NEW YORK – The amount of $15 million is missing for a special account for the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Church at Ground Zero, as discovered in a meeting of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America on September 26.
No one seems to know where the money is, and no one – including His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America – has taken responsibility.
Initially, The National Herald (print edition) reported that $3.8 million was transferred from the St. Nicholas account to the Archdiocese for the latter’s operating expenses, but the situation, as revealed during the meeting, appears to be far more serious.
Archbishop Demetrios presided over the meeting, which was also attended by Vice Chair of the Archdiocesan Council George Tsandikos, who is an economist and an attorney, Archdiocesan Chancellor His Grace Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, who is also President of the St. Michael’s Home for the Aged, V. Rev. Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne Alexander Karloutsos, who is also spiritual Advisor of the Order of Archons of St. Andrew of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archdiocesan CFO Fr. SoteriosBaroody, and Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos.
None of the attendees knew anything about the missing $15 million. The ones who purportedly would know, because the managed the project, are Jerry Dimitriou and George Papadakos, who were Directors of Administration and Finance, respectively, and both were recently terminated.
Demetrios, Tsandikos, Andonios, and Baroody all declined TNH’s request for comment.
Fr. Karloutsos said “no comment, for now.” It was Karloutsos who, during a stagnant period of attempting to collect funds to rebuild St. Nicholas, mobilized the efforts that resulted in the collection of large contributions.
During all these years, the Archdiocese did not provide any report about the collected amounts of donations from prominent wealthy Greek-Americans, from the Leadership 100, the parishes, the Philoptochos, AHEPA, and the congregants of the communities.
With few exceptions, the metropolises contributed small amounts.
TNH has learned that a prominent member of the Archdiocesan Council, Leadership 100, and Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is determined to go to the attorney general if he does not receive satisfactory answers.
Meanwhile, George Papadakos of the Archdiocese’s Finance Department was recently terminated. He served as Director of Finance for a number of years, and was a close collaborator with Jerry Dimitriou, Executive Director of Administration, who was also recently let go.
Papadakos did not discuss why he was fired and referred TNH to CFO Fr. SoteriosBaroody, who did not respond to TNH’s request for comment.
On September 25, His Eminence Archbishop DemetriosGeron of America for the first time spoke with the personnel about the state of the Archdiocese, but he painted a rosy picture that all is well. Bishop Andonios and Tsandikos were there as well.
Demetrios did acknowledge “mismanagement” and that efforts are made to overcome it, with a positive perspective that all will be well again.
The archbishop did not mention anything about the economic crisis, or bankruptcy. He did not make any reference to hundreds of thousands of dollars exiting the Archdiocese, as TNH recently revealed in the case of Finance Committee Chairman George Vourvoulias, who was paid $900,000 for travel expenses over ten years.
TNH calculates that to date, 18 full-time and 12 part-time employees were dismissed. Demetrios affirms that he is not retiring or otherwise leaving the Archdiocese. He is trying to find a way to appeal to the membership of the Archdiocese throughout the country, to justify the financial state under his Archbishopric tenure. The Archdiocese will probably print a special edition of The Orthodox Observer accordingly.
The hope is for wealthy Greek-Americans to give money to cover the $8.5 million deficit, because there would be tremendous backlash if the Archdiocese attempted to increase allocations of the parishes instead.
There are also questions as to whether the grants given by Leadership 100 for ministries have been utilized for those purposes.
Many within the Archdiocese and in wider ecclesiastic circles wonder whether Demetrios is genuinely out of touch with the Archdiocese’s dire financial state or is intentionally attempting to camouflage it.