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Anastasios Koularmanis Files Lawsuit Against St. Demetrios Astoria

BOSTON – Anastasios Koularmanis filed a lawsuit against St. Demetrios Cathedral of Astoria, Gerasimos Asprogerakas, Constantine Baltzis, Elizabeth Baltzis, Emmanuel Dritsas, Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, and Nikos Stamatakis.

Asprogerakas, Baltzis, and Dritsas are members of the Parish Council. Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos is the presiding priest of St. Demetrios, Elizabeth Baltzis is the wife of Constantine Baltzis, and Nikos Stamatakis is owner of an online blog.

Anastasios Koularmanis, who is the Director of the Office of Greek Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, alleged in the lawsuit dated June 15, 2020, of which The National Herald has obtained a copy, that “since 2017, the plaintiffs […] have been the victims of an ugly and malicious campaign of harassment and defamation by the defendants in this action, both acting separately and in concert.”

It is reminded here that Mr. Koularmanis, before his assignment as Director of Greek Education of the Archdiocese served since the year 2000 as the Superintendent of the St. Demetrios Cathedral Day School. The lawsuit declares that “prior to plaintiff Anastasios’ joining the School, it was suffering both in registration and academics. But as a result of his efforts, by his second year there, several of its students were accepted to top-rated universities, such as Yale, Barnard, Columbia, and NYU. The School’s status and reputation increased substantially.”

According to the lawsuit, “the plaintiffs bring common-law claims for defamation, unpaid salary and commissions, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and prima facie tort. They also bring claims under New York State and New York City statutes against sexual harassment in the workplace.”

Mr. Koularmanis specifically alleges in detail that a mother of a pupil at the school, who is the wife of a member of the parish council, was sexually harassing him repeatedly for a long period of time.  We emphasize here that out of respect for the individuals, families, children and the school we omit names, details, and descriptions, although they are set out in detail in the multipage lawsuit. Mr. Koularmanis also alleges that he had informed Fr. Papazafiropoulos and the Parish Council about that issue in writing.

It is also mentioned in the lawsuit that “as result of his efforts [Koularmanis], he brought in to the School millions of dollars in grants and donations.”  

The lawsuit goes into detail about the large donation of $25 million dollars that the Stavros Niarchos Foundation intended to give to the school. It is written in the complaint that “in 2018, the School was awarded a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for $25 million. However, and unfortunately, the community turned down the grant, because accepting it would have required opening the School to non-Greek students. The subsequent political battles after this rejection began the course of events which have caused substantial harm to the plaintiffs, and have compelled the bringing of this action.”

According to the lawsuit, “beginning in late August 2019, defendants Constantine, Elizabeth, Asprogerakas, and Dritsas made good on their threat to destroy the plaintiffs’ good names and reputation.  On or about August 28, 2019, defendant Stamatakis published the first in a series of increasingly vicious and defamatory blog posts about the situation at the St. Demetrios School. The most recent one was only a few weeks ago. Much of the language in his screeds went far beyond fair commentary, into vile personal accusations and attacks on plaintiff Anastasios’ reputation, honesty, professionalism, and integrity. The excerpts to be quoted herein below are all of and concerning plaintiff Anastasios, and both individually and taken as a whole, are false and defamatory.”

It is mentioned in the lawsuit that “on information and belief, defendant Asprogerakas has been communicating with defendant Stamatakis on a regular basis, and is assisting him with the below-described articles, by providing him with confidential information about the internal workings of the School.”

It is written in the lawsuit that:

“as a further direct and proximate result of these unlawful employment practices, plaintiff Anastasios has suffered the indignity of discrimination on the basis of his gender, the invasion of his rights to be free from discrimination and sexual harassment, and great humiliation, which has manifested in physical illness and emotional stress.

“As a further direct and proximate result of these unlawful employment practices, plaintiff Anastasios has suffered extreme mental anguish, outrage, severe anxiety about his future and his ability to support himself and his family, harm to his employability and earning capacity, painful embarrassment among his friends and co-workers, damage to his good reputation, disruption of his personal life, and loss of enjoyment of the ordinary pleasures of everyday life. Accordingly, plaintiff Anastasios is entitled to compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants, in an amount to be determined by a jury and the Court, and to a reasonable attorney’s fee.”

The same applies to the sexual harassment that Mr. Koularmanis alleges based on the laws of New York.

According to the lawsuit “Plaintiff Anastasios was also entitled by his contract to reimbursement for his expenses incurred. During the five years prior to his resignation, he procured for the School several grants, amounting to approximately $825,000. They were (a) a grant from the Universal Pre K program of $540,000, (b) a Security Grant of $125,000, and (c) more than $200,000 in a Mandated State Aid program. In addition to those grants, plaintiff Anastasios obtained the gift to the School of an office building, from a physician. On information and belief, the School recently sold the building for approximately $650,000. In sum, for the past five years, plaintiff Anastasios is entitled to a commission bonus of approximately $578,000. In addition, Plaintiff Anastasios is entitled to payment for accumulated vacation time, and unpaid salary, in the amount of $9,600. Plaintiff Anastasios is entitled to a money judgment against the School for the unpaid commissions and salary, in the sum of $587,600, with interest.”

Regarding the defamation, it is stated in the lawsuit that “Defendant Stamatakis either knew, or had reason to know, that his allegations were false, but published them anyway, with constitutional malice and with intent to harm and destroy plaintiff Anastasios’ reputation in the community. Plaintiff Anastasios is entitled to a judgment against defendant Stamatakis, declaring that the complained-of statements’ allegations are false and defamatory, compensatory and punitive damages, a judgment requiring a retraction and the removal of the false and defamatory statements from the internet, and such other damages as a jury and the Court may determine.”

In Stamatakis’ postings on his blog mentions are made repeatedly about the Niarchos donation that “that eventually forced the Niarchos donation of $25 million to be accepted through which the school with buildings of value of $ 70-100 million (without a mortgage loan) would become a charter school and pass on the hands of the board which would be controlled by the private company Alma Bank Alma Realty and A. Diamataris [former owner of Ethnikos Kirikas].”

There are a series of postings with malicious characterizations against Mr. Diamataris and also the former chairman of the School Committee and founder of St. Demetrios High School Mr. Nick Andriotis as well as Archbishop Elpidophoros of America. Many postings are included in the lawsuit.

It is noted here that in recent weeks Mr. Diamataris in commentaries in the parent publication of The National Herald, the Greek-language Ethnikos Kirix, made references to articles of bloggers which are derogatory of leaders and other individuals who have dedicated their lives to the service of the Greek-American Community.

The National Herald contacted Archimandrite Nektarios Papazafiropoulos by telephone and asked him if he had a comment about Mr. Koularmanis lawsuit. He said, “we haven’t received anything officially. There is no official document at this moment. If that really is from Mr. Koularmanis it shows a little of his character – I personally didn’t have respect for him because his character was always lacking seriousness. That is why it wouldn’t surprise me.”

Mr. Anastasios Koularmanis told the NH that “our lawyer has advised us not to speak to the press. The issue will go to trial and the court will decide who is right and who is wrong.”

Gerasimos Asprogerakas said that “Mr. Koularmanis twists sentences, words – and certainly consequently the meaning of what has been said in the Community is twisted. We can easily rebuff his allegations and my opinion is he owes us – we don’t owe him.”

Constantine Baltzis said, “this is fiction. It is a totally frivolous lawsuit and I am going to reserve my rights against the plaintiffs and the attorney himself for filling an obviously defamatory and frivolous lawsuit.”

It is noted here that Emmanuel Dritsas did not return TNH’s telephone message.

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