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6.26.09

News From Around the OCA

• Special Committee Formed to Investigate St. Tikhon’s

A special committee, appointed by the Metropolitan, has been formed to investigate the financial crisis at St. Tikhon’s monastery amid allegations of irregularities in both the monastery and its bookstore. According to Syosset “The committee is charged with determining the nature and extent of possible financial mismanagement alleged to have occurred at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery during the past several years. As previously stated by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, “evidence of financial mismanagement and possible wrongdoing” had been discovered, leading to disciplinary actions against certain employees.” Syosset has never identified these employees, but the former bookstore manager, Archdeacon Alexi Klimetchev abruptly left the employment of the monastery after several years as its head in December 2008.


The new Special Committee is being chaired by Bishop Nikon of Boston and includes Fr. Michael Matsko, a member of the Metropolitan Council from the Midwest, Fr. John Steffaro, a priest from Ohio, Fr. Mark Sherman, a former member of the Metropolitan Council from New England, as well as Fr. Steven Vernak, a priest from Harrisburg PA. It includes one layman, Mr. Larry Skvir, from St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Eastern Pennsylvania. Mr. Sergei Givotovsky, a member of the Metropolitan Council Legal Committee, has agreed to serve as legal advisor.

In emphasizing that the new Committee would “continue (its) investigative process as transparently as possible” difficult questions remain unanswered, since irregularities were reported to the Metropolitan Council some four months ago:

• Has the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office or the Wayne County PA District Attorney’s office s and/or DA’s office accepted the OCA’s complaint and begun their own investigation?  If so, which offices are involved, and what date did they begin?
 
•  Is the investigating office looking at possible criminal violations - or is it engaged in a civil investigation?
 
•  When does each office anticipate concluding its investigation and to whom will each office report in the interim and at the conclusion of its work?  Has either of these offices corresponded with the OCA?  If so, what are the findings to date? 
 
• What statute-of-limitation issues is the OCA facing in this investigation? This was a major issue in the Kondratick investigation.
 
• Why were there nearly a half million dollars more in liens than actual costs for the Saint Tikhon’s Bookstore and Museum?  What payments were made against these liens?  Who authorized such debt?  Where did the additional monies go? 
 
• Were there unreported endowments, bequests, grants, or other sources of income to Saint Tikhon’s over the past ten years?  If so, what, when, and for how much? 
 
• What system of financial checks-and-balances oversight was employed by Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, Monastery, and Cemetery during the past ten years? 
 
• Has the alleged devising of the Jacewicz house personally to Metropolitan Herman and Martin Paluch been verified and deemed valid?  If so, by whom and when?

There are also multiple question regarding the corporate status of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery:
 
• Does St. Tikhon’s monastery currently exist as a legal corporation in Pennsylvania?  A review of the Pennsylvania Department of State Corporation Bureau’s records indicates that on March 10, 2006, Saint Tikhon’s Monastery LLC was renamed to Saint Tikhon Bookstore LLC (Entity #592865), with Alexei Klimitchev as president.  (Read them here)
  
•  Who authorized such renaming and the appointing of Archdeacon Klimitchev as president? 
 
• Does Archdeacon Klimitchev remain as president of Saint Tikhon’s Bookstore LLC?
 
• Does the bookstore and monastery remain as a LLC?  If so, why and who are the officers at this time?
  
• What is the status of the other corporate entities registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State?  Specifically:
 
- Saint Tikhon Russian Orthodox Orphanage (Entity #316209), registered and mailing addresses as well as lack of officers appear out of date, not to mention that the orphanage no longer appears to be an active entity at Saint Tikhon’s.  (Read it here.) When, how, and by whom will this situation be resolved?
 
- What corporate entity or entities is Saint Tikhon’s Seminary (STS) operating under?  The records in the Corporation Bureau indicate two possible active and current seminary entities:  Saint Tikhon Theological Seminary (Entity #316210) and Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (Entity #312369) are registered and mailing addresses as well as lack of officers not of record.  (See here and here.) Is there a difference, and if not, why are there two entities? When, how, and by whom will the difference between the two entities be communicated to the faithful?
 
• Saint Tikhon’s Greek Russian Orthodox Church (Entity #3844916) is shown as being active, but no registered or mailing address or corporate officers are listed. ( See here.)
Since Pennsylvania law requires that all corporate entities file decennial reports with the Department of State to update such information, when will Saint Tikhon’s accomplish that requirement and who will be held accountable for its accomplishment? ( See here. )
 
•   To date, what are the total expenses and fees incurred with the previous Saint Tikhon’s investigation undertaken by Bishop Tikhon, Fr. Tassos and Fr. Swenciki?  Who paid for those expenses and fees?
  
In response to questions from OCANews.org last week, Bishop Nikon stated that the Committee’s mandate extended beyond merely investigating “St Tikhon’s monastery”, and would indeed include the monastery’s associated entites - the bookstore, cemetery and orphanage.

The Special Committee will present a final report to members of the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council in September, at the joint Synod- Metropolitan Council meeting tentatively scheduled in late September 2009.

• +Nikolai, Deacon Panteleimon Reported to Leave Australia Permanently

According to sources in Australia, Bishop Nikolai, the former Bishop of Alaska, will not be returning to Australia, but has petitioned the Serbian Orthodox Church to be received under its omophore. At a recent meeting of the Serbia Synod no decision was taken. The Bishop, appears, however, to have received an invitation to resettle to the Diocese of Herzogovina in that Church.

Deacon Panteleimon (Erickson), Bishop Nikolai’s assistant, has left the monastery of St. Sava's near Melbourne, and also arrived in the United States. These same sources relate the following disturbing story:

Deacon Panteleimon “... originally had a ticket for July 9, however it seems he was beginning to feel anxious after hearing one monk mentioning police intervention, or something to that effect....Before dawn, (name omitted by author’s request) happened to notice someone carrying three bags to the garbage container about 15 minutes before he left for the airport. Shortly after his departure, the garbage collector arrived to empty the containers (obviously Fr P had arranged this beforehand). The man who had already searched the containers prior to the arrival of the garbage collector, found the three bags and removed them. Luckily, someone had borrowed the paper shredder from Fr P a while ago and had not returned it, otherwise all the evidence found in the bags would have been destroyed.  In the bags were many unpaid phone bills, fuel bills, speeding fines (~ $10,000 worth), disconnection warnings, etc. There are so many that it will take several days to piece together, as they are all torn up (roughly). In order to cause as much trouble for the monastery as possible (why?!) he even arranged for the apiarist, from whom he has been ordering wax for the candles and who has been waiting months to be paid for wax that Fr P has taken from him (the monastery owes him about $7000) to come to the monastery that very day to be paid. When he arrived (after having travelled 2 hours or more) nobody at the monastery had been expecting him, nor were they able to pay him, as Fr P had sole control over finances, You can imagine what an awkward situation this must have been. 

.... It is inconceivable that they had no qualms whatsoever spending so much money on themselves, living so lavishly and in a manner unbecoming of their vocation, and yet refused to pay anything on behalf of the monastery with the monastery’s own money, and in the end left the monastery in such debt. ....A few months ago Bishop Nikolai forced the abbot (who speaks no English) to sign a piece of paper, enabling +N to borrow $23,000 from a bank. It is thought that this was not an isolated case. Furthermore, it appears they did not deposit ~$40,000 from the total amount raised at the St Sava picnic in January. As you know, they spent close to $100,000 renovating the bishop’s residence (including $8,000 just for drapes). God only knows how much it all adds up to. They even bought themselves some fancy bikes to ride in their leisure time, but the monastery didn’t even deserve to have a pair of bikes left as a reminder of their ignominious rule. Instead the bikes were entrusted to someone else to be sold on their behalf. Imagine! Need I go on?"

The Australian dollar is currently trading at $.80 to the USA dollar. According to Bishop Benjamin, Bishop Nikolai’s successor in Alaska, the former hierarch left that diocese some $900,000 in debt. (Read that story here.)

• Metropolitan Jonah Addresses Breakaway Episcopal Church Meeting in Texas

According to a Moscow-based web blog, Metropolitan Jonah announced on Wednesday that the OCA has ended its ecumenical relations with The Episcopal Church, and will establish instead formal ecumenical relations with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). +Jonah made the announcement at a plenary session of the ACNA’s founding convocation at St. Vincent’s Cathedral, Bedford, Texas.

According to the blog, which first reported this story, when “Asked what the OCA’s stance toward ecumenism might be under his tenure, Metropolitan Jonah said, ‘If the matter concerns The Episcopal Church USA, then this dialogue has stopped.

“We engage in dialogue with Episcopalian traditionalists, many of whom embrace the Orthodox faith,” Jonah told a Moscow-based weblog. “And I personally, and our entire synod, give great attention to bringing these people into the fold of the Orthodox Church in America.’”

You can read more about this story today in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette here.

- Mark Stokoe

 

 

 
 

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