Lesser Synod Confirms
Widening Of Investigation:
Releases Two Documents
The OCA has confirmed for the first time that the ongoing investigation into financial misconduct at Syosset has widened.
At its one-day meeting in Syosset on Thursday, April 27th, the Lesser Synod of the OCA expressed “full agreement” to the Metropolitan’s decision to have the accounting firm of Lambrides, Lamos & Moulthrop “assist the Church’s lawyers by conducting reviews of specific financial materials relevant to the investigation. This is in addition to their prior engagements which began in January 2006, in which they were authorized to audit the OCA’s financial records for the years 2004 and 2005, as well as to audit all special appeal income, distributions, expenses, and balances from 2001 to 2005, as requested by the Holy Synod of Bishops on March 1, 2006.” The “specific financial materials” now being investigated were not disclosed.
In addition, the Lesser Synod “reviewed the minutes of the extraordinary meeting of the Metropolitan Council Administrative Committee at the Chancery on March 16, 2006”, expressed “their support for Metropolitan Herman’s recent decisions regarding personnel changes”, as well as their support for “new accounting and financial procedures and controls”.
(Read the full OCA press release here)
The Lesser Synod released two documents.
The first document is the text of Metropolitan Herman’s March 16th statement to the Administrative Committee. (Read document here) A summary of the statement (with the notable exception of the final paragraph) had already been released by the OCA that day. The substance of the missing paragraph was reported by OCANews on March 18th. The full text confirms the OCANews report. The final paragraph reads: “My decision was prompted by an accusatory and intimidating letter which I received from Father Kondratick’s attorney, Harry H. Kutner, Jr. I do interpret his attack on me as Primate as an attack on the whole Church. It is with sadness that I report this to you.”
The second document, entitled “Primary Policies and Procedures of the Orthodox Church in America” outlines the new accounting and financial procedures, as well as the controls that were introduced in October 2005. (Read document here) This document had, in large part, already been published by OCANews on February 2, 2006.
What is most interesting about the second document is the insight that its official publication now gives into the reasons for the widening of the investigation. For every procedure listed, one might assume that prior to October 2005 such control may have been absent. Thus, what is implied, is shocking:
• that credit card expenditures were not controlled or pre-approved;
• that reimbursements and expenditures were paid without documentation;
• that checks were issued for cash without receipts;
• that checks were issued without payees being named (i.e. blank checks)
• that cash was given without receipts;
• that gifts were given without documentation;
• that cash gifts were given overseas without reference to US Customs regulations;
• that travel and related expenses were incurred without controls.
The list goes on. But such an environment of lax financial procedures may help explain Metropolitan Herman’s statement contained in the first document released yesterday: “Their [the auditors’] work has been slowed due to the lack of documentation available for some transactions that are integral to the year 2004 audit.” In other words, there is nothing to audit if the documentation does not exist. Such a lack of documentation confirms the statements of Protodeacon Eric Wheeler and Paul Hunchak.
The 2006 Lesser Synod is composed of Metropolitan Herman, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh and the Bulgarian Diocese, Archbishop Job of Chicago, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa, and Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia. Bishop Nikon of Boston and the Albanian Diocese attended the meeting as well.