BOCA RATON – Scenes of infinite beauty took place in the presence of Archbishop Demetrios of America at the recent Conference of the Leadership 100 in Florida with protagonist George Tsandikos, vice-chairman of the Archdiocesan Council and former chairman of the Leadership 100. The incident got out of control to the point that Tsandikos left the Conference in a delirious mood, as many delegates of the Conference who witnessed the “tragicomic” situation informed The National Herald.
The turmoil started at the Executive Committee as follows: After the prayer by Archbishop Demetrios, John Sitilides, a member of the Archdiocesan Council and of the Leadership 100, began to report on the approved grants of 2019. George Tsandikos asked if all the grants had been first approved by the Archdiocese. Before Sitilides had a chance to reply, John Payiavlas, a prominent businessman from Ohio who has contributed a lot to the Church, jumped and verbally attacked Tsandikos asking him why he was concerned about that. He continued, saying that the committee had worked very hard for the grants. Payiavlas then asked Tsandikos, “Are you here for the Archdiocese, or for the Leadership 100?” The two began arguing and screaming at each other. Payiavlas reportedly told Tsandikos, “Go ahead and leave, you always leave. Hit the road.” Tsandikos instantly got up and left for New York.
Some of the Conference-goers tried to locate Tsandikos to convince him to stay in order to diffuse the crisis and to avoid additional drama by having the story picked up by The National Herald. However, by the time they located him, it was too late because Tsandikos had already gone to the airport. Archbishop Demetrios observed the entire melodrama, speechless and embarrassed.
Payiavlas, Tsandikos, Vassiliou and Paulette Poulos didn’t respond to The National Herald’s telephone calls and written messages.
Extensive discussions took place at the Conference about the School of Theology and its dire and tragic situation. Elaine Allen, treasurer of the Archdiocesan Council, met privately with the Metropolitans who had gone to the Conference. Absent were Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco who was fighting a severe cold, Evangelos of New Jersey because the president of his Metropolis Philoptochos, Anastasia Michals, was on her deathbed, and Methodios of Boston who said that he was not feeling well. Archbishop Demetrios didn’t allow the president of the Theological School, Fr. Christopher Metropulos, to attend the meeting of the Metropolitans with Allen when they were discussing the School and him.
Some Metropolitans were saying that they shouldn’t have waited so long to get informed about all the things that Allen told them. The general consensus was that Fr. Metropulos should be dismissed from the presidency of the Theological School immediately. However, it was decided that he should be allowed to stay until the end of this academic year. In the afternoon of the same day, Fr. Metropulos met with the Metropolitans.
Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago reportedly told Fr. Metropulos, “I am not sure you are the best one for the position of the president of the Theological School.” Fr. Metropulos replied, “That is your opinion.”
It was suggested that Fr. Metropulos be dismissed right away and for Metropolitan Methodios of Boston to assume the presidency of the School. That suggestion had been widely circulated at the School days before the Conference of the Leadership 100. As a reminder, Methodios was the president of the School in the past, but he was fired with an intervention of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the then Archbishop Iakovos. The National Herald is in a position to know that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had been informed about the meetings and the dealings about the School. Archbishop Demetrios reportedly said that he can’t let Fr. Metropulos go because he doesn’t have anybody to replace him.
Elaine Allen insisted that the Leadership 100 give $500,000 to the school immediately, or else it would not be able to open. Archbishop Demetrios said that the money should be given otherwise they were going to lose the academic accreditation of the School. The Leadership 100 allocated the money to cover the operational expenses of the School, which is in contradiction to the bylaws of the Organization.
As TNH had reported, Elaine Allen had visited with the Archbishop some months ago at Theological School, and she asked to see some financial reports. Fr. Metropulos initially refused to let her see the finances, telling her that they don’t disclose those types of reports. She reportedly told him that they either provide her with the requested reports or she would leave. At that point, Fr. Metropulos made the reports available to her.
It was said at the Conference that the funds from the Endowment Funds have been exhausted. Fr. Metropulos argues that he inherited the problems from his predecessor, Fr. Nicholas Triantafilou.
The Leadership 100 authorized another $10.0 million dollars for scholarships to students that will become priests. This was the third time that the Organization granted this huge amount of funds to the School.
A woman delegate at the Conference stood up and asked, “I have been reading all the revelations about the money and the mismanagement at the Archdiocese by those who were in charge. Will they be punished? Will they be prosecuted by the Law Authorities?” The chairman of the Leadership 100, Argyris Vassiliou, said that the issue in question doesn’t belong in the Conference. He asked Lazaros Kircos, the chairman of the Finance Committee of the Archdiocese, to go speak to the woman privately, outside of the room. Kircos abided. It is believed that the issue is in the hands of the Attorney General as The National Herald had revealed.
Leadership 100 authorized grants totaling $2.7 million dollars for the so-called ministries of the Archdiocese for the year 2019. The Organization has in its coffers more than one hundred million dollars.
The ~400 participants of the Conference enjoyed a Forum on health and wellness with Drs. George Dangas and Harry Anastasopoulos, moderated by George Behrakis, prominent businessman and philanthropist from Massachusetts.
Ann Bezzerides presented the program of crossroads of the Holy Cross School of Theology.
Michael Psaros gave a presentation about the St. Nicholas nave in Manhattan and the formation of the new independent organization, “The Friends of St. Nicholas.”
George Safiol and Lou Nokozisis made a made $50,000 donations for St. Nicholas; Jim Pantelides gave $20,000; Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit gave $5,000; and Archbishop Demetrios gave $100,000 from his “Archbishop Demetrios Benevolent Fund.” The Archbishop’s Fund is a special fund where the Archbishop deposits all of his ‘tips’ (tihera) from various ecclesiastical events and sacraments and also from checks that are made out to his name.