Analysis: Sad but Expected

The National Herald

Jerry Dimitriou speaking at the Clergy Laity Congress on the Archdiocese in Philadelphia in July 2014 urging the parishes to increase their annual mandatory contributions to the Archdiocese. (Photo by TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)

The recent arrest of former Executive Director of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Jerry Dimitriou on charges of embezzlement of Archdiocesan funds and misuse of Archdiocese credit cards for personal use and expenses, was certainly sad but it was also expected.

Dimitriou was in charge of the administrative and financial affairs of the Archdiocese for 17 years before he was fired in 2017. He is charged with embezzling approximately five hundred thousand dollars, but the investigation, according to the announcement by the authorities, continues and the amount of money involved could be increased.

I wrote above that it was an expected development because the days and the actions of Mr. Dimitriou were known. The National Herald revealed on February 4, 2018 that it “has learned that allegedly, Dimitriou was taking ‘significant and unprecedented irregularities’ regarding payroll and was using the credit card of the Archdiocese, specifically American Express, to pay for personal expenses including family vacations. Dimitriou didn’t respond to TNH’s request for comment.”

All the above were verified by the authorities. Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Ruth M. Mendonca, the Assistant Inspector in Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), announced the arrest on wire fraud charges. “Specifically, Dimitriou is charged with committing two embezzlement schemes: In one, he allegedly embezzled more than $488,000 from Organization-1 by directing subordinates to issue him unauthorized excess salary payments; in the other, he allegedly charged hundreds of personal expenses to his Organization-1 credit card, without authorization, costing Organization-1 at least tens of thousands of dollars.”

Yes, that was how the stealing-game or rather the sacking of the Church’s money had been set up. We shouldn’t forget that we constitute the Church – the People of God – not the buildings or the bureaucratic clericalism. The People make mandatory annual contributions to their local parishes in order to be considered “members in good standing,” like the practice of country clubs. The lighting of candles, the contributions to the trays passed among the faithful sustain financially the Church and all its employees, including the hierarchs, the chancellors and the priests.

And this sacking was continuing for years. Even after the dismissal of Mr. Dimitriou “Archbishop Demetrios insisted on giving him (Jerry Dimitriou) a severance payment of $300,000 despite the Archdiocese’s dire financial situation and despite objections from Archdiocesan officials.”

Here we are talking about a lot of money in salaries, benefits, and credit card privileges that could be compared with salaries of CEOs of big corporations.

And the question I have been asking for years and I will repeat one more time is the following: Where was the then-Archbishop Demetrios? Where was the so called Eparchial Synod? Where was the so called Archdiocesan Council? Where were the Legal Counselors and the other wise men of the Financial and Administrative Committees?

Please read one more time the official announcement of the Dimitriou’s ouster and draw your own conclusions:

“His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America announced that with regret, he has accepted the resignation of Mr. Jerry Dimitriou, the Executive Director of Administration, effective today, September 8, 2017. Mr. Dimitriou is leaving the Archdiocese in order to pursue other professional opportunities.

‘Mr. Dimitriou came to the Archdiocese in 1987 as the Associate Director of Economic Development. In 2000, under Archbishop Demetrios, he became Executive Director of Administration.

“During his lengthy service to the Archdiocese under three Archbishops, Mr. Dimitriou contributed in a most significant way to the improvements of the Archdiocese ministries and operations.

“The Archdiocese thanks Mr. Dimitriou for his 27 years of service to our Holy Church and, most especially, for his tireless devotion to and administrative oversight of the re-building of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center.

“The Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, will assume administrative responsibilities at the Archdiocese”.

Let me repeat one more time that they are all responsible for the virtual bankruptcy of our Church in America, first among them being then-Archbishop Demetrios. And they all should have resigned starting with Demetrios. Yes, all the Metropolitans. Yes, the entire Archdiocesan Council. Yes, everyone at the Theological School in Boston.

Demetrios, instead of making rounds collecting honors and awards for the total catastrophe of the greatest Ecclesiastical Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne, and the Metropolitans instead of doing anything they wanted in their ‘kingdoms’, should have disappeared into Monasteries to cry for the ruins they have created to allow the newly elected Archbishop Elpidophoros to salvage what he can salvage.

Forensic financial audits should be done now in all the Metropolises and their institutions and of course at the Theological School. God only knows what surprises await the People of God.

The investigation should continue for all and in everything, no matter how high some may rank. I will not be surprised if Jerry Dimitriou starts ‘singing’ about others so some familiar faces can join him in prison for company.