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5.9.07 Part One of A Series

The Nescott Dismissal:

“Breach of Confidentiality”

Five weeks ago, on Holy Wednesday, we read of Judas before the Council in the middle of the night telling lies for thirty pieces of silver. The following week, on Bright Wednesday, we read in the middle of the night of +Herman before another Synod, telling thirty untruths as well (the silver having been plundered....) One may be powerless to stop the lies from Syosset; but one need not participate in them, nor accept them in silence. To do so is to become complicit.

The Metropolitan’s Allegation

The report of the meeting of the Synod of Bishops, (posted at midnight on Bright Wednesday) states: “The members of the Holy Synod also considered a breach of confidentiality by Mr. Gregory Nescott, a member of the Special Commission, unanimously concluding that he should be removed from participation in the Commission’s ongoing efforts”. (Read the full report here) The “consideration” was brought to the table by Metropolitan Herman on the basis of a March 23rd memo to the Metropolitan Council. The Metropolitan’s prior memo read:

“It is with great sadness that I must inform you that I removed Metropolitan Council member Gregg Nescott from his position as a member of the Special Investigation Committee and suspended him from further participation on the Metropolitan Council due to his disclosure on OCANews.org of confidential facts and discussions that took place in the Executive Session on Wednesday, March 14th. His knowing disclosure was made after repeated instructions from our attorneys and myself not to disclose any information on the matter. I spoke with Gregg on Tuesday night and he admitted the disclosure and said that he may continue to release information that he deemed appropriate. This decision was made after consultation with and the agreement of Archbishop Kyrill.

While we all want to have the truth disclosed to the Church at large, the method and manner of such disclosure may only be made after the Metropolitan Council deliberation and consultation with he Holy Synod. Let me take this opportunity to remind each of you to continue to keep your obligations of confidentiality. In the event there is any doubt as to what may be disclosed, please contact me directly.”

The Metropolitan’s “breach of confidentiality” allegation centers on the March 18th publication on OCANews.org of an edited transcript of Gregg Nescott’s March 14th remarks before the Metropolitan Council (Read those remarks here). In his remarks, Nescott makes 30 statements concerning the OCA scandal. In every single case they refer to information already made publicly available by the OCA itself (on its website at OCA.org) by OCANews.org, on the Orthodox Forum, or other internet sites. To claim that any of Nescott’s statements is in any way a “breach of confidentiality” is simply, plainly and patently untrue. Judge for yourself.

The Facts

#1. Nescott wrote: “Yesterday, the Metropolitan Council heard the preliminary report of the Special Commission..”

“The Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America will hold its spring session on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 13 and 14, 2007 here.... His Eminence, Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest will report on the work of the Investigation Committee." ("OCA Metropolitan Council to meet March 13-14, 2007” Article posted: 3/12/2007 1:25 PM on the OCA website)

#2. “...and began debating whether or not the Commission should continue as a committee of the Metropolitan Council, and whether the report of the Commission should be released to the whole Church. A number of you argued that the Commission has completed its work and should not be extended, and that little or none of its report should be released.”

“No sooner had the Commission finished than the first voices were raised against it; not against the integrity or facts of the report, but that the Church had had enough of scandal; that the report should be kept secret; that the Commission should now end its work “ for the good of the Church” ; it was time to “move on” given the reorganization and new appointments; and that no actions should be taken against anyone. The Metropolitan concurred." (“Council Votes...” Article posted 3.14.07 on OCANews.org)

#3. “Fr. Gregory Safchuk was eloquent in telling you that his parish needs to know the truth.”

“Former long-time Administrative Committee member under the Kondratick administration Fr. Gregory Safchuk, joined the Commission members, to the surprise of many, saying that his parish “would accept nothing less that the truth and the Commission’s work must be allowed to continue.” (“Council Votes...” Article posted 3.14.07 on OCANews.org)

#4. “You heard in December and now again that our experts, Proskauer Rose and Lambrides, have “conclusively proven” that the OCA has been pillaged, lied to, and that millions of dollars have disappeared.”

“The questions regarding the allegations of financial improprieties were addressed today in an all-day joint session of the Holy Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council in a historic step forward. Presentations by the accounting firm Lambrides Lamos Moulthrop LLP and the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, confirmed the following allegations:

“1. Processes in place for administrative and financial controls have been circumvented since at least 1998.
“2. There were numerous unsubstantiated large cash withdrawals.
“3. Personal credit card abuses using Church funds were documented.
“4. Numerous trips were taken without the submission of appropriate documentation but were nonetheless reimbursed.
“5. Attempts to divert monies designated to various charities were clearly indicated and in some cases documented.
“6. Examination of Church appeals from 2001 to 2005 revealed that meaningful reports could not be rendered due to lack of appropriate documentation.
“7. Pattern of personal use of Church money was exhibited for a number of years.
“8. Lack of timely financial reports and in some cases, false reports, were submitted.
“9. Large amounts of Church funds were used to improperly pay for personal items.
(
“OCA Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council conclude first day...” Article posted: 12/12/2006 9:30 PM on the OCA website)

And as to the amount Nescott cites:

“Allegations of financial misconduct are rocking the Orthodox Church in America, whose former treasurer says top officials misappropriated millions of dollars in donations from agribusiness titan Dwayne Andreas, U.S. military chaplains and ordinary parishioners across the country. “(“Accusations of Misused Money Roil Orthodox Church” By Alan Cooperman, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, February 26, 2006; Page A09)

#5. “The Commission has asked you to take two steps to illuminate the truth: (1) allow the Commission to continue and complete the investigation, so that the whole truth may be told, and (2) release the 13-page preliminary report – tell the whole Church.”

“Fr. Matthew Tate then moved the question - and the Council voted 22-1 to reaffirm the Commission as an “independent body” responsible to the Council to continue its investigations. The Council then voted unanimously to recommend to the Synod of Bishops (which meets next week in Syosset) that Fr. Kondratick be suspended pending an ecclesiastical trial. The Council then voted to recommend to the Synod that the Commission’s report be released to the Church following its presentation to the Synod (albeit in a redacted form so as to minimize any potential civil liabilities). (“Council Votes...” Article posted 3.14.07 on OCANews.org)

#6. “After Deacon Wheeler’s allegations were released on November 1, 2005, I wrote a long letter to the Metropolitan and to the members of the Holy Synod, outlining the need for a proper and fair internal investigation.”

“Even if someone is employed in a legal or quasi legal status, as, say, an attorney or wannabe district attorney, besides wanting assurance that the public agency where he is employed must be aware that he is using his position in that agency to apply pressure on an alleged, but uncharged, miscreants... the bona fides of that person, too, must be established, if he purports to be a witness. And in a Church proceeding or one which would be acceptable to a follower of Jesus Christ, “standing” would likewise be factor: moral standing and standing relative to peership......” (Bishop Tikhon of the West on the IndianaList.Server, Posted Sun, 5 Feb 2006)

#7. “Subsequently, the “Letter of 70” was sent from the senior priests of our Church, asking for an investigation, but with no response.”

“Seventy senior clergy sent a joint email last Tuesday evening, 21 February, to members of the Holy Synod, exhorting the Bishops “to take swift action now to restore good order, confidence and trust in the OCA’s administration”.  In the letter, described by signers as “a serious and crucial plea to the Holy Synod”, the clerics called for a commission of Bishops, priests and laity to conduct a full investigation into the allegations of financial misconduct currently roiling the OCA." (“Seventy Senior Clergy Call For Investigation... “ Article posted on 2.25.06 on OCANews.org)

#8. “The Lesser Synod and the Holy Synod chose to do little. They told the Church that there were no problems, that these matters were closed, and suggested that those responsible for the emerging scandal were people like Eric Wheeler and Mark Stokoe.”

“The members of the Lesser Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America, meeting today,
at the Chancery Office in Oyster Bay Cove, New York, have reviewed concerns raised in recent weeks by persons formerly associated with the administration of the Church, and by other persons, who have obtained documents from the Chancery Office files..... At the Lesser Synod meeting today, His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, and the Members of the Lesser Synod, have reaffirmed the decisions made by the Holy Synod of Bishops, at the time these concerns were first raised, in 1999, and 2000.”
(“LESSER SYNOD MEETS AT OCA CHANCERY”, Article posted: 1/20/2006 4:00 PM on OCA.org)

#9. “By March, Fr. Kondratick had been fired and Proskauer Rose hired.”

“His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman announced that as the Primate of the Church, he has retained the law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP to undertake an internal investigation of allegations relating to the finances of the Church. ....He also announced that Protopresbyter Robert S.Kondratick has been relieved of his service as Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America.”

(“Administrative Committee Meets” Article posted: 3/16/2006 5:57 PM on OCA.org)

#10. “The oral report from Proskauer Rose at the joint meeting offered a few facts, but little else tangible.”

“The questions regarding the allegations of financial improprieties were addressed today in an all-day joint session of the Holy Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council in a historic step forward. Presentations by the accounting firm Lambrides Lamos Moulthrop LLP and the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, confirmed the following allegations ..... There is still much work to do, and many details need attention." (“OCA Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council conclude ....”. Article posted: 12/12/2006 9:30 PM on OCA.org)

#11. “And then came a miracle. The Metropolitan appointed the Special Commission.”

“A Special Committee was appointed by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman to complete the investigation by Proskauer Rose and to keep the Metropolitan Council advised of developments as they occur.” ("OCA Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council conclude ...." Article posted: 12/12/2006 9:30 PM on OCA.org)

#12. “The Commission has not received all the information it requested from Proskauer Rose and has not had all its questions answered.“

“The Metropolitan .... intended the Commission to do little more than to accept without further inquiry the results of the investigation as reported by Proskauer Rose. But that is quite different from bringing the scandal to a conclusion. Clearly, the latter is the Commission’s understanding of its charge.”
(“SYOSSET WITHHOLDS SPECIAL COMMISSION’S STATEMENT” Article posted: 2.03.07 on OCANews.org)

#13. “Others among you are very good friends of Fr. Kondratick. The suppression of this report - or its reduction to a one or two-page summary, as suggested by some of you last night - with an end now to the investigation would benefit one person above all others. And that person would be Fr. Bob.”

“It is the Metropolitan Council, not the Administrative Committee which has the statutory authority to indebt
the OCA. (Read the OCA Statute here). Thus the legality of the note is in question; not to mention the motives of those who signed such a undisclosed document. Both Kalina and Woog were appointed to the Administrative Committee by +Theodosius on the recommendation of Fr. Kondratick.”
( “No Receipts Found” With Two Exceptions..” Article posted on 5.26.06 on OCANews.org)

#14. “Some here who have argued for an end to the investigation themselves have serious ethical conflicts of interest in this matter. Two who spoke last night, wanting to end this now, are former treasurers of the OCA during periods of time covered by the investigation;”

“In September 29, 1999, he was named acting treasurer of the Orthodox Church in America, while he served as temporary administrator of the Orthodox Church in America from May until September 2001, during Metropolitan Theodosius’ medical leave of absence. (Biography of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman - Article posted on OCA.org)

“During the years 1990-1995, Father Paul Kucynda served as the Treasurer of the church. Unfortunately, being present at the chancery for approximately two days per week did not give Father Kucynda the opportunity to monitor the finances of the Church on a regular basis. (“Call To Accountability” by Eric Wheeler. Article posted on OCANews.org on 1.7.06)

-“Two were members of the OCA’s Administrative Committee within the past 15 years, a period of time when the central church was being run by Fr. Kondratick and the Administrative Committee.

“1) Alice Woog’s complaint of the ‘marginalization of the Council’ and defense of the ‘intention of the statute’ comes only after the dismissal of her long-time friend and patron, Fr. Kondratick...

It was Woog, as a member of Syosset’s hand picked Administrative Committee since 1995, who, many would argue, has actively participated in the ‘marginalization’ of the Council by reducing its function to accepting prior decisions taken in the Administrative Committee. It was Woog, in 1999, who supported action being taken against the first whistle-blower in the scandal, former OCA Audit Chair, John Kozey. And it was Woog as a member of the Adminstrative Council who signed the infamous Promissory Note to the Kondraticks in 2002.

Woog and Bishop Tikhon of the West have been the most vocal critics of Metropolitan Herman’s dismissal of Fr. Kondratick following the auditor’s report in March 2006. Only since Fr. Kondratick’s dismissal has Woog been critical of the administration she served. Her criticisms must be seen in context to be fully understood.“ (Threatened by Syosset, Warned by Lawyers, Council To Meet June 13-14” Article posted 6.10.06 on OCANews.org)

It is matter of public record that Fr. Paul Kucynda served on the Administrative Committee of the OCA throughout this period: first in his capacity as Treasurer of the OCA (1990-1995), then as Secretary of the OCA (1996-98); and again from 2006 to the present as both Secretary and Acting Treasurer of the OCA.

#15. “ It was this Administrative Committee that approved a $250,000 promissory note for Fr. Bob ten years after the repairs were allegedly done on his home.”

“After a couple of highly placed persons in the Central Administration had said that they had never seen any
promissory note whereby the Administrative Committee had promised to reimburse the former Chancellor annually, beginning in 2002, for $250,000 dollars of work on the church-owned residence in Syosset, work done at the direction of the Metropolitan Council and for which all receipts and invoices were on file in the Administrative offices, that is, after maintenance work was done at the request of the OCA for work on the OCA’s house by the Kondraticks, .....The promissory note was signed by all members of the Administrative Committee, Metropolitan Theodosius, Father Dmitri Oselinsky, Father Paul Kucynda, Alice Woog, JUDGE Harold Kalina, and Father Paul Kucynda a second time, and the signatures were notarized ."

(Bishop Tikhon, as quoted in “No Receipts Found” With Two Exceptions”... Article posted 5.26.06 on OCANews.org)

#16. “Several here have taken trips paid for by the OCA, including multiple trips to the Islands.”

“Funds were needed to safeguard the church from scandal, cover embarrassing credit card debts incurred by the Metropolitan, provide family members who leached off their relatives with a steady stream of assistance, pay blackmail requests and provide the means to entertain with dinners, trips and gifts of cash the visiting foreign dignitaries and “friends of Syosset”.” ("Call to Accountability", Eric Wheeler, Article posted on OCANews.org on 1.7.06)

“The last factor leading to the emasculation of the Metropolitan Council was the adoption of a “you’re either with Syosset, or against us” approach. Those MC members who didn’t make waves, those who
supported whatever the central administration wanted were rewarded as insiders and personal friends of Syosset, with positions on church committees like the Preconciliar Commission, with invitations to join
trips overseas, with church honors, and with other trinkets.”
( “The Metropolitan Council Members: Why Didn’t They Do Their Jobs? Reflection by Gregg Nescott on 8.20.06 posted on OCANews.org)

#17”.... in 1999, John Kozey, our chief internal auditor, was replaced after he asked serious questions about how the OCA was handling its finances? We know that the internal auditors were closely “engaged” in discussing the ongoing problems with Lambrides until Kozey was dismissed. After that time, there was little communication between Lambrides and the new internal auditors.”

“Many of Wheeler’s allegations, including the existence of secret discretionary accounts totalling millions of dollars, first surfaced in 1999 when the former chairman of the OCA’s Audit Committee, John Kozey, balked at signing the 1997-98 official audit. When Kozey revealed the problem of ‘Discretionary Accounts’ to the OCA’s Holy Synod, and later, Metropolitan Council, Kozey was summarily dismissed, at least one member of the Metropolitan Council was forced to resign and Wheeler was ‘reorganized’ out of his position as Treasurer.”
“Former OCA Treasurer Breaks Silence: Old Scandal Resurfaces Amid Fresh Allegations & New Details” by Mark Stokoe, Posted on November 21, 2005 on the Orthodox Forum.)

#18. “In 1999, Lambrides told the Church that the discretionary funds were creating problems, and that proper audits could no longer be done. In return, Lambrides was fired and their unqualified audits were replaced by ridiculous compilation audits.“

“• Later that same day, September 22, 1999, Taylor writes to the new acting Treasurer, +Herman, to inform him that the 1998 audit has not been completed “because the Church has not made available all financial records and relevant data.

• On September 28, 1999, Taylor writes to +Herman again informing him that “reportable conditions” exist in Syosset accounts, and attaches a letter dated June 21,1999 that details how the structural problems that allowed these conditions to arise might be corrected.

• On March 9, 2000, following +Herman’s instructions, Taylor submits the ‘97 &’98 audits with the proviso that “ ...our audit was limited to the Accounts of the Treasurer and do not cover all the accounts of the Church itself.” Taylor’s firm is subsequently dismissed.“ (“Chronology The Scandal”, posted 1.07.06 on OCANews.org)

#19. “In 1999, the Holy Synod was given a resolution prepared by Metropolitan Theodosius’ defense attorney which retroactively approved discretionary funds for the Metropolitan after much of the ADM millions, intended for the church in Russia, had already been spent.”

“On July 26, 1999, at the Holy Synod meeting that opens the All American Council in Pittsburgh, Metropolitan Theodosius urges the Synod to reaffirm the “principle” of the Primate’s “right” to maintain a discretionary account. So as to maintain the “privacy of the Primate”, the “confidentiality of the donors” and the “anonymity of the beneficiaries” the Synod rejects an audit of such an account in principle. No mention, however, is made to the Holy Synod of the sums involved in the account.“ (“Chronology The Scandal”, posted 1.07.06 on OCANews.org)

“It is telling,” continues Wheeler, “that within a week ... Metropolitan Theodosius retained the services of a private lawyer, Michael Kennedy, and Father Kondratick retained the services of David Chesnoff, a lawyer from Las Vegas provided through the connections of Richard Rock and William Tarbey.” In order to contain any potential scandal before the Metropolitan Council’s meeting, the Holy Synod met and voted to officially allow discretionary accounts, as well as to prohibit audits of them. Now Wheeler reveals that: “The resolution signed by the Holy Synod during the All American Council in 1999 calling for the Metropolitan to deny any type of audit of the “Discretionary Account” was actually prepared by legal counsel for the Metropolitan.” “Former OCA Treasurer Breaks Silence: Old Scandal Resurfaces Amid Fresh Allegations & New Details” November 21, 2005 (Reprinted from the Orthodox Forum)

#20. “Priests have been silenced for speaking out against this scandal.”

“• On January 12th, less than two weeks after ‘Best Practices’ were claimed to be adopted by the OCA, Fr. Paul Harrilchak of Reston VA wrote a short reflection on the scandal. This reflection was later published, with permission, on OCANews.org. (Read his reflection here) OCA News has learned that later that same week Harrilchak received a letter signed by Metropolitan Herman, ordering him to remain silent on these issues. In a telephone conversation with OCANews, Fr. Harrilchak would not discuss the contents of the letter directly, but did confirm he had received such a letter.

• On January 30, OCANews learned that Protodeacon Eric Wheeler received an official letter from the Metropolitan, directing Wheeler that he is no longer permitted to post or discuss anything regarding the finances of the OCA on any public forum. Protodeacon Wheeler confirmed receiving the letter from the Metropolitan.” (Latest Developments” Article posted on 2.3.06 on OCANews.org)

#21. “An entire diocese has been silenced by its bishop, who told them it was not healthy to discuss this scandal.”

“In a letter to his clergy for the ecclesiastical New Year (September 1) Archbishop Dmitri broke ten months of public silence on the OCA scandal and for the first time addressed the issue openly. The Archbishop describes the issues raised as “idle chatter” and calls on his clergy not to discuss the scandal. They are to focus on parochial matters instead. “ (“Archbishop Dmitri To Clergy: Be Silent” Article posted 09.13.06 on OCANews.org)

#22. “In a single diocese, two parishes have been silenced by their pastors. In one, the priest told the parish that it may never discuss the financial problems in any parish council or annual meeting. In another, the pastor told the parish that anyone raising these issues would be thrown out of the annual meeting, and he ordered that the scandal could not be discussed even at coffee hour.”

“Suda then read the statement of the Lesser Synod on January 20 that he claimed closed this matter, regardless of what Archbishop Job has since advised his diocese; attacked those who continue to ask for proper audits and an investigation into the allegations; told the meeting that this matter could be discussed only today, but never again at a parish council meeting; stated that further steps would be taken against those asking for an investigation if they didn’t tone down their remarks; and said that, if it were up to him, he “would retire Archbishop Job”, who has had the temerity to ask for a proper investigation." (“The Culture of Fear, Half Truth and Deception” posted 2.2.06 on OCANews.org)

#23. “Archbishop Job was threatened by two brother bishops with deposition or retirement, and he was brutally attacked on the internet by a bishop, all after he spoke out on these issues.“

“Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco, Los Angeles and the West has written a letter, dated 3 February, reiterating his conviction that church discipline be applied to Archbishop Job for his “reprehensible actions”, “egregious behavior”, “unconscionable conduct” and for “expressing rebellious principle” concerning the ongoing financial scandal in Syosset.” (Article: “Bishop Tikhon Calls for Metropolitan, Bishops To Take Action Against Archbishop Job” posted 2.14.06 on OCANews.org)

#24. “We know now that church monies were used for personal expenditures.”

“SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] — Members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America and the Metropolitan Council concluded the first day of their extraordinary two-day joint meeting here on Tuesday, December 12, 2006. The complete text of a statement issued at the end of their session reads as follows.

“The questions regarding the allegations of financial improprieties were addressed today in an all-day joint session of the Holy Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council in a historic step forward. Presentations by the accounting firm Lambrides Lamos Moulthrop LLP and the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, confirmed the following allegations:....

“2. There were numerous unsubstantiated large cash withdrawals.

“3. Personal credit card abuses using Church funds were documented.

“4. Numerous trips were taken without the submission of appropriate documentation but were nonetheless reimbursed.....

“7. Pattern of personal use of Church money was exhibited for a number of years....

“9. Large amounts of Church funds were used to improperly pay for personal items.

(“OCA Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council conclude first day...” Article posted: 12/12/2006 9:30 PM on the OCA website)

#25. “Reports now give specific examples of improper expenditures out of charity monies over a period of years.”

“Over $1 million in cash was taken from the OCA chancery between 2001-2005, and these monies cannot be accounted for by either invoices or receipts, according to letter from the accounting firm of Lambrides, Lamos and Moulthrop LLP. Lambrides had been hired by the OCA in November 2005 to audit the OCA’s accounts for 2004 and 2005; a charge which was expanded to include a review of all Special Appeal and Charitable disbursements from 2001-2005 as well in March 2006. The outside auditor’s letter confirms what had been reported earlier to the Lesser Synod and the Metropolitan Council in oral reports last month.” (“Outside Auditors Confirm $1 Million in Cash Missing From Syosset Accounts” Article posted 10.09.06 on OCANews.org)

#26. “The Metropolitan Council now knows that the vast majority of the 9-11 funds were dispensed in cash. But the person who received the cash was questioned repeatedly and was unable to provide the name of one individual or one parish that allegedly got this money.“

“Over $1 million in cash was taken from the OCA chancery between 2001-2005, and these monies cannot be accounted for by either invoices or receipts, according to letter from the accounting firm of Lambrides, Lamos and Moulthrop LLP. Lambrides had been hired by the OCA in November 2005 to audit the OCA’s accounts for 2004 and 2005; a charge which was expanded to include a review of all Special Appeal and Charitable disbursements from 2001-2005 as well in March 2006. The outside auditor’s letter confirms what had been reported earlier to the Lesser Synod and the Metropolitan Council in oral reports last month.” (“Outside Auditors Confirm $1 Million in Cash Missing From Syosset Accounts” Article posted 10.09.06 on OCANews.org)

#27. “We now know about the misuse of Christmas stocking funds in two separate years.”

“The monies will be used, in part to repay the following sums taken from temporarily restricted accounts
(Charity, Mission and Special Appeals) since 2001. These include, but are not limited to:
$36, 640 taken from the Beslan Childrens Fund
$10,000 taken from the Alaska Medical Fund
$3,000 taken from the Alaska Parishes Fund
$87,560 taken from the Mission Appeal
$41,750 taken from the Charity Appeal
$16,600 taken from the Annual Christmas Stocking Appeal
$90,590 taken from the 9/11 Fund
$3,300 taken from the IOCC Fund
$13,920 taken from Florida Hurricane Relief Fund
$25,000 from the Russian Orphan’s Fund

An additional $42,000 was taken from the FOS Endowment Fund with $151,940 taken from other restricted funds.” (“OCA Assumes $1.7 Million Debt Via Two hour Metropolitan Council Conference Call” Article posted 5.20.06 by OCANews.org)

#28. “The Metropolitan Council is now aware of the contents of a videotape recorded in Russia several years ago, a tape which raises serious questions about the disbursement of the Beslan funds. “

“(Editor’s Note: In this concluding article of a three part series reviewing recent postings of Bishop Tikhon of the West, OCANews examines the Bishop’s claims regarding the existence of a “secret” videotape.)

To many it was just a rhetorical question in the midst of a long post on politics, the growing scandal and his own past. On February 5th Bishop Tikhon asked:

“With the new Patriot Act, by the way, is the involuntary taping of private conversations now legally viable testimony?” To a small group within the OCA, however, it was a red flag. Secrets were dangerously close to being revealed.

One month later, after Fr. Kondratick had been dismissed, the Bishop stopped being coy. On March 24th, 2006 in a letter to Metropolitan Herman +Tikhon openly warned: “Your Beatitude, I am deeply, deeply concerned .... about the electronic surveillance tape in an office of OUR Church which both American and Russian government and Church VIPs may visit, unawares! I can assure Your Beatitude, that the empty expostulations of Wheeler, Stokoe, and others under Archbishop Job’s omophorion and the unfortunate Kappanadze, Simerick, T. Hopko and Berezansky, etc., could find confirmation in a way unforeseen by any of those far-seeing and wise men.”  (“Bishop Tikhon On The Tape” Article posted 6.07.06 on OCANews.org)

#29. “There have been years of cover-ups, but we are being asked to hide it all, just one more time. For the good of the Church?”

“• In October 2005, the Bishops were given the allegations and did not launch an investigation.
Protodeacon Wheeler then wrote to the Metropolitan Council.

• In November 2005, the Metropolitan declared the matter ‘closed’.
Protodeacon Wheeler’s statements were made public.

• In December 2005, the Metropolitan silenced those priests who began to speak out.
The first stories began to appear on the internet.

• In January 2006, the matter was declared ‘closed’ by the Lesser Synod, reiterating its decisions of 1999 and 2001. OCANews began publishing.

• In February 2006, Syosset remained totally silent about the allegations.
Amid new revelations by OCANews, the national press picked up the story.

• In March 2006, the Metropolitan dismissed Fr. Kondratick and finally launched an investigation. The Metropolitan called for silence yet again. More revelations from OCA News.

• In April 2006, the Metropolitan, the Orthodox Church Newspaper, the OCA website all continued their calls for silence, this time for the “sake of Pascha”. More revelations from OCANews, which did, in fact, cease publishing for the Feast.

• In May 2006, Fr. Kucynda demanded silence from MC members. OCA News revealed details of the loan.

• In June 2006, the Metropolitan reviled OCANews in his address to the Metropolitan Council and called on the Church to refocus its energies. A bogus statement says no date has been set to conclude the investigation.
More revelations from OCANews.

The pattern is all too clear. The sad fact is that Syosset has not done one thing in this nine month saga of scandal that they have not been embarrassed or forced into doing. And we are all to wait patiently for another six months, hoping that we may get some answers?” (“Open Letter” Article posted 6.20.06 on OCANews.org)

#30. “And there have been no apologies, and no expressions of repentance.”

On April 9, 2006 the Metropolitan wrote: “I wish to state unequivocally that I take full responsibility for what may have happened during my service as Primate of the Church.” Since that was only three weeks into the Proskauer Rose investigation, the Metropolitan could be referring to nothing specific - unless of course, he already knew of wrongdoing and had chosen to do nothing earlier? Some may construe this as an “apology”, but it clearly is not much of one. Whatever the case, it was certainly no expression of repentance - as evidenced by the rest of the statement. In that same message the Metropolitan promised that “...additional audit reports as well as the results of the internal investigation will also become part of our public records when deemed appropriate to do so by the investigators.” Of course, none of that has happened - even a year later. A non-specific “apology” followed by a “repentance” in which nothing changes is laughable, if it were not so sad coming from the Primate of the Church.

The Metropolitan claimed that he dismissed Gregg Nescott for disclosing “confidential facts”. The fact is Gregg Nescott revealed nothing we did not already know. For the Metropolitan’s to allege anything Nescott said was “confidential” is blatantly untrue.

“Confidential Discussions”

The Metropolitan also claims Nescott disclosed “confidential ....discussions”. This too is laughable. The meeting was not a secret meeting, but publicly announced - as was its agenda. The presentation of the confidential report by the members of the Special Commission, with questions and answers, the “Executive Session”, in other words, had ended the previous day. Gregg Nescott did not disclose any of that. (More on this later in the article...)  

On the contrary, the remarks made by Nescott sought support for specific motions under consideration by the Metropolitan Council, during the debate before they voted. The motions themselves were not secret, but were recorded by a secretary, for inclusion in the minutes of the meeting. And those motions and the vote on them had been made public even before Nescott published his article. So in what way was any confidential discussion revealed by Nescott?

The fact is, nothing was.

It Just Gets Worse

The Metropolitan claims that he later spoke with Nescott, who “admitted the disclosure”. Nescott confirms he spoke with the Metropolitan, but denies there was any “disclosure”. Asked to comment for this article, Nescott explained to OCANews.org:

“Look, the Metropolitan called and asked me if I had released my remarks to the Metropolitan Council, for publication on OCANews. I told him that I had submitted them as a ‘Reflection’ on “The Truth, Conflicts of Interest, and ‘For the Good of the Church.”

Nescott then revealed the following:

“I advised him (the Metropolitan) that I had typed up the remarks a few days after the Metropolitan Council meeting at the request of Faith Skordinski, a member of the Special Commission and the Metropolitan Council, who wanted to read them to a parish meeting in Bethesda, MD. I also told his Beatitude that Faith had read them to her parish meeting before I sent them to OCANews.“

Did the other Bishops know that Nescott’s published remarks originated because of a request from another member of the Special Commission and Metropolitan Council? Clearly, Dr. Skordinski did not feel they breached confidentiality in any way! Did they know she read them at her parish meeting – even before they were published on OCANews.org? So why would the Metropolitan to claim a “breach of confidentiality” on the part of Nescott alone?

It gets worse. Nescott continued:

“He (the Metropolitan) told me several times that he was ‘disappointed’ that I had published them, and I told him that I had heavily edited out any confidential information discovered through the work of the Special Commission. The next day, I sent the Metropolitan an e-mail, listing in bullet points about 600 words of confidential information I had originally included in my remarks to the Metropolitan Council, which were edited out of the remarks I provided to Faith and to OCANews.org to demonstrate my point. I explained that this should demonstrate my good faith and caution in striving to edit out any confidential information before publication.”

With the actual confidential material edited out and the evidence of that in his hand, how can the Metropolitan continue to claim there was a “breach of confidentiality? Clearly, there is more to this story than any release of information.

The Big Lie

If the dismissal of Gregg Nescott began with an allegation that was a lie, it ends with a lie as well. In his note to the Metropolitan Council the Metropolitan’s final claim is that Nescott “...said that he may continue to release information that he deemed appropriate...” Nescott flatly denies saying any such thing. Says Nescott:


“ I never told the Metropolitan or intimated to him in any way that I would release confidential information from the Commission in the future. He was obviously unhappy with what had been published, and it would have been idiotic for me to bait him by threatening to do so in the future. I may be many things, but I am most assuredly not an idiot. That simply never happened.”

Cui Bono?

There was no breach of confidentiality, no revelation of confidential discussions. As for the final allegation, here the test for truth is very simple: Cui Bono? Who benefits? And answer to that question is as obvious as the big white hat he wears. It has always been in Gregg Nescott’s interest to tell the truth. The truth appears not be in the interest of the Metropolitan - especially, it seems, if Gregg Nescott stays on the Commission and on the Council.

What is most important though, is what the rest of us plan to do about these lies. What will the Synod do now that it knows the whole story? What will the the Metropolitan Council, the Special Commission, the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania who elected Mr. Nescott, the clergy and laity of the OCA do? Do we resign ourselves in the face of lies as we have so often in the past and move on? Or do we reject them? Do we refuse to accept untruth as the basis of action in our corporate spiritual life?

The lies are the Metropolitan’s - the choice to accept them silently is ours.

-Mark Stokoe

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(Later this week: The Nescott Dismissal Part Two: “Silencing Opposition”


 

 

 
 

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