Metropolis of Boston Alleges “Financial Improprieties” by Fr. Nicholas Kastanas

FILE - Fr. Nicholas Kastanas delivering his last sermon at St. Athanasios on July 30, 2017. Photo: TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos

ARLINGTON, MA – The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston in a lengthy News Release alleged “serious improprieties” by Fr. Nicholas Kastanas in a specific Bank account managed only by him. The account was called “St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church Homeless and Needy Fund.”

The press release, in Q&A format, is in the form Questions and Answers was posted on the Metropolis’ website and attempts to provide answers about the sudden dismissal of Fr. Kastanas on July 27 from the St. Athanasius parish in Arlington, MA after 28 years of pastorship.

Kastanas told The National Herald he had no comment.

Kastanas’ removal was announced in a letter on July 27 by Methodios, stating that “for the past few years, the Saint Athanasius Parish has been in a state of turmoil as result of issues involving, in large part, Fr. Kastanas.

“The spiritual environment in the Community has been severely damaged by behavior that is wholly contrary to Christian values, which has resulted in, among other things, the distribution of hurtful and destructive communications throughout the Community.

“While this turmoil is not totally Fr. Kastanas’ fault, nevertheless, he bears the greatest responsibility. It is the parish priest who is expected to preserve the orderly life and unity of the parish, keeping it faithful to its divine purpose… After much prayer and reflection, I have arrived at the painful decision to relieve Fr. Kastanas of his pastoral responsibilities at St. Athanasius effective immediately following the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, July 30, 2017. Fr. Kastanas has been notified of this decision.”

Kastanas’ dismissal created turmoil at St. Athanasius, which was an active and vibrant parish. The congregants demanded to learn the reasons for Kastanas’ removal, which the press release is now attempting to achieve.

The Metropolis alleges that Kastanas refused to cooperate. As stated in the press release, “the decision to remove Fr. Kastanas from his pastoral responsibilities was not sudden or abrupt, nor taken with any malice. There had been many meetings between the Metropolis, Fr. Kastanas and the Chancellor, the Metropolis Council and its Finance team, successive “Parish Councils and Council officers, multiple Audit Committees, and members of the community regarding a myriad of serious issues and concerns, of which Fr. Kastanas was fully aware.

“Fr. Kastanas refused, after repeated requests for more than two years, to answer important questions regarding certain financial and other activities at St. Athanasius, thus thwarting the Metropolis’ efforts to understand the ramifications of his actions.

“In October, 2014, St. Athanasius was one of several parishes selected by the MetropolisFinance Committee (MFC) for a review of its financial records and accounts covering the years 2012 and 2013.”

The report states that “full disclosure of each Parish’s finances … is critical to the operation of the Archdiocese and the fulfillment of its mission and ministries.”

The press release continues: “During this 2014 review, MFC auditors discovered a bank account named ‘St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church Homeless & Needy Fund’ that had never previously been reported in the Parish’s annual financial reports (the Undisclosed Account).

“This Undisclosed Account was a ‘passbook account’ that was controlled and accessed by Fr.Kastanas alone, with no other signatories on the account and with no reporting of its activities in any way to the Parish Council or the Parish as a whole. In fact, Fr. Kastanas had closed the account earlier in 2014 after over twenty-one years of operation, just in advance of the MFC audit, and he never properly accounted for it to the Parish or Metropolis.

“During 2015 and 2016, Fr. Kastanas repeatedly declined numerous requests and ignored directives from the MFC to provide bank records associated with the Undisclosed Account, or to authorize the MFC to obtain records directly from the bank. He failed to respond asrequired and asserted claims of confidentiality that are wholly inconsistent with his responsibility as a Greek Orthodox priest under the UPR.

“Rather, Fr. Kastanas took actions which obstructed the MFC. Without access to the Undisclosed Account records, the MFC was unable to determine how the monies in the Undisclosed Fund were collected, used, how much revenue was involved, or even who benefitted from expenditures. Instead, the MFC was forced to expend considerable time and effort on its own to recover a small subset of such records.”

“By letter report dated February 8, 2017 addressed to Fr. Kastanas and the Parish Council,the MFC presented its findings and open questions related to the Undisclosed Account with respect to the three years of partial records the MFC was able to obtain.

The Undisclosed Account appears to have been in existence for over twenty-one years. “To date, the MFC has been unable to complete its audit under the UPR.

“In summary, the MFC reported concerns over the serious financial improprieties reflected in the Undisclosed Account, including:

  • The undisclosed nature of the account;
  • The taxpayer identification number associated with the account, which was neither the Parish’s nor Fr. Kastanas’;
  • The sources of the funds deposited into this account, which included the deposit of numerous checks specifically made out to individuals, outside charitable third parties, and to St. Athanasius Parish for its operational account and for other parish needs;
  • And the ultimate dispensation of the funds that went into this Undisclosed Account and which were converted into cash withdrawals with no records of their uses or recipients.

“Finally, in an attempt to fulfill its obligations, the MFC issued a directive that the Parish Council President was to appoint a St. Athanasius Parish Special Audit Committee for the sole purpose of carefully reviewing the Undisclosed Account. The MFC delivered all relevant documents it had obtained to this Special Audit Committee.

“The St. Athanasius’ Special Audit Committee released a report of itsfindings regarding the Undisclosed Account.

The report found that:

  • Fr. Kastanas’ management of the Undisclosed Account did not comply with the UPR;
  • The account was improperly handled;
  • The account did not contain sufficient records;
  • There was no accounting for the use of the funds;
  • Fr. Kastanas exercised sole control over the account;
  • All withdrawals were in even dollar amounts; and the purposes of the withdrawals were undocumented;
  • And deposits included numerous checks payable to St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church, the Pine Street Inn, various individuals, and ‘cash’, and notations written in the memo sections of many checks indicated that the checks were intended for purposes other than the “Homeless and Needy Fund.

“The Special Audit Committee report further noted that numerous critical questions remained unanswered, including regarding the sources of revenue deposited into the account and use of monies withdrawn from the account.”

The statement makes reference to Fr. Kastanas’ computer, which was by order of the Metropolis. That prompted the Legal and Court proceedings that Fr. Kastanas initiated at a Massachusetts Superior Court regarding the examination of the computer by the Metropolis invoking issues of confidentiality. The Metropolis discards Fr. Kastanas’ claims of confidentiality of the files on the hard disc.

The Metropolis hopes that the news release, which is not signed by any specific individual, will provide clarifications and answers about the reasons that dictated Fr. Kastanas’ dismissal from St. Athanasius. Meanwhile, the legal battle between the two sides continues.