rd in Chicago to discuss Wheeler's revelations. No official
      announcement has yet been made but sources close the meeting indicate that
      unless significant actions are taken, the largest Diocese in the Orthodox Church
      in America may be contemplating witholding funds to Syosset until remedial
      actions are taken.
      -Mark
      Stokoe


      Forum members may also wish to re-read the following posts: 
      #57870,  8/20/06..Where did the missing money go?
      #58051,  8/25/06..OCA Bequests Corrected
      #58400,  9/6/06..OCA General Endowment 
      #58920,  9/26/06..OCA Discrepancies

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