PITTSBURGH, PA – The Archdiocesan Council meeting May 3-4 in Pittsburgh, PA, presided by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, focused on the Archdiocese’s finances, the St. Nicholas National Shrine, the Holy Cross Theological School, clergy pensions, and other administrative matters.
As The National Herald has reported, clergy pensions continue to be a problem because the Archdiocese failed to contribute the required amounts into the fund.
The Clergy Pension fund chairman, Fr. Konstantinos Pavlakos of the St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Falls Church, VA, raised the issue one more time. Archdiocesan officials acknowledged that “what has happened never should have happened” with the pension plan, “but we are obligated by law to first pay $3.7 to St. Nicholas. We have already returned $1 million and have $2.7 million remaining.
Meanwhile, there isn’t even agreement on how much the pension fund is owed: differing accounts identify the shortage as $850,000 or $650,000, and the Archdiocese says “first we have to find out the exact amount, and then the Archdiocese will put it in.”
Fr. Pavlakos asked what would happen to the interest that was never paid into the fund, to which Archdiocesan officials responded that after examining the entire matter, whatever hasn’t been paid, the Archdiocese would pay. “We have already deposited a couple of hundred thousand dollars, but that is not enough. We have to put in whatever is owed.”
Those same officials said the Archdiocese has a $1 million insurance coverage against embezzlement, but the policy cannot be paid out regarding the pension fund shortfall unless embezzlement is established.
It was also discussed, as TNH reported in October, there is a box at the Archdiocese filled with envelopes containing issued pension checks that have not been mailed due to a lack of funds.
There was also discussion regarding the metropolises; namely, that they too should be subject to financial audits and regulations of internal controls, as should any entity that receives funds from the Archdiocese.
The Archdiocese has acknowledged that due to its financial situation, it had no choice but to apply for a bank loan, using as collateral its New York city headquarters buildings.
Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh announced that the 2020 Clergy Laity Congress would be convened in Pittsburgh.
An extensive discussion took place regarding the St. Nicholas National Shrine, and the Archdiocese issued the following press release accordingly:
“On May 4, 2018, Elaine Allen, Chairman of the Standing Audit Committee of the Archdiocesan Council, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, announced the substantial completion of Phase 1 of the St. Nicholas Special Investigative Committee’ s (SIC) investigation into the management and finances of the St. Nicholas Church and National Shrine project. The SIC has received PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Phase 1 draft report and is expected to announce its findings to the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council imminently.
“Among key findings from Phase 1, the amount owed by the Archdiocese to St. Nicholas has been confirmed to be less than $3.7 million, with the exact dollar figure to be finalized in the coming weeks. Moreover, the review found that all other monies raised to fund the St. Nicholas project are accounted for, and that the expenditure of these funds was consistent with donor restrictions.
“As a result of the aggressive financial restructuring efforts undertaken by the Archdiocese over the last year, led by Treasurer Mike Psaros, the Archdiocese has already repaid $1million of the pending total amount it owes to St. Nicholas, and will voluntarily pay interest on the full amount owed to the project. The Archdiocese will also make a voluntary contribution of $670,000 to St. Nicholas. This amount represents the full amount of unrestricted investment returns generated on donations from 2001 – 2012.
“Finally, Ms. Allen announced that the Archdiocese will repay its debt to St. Nicholas with interest. The amount of the interest payment will be confirmed following the SIC’s completion of the findings report, which will include the finalized amount owed by the Archdiocese to St. Nicholas.
“Phase 2 of the SIC’s investigation is also being conducted by PwC. The work is ongoing and includes a review of the St. Nicholas project’s baseline costs and cost increases, a review of design changes, and an analysis of vendor payments with the goal of identifying potential non-disclosed relationships between the St. Nicholas project management team and vendors paid with St. Nicholas funds. The SIC’s findings report is expected to complete within one month.
“Immediately following the completion of Phase 2, Phase 3 of the SIC’s investigation will begin. It will largely be a project management and design exercise intended to finalize construction plans, costs, and a revised timeline for completion of the project.
The SIC is committed to completing its comprehensive and exhaustive investigation into mismanagement allegations around the St. Nicholas project, and to addressing all issues potentially raised in this investigation before construction proceeds.
“The St. Nicholas Church will be a sacred space with its doors open to all. As a National Shrine on hallowed ground, it will stand in memorial to the lives lost on September 11, 2001, as a symbol of reconciliation, and as a spiritual beacon of hope and for generations to come. The Archdiocese remains committed to the completion of this deeply meaningful landmark and spiritual capstone to the World Trade Center site redevelopment effort.”
Archdiocesan Chancellor Bishop Andonios of Phasiane referred to the letter of the MG McGrath Company that TNH recently revealed, admitting that the Archdiocese has not paid that company as part of the construction of St. Nicholas, and that he met with McGrath officials a week earlier and they required $1.4 million in advance.
It was revealed that the Archdiocese has not sent any money to the School of Theology for over a year now, to which Archbishop Demetrios replied he had no knowledge until he found out about it at a School meeting a week earlier. The School’s president, Fr. Christopher Metropulos, said he does not have the necessary funds to operate the School. Archdiocesan officials said the School is a separate entity with its own tax ID number. Fr. Metropulos said: “why do you say everything is going well when I don’t have money to operate the School?” Fr. John Magoulias also spoke in favor of the School.
Some relatively new officials said they could not imagine the Archdiocese’s state of disarray.
Metropolitans Gerasimos of San Francisco, Evangelos of New Jersey, Isaiah of Denver, and Alexios of Atlanta did not attend the meeting.