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4.1.06 Latest News

Proskauer Rose Begins Investigation

Officials at Syosset have confirmed that attorneys from Proskauer Rose LLP have begun their investigation, but declined to issue any statement "at this time". OCANews has learned, however, that the investigation has moved from New York City, where witnesses were being interviewed, to Syosset itself where documents the attorneys requested have been assembled.

The Attorneys

According to those interviewed, at the center of the investigation is attorney Celia Passaro. A 1998 graduate of Barnard College, Passaro earned her law degree from Boston University in 2001 where she served on the staff of the Boston University Public Interest Law Journal. According to Proskauer Rose, Passaro "is an associate in the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department who handles general litigation matters in court involving both commercial and securities disputes, and... employment disputes brought by employees."

The lead attorney in the investigation is a partner in the firm, Sara Gold, a 1969 graduate of Boston College, who received her JD from Rutgers University School of Law in 1974, where she was an editor on the Rutgers Law Review.

Prior to entering private practice, Gold spent six years as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. There, she was responsible for "...the conduct of complex investigations, evidentiary hearings, trials and appellate arguments, involving a broad range of matters including securities and tax fraud, corruption and organized crime." A partner in Proskauer Rose's litigation department, Gold has been involved in many securities-related matters including fraud, insider trading, SEC and other regulatory and federal criminal

As a firm, Proskauer Rose is not unfamiliar with the Orthodox Church in America, having been engaged by St. Vladimir's Seminary in the late '90s.

The Investigation

Proskauer Rose has confirmed to those from whom testimony has been sought that they do indeed represent the OCA, not any individual, and that their role is one of investigating what actually took place in the context of the allegations raised. They were not retained to provide recommendations for possible future legal action.

The Cost

In a recent post (March 30) Bishop Tikhon of the OCA's Diocese of the West challenged the entire investigatory process due to its cost, which officials in Syosset have not publicly disclosed. +Tikhon asserts these costs will run $50,000 a month, and infers that the OCA has already received a $50,000 donation to cover the initials costs of the investigation. +Tikhon also claimed in his posting that "they've already announced they're a long way from having anything done by May, and possibly even by the end of the year". The Bishop did not cite a source for his remarks or information concerning the investigation.

It is interesting to note that +Tikhon concluded his latest remarks by lamenting that "It's too bad we don't have a Metropolitan who's willing to dip into his own discretionary fund, funded by outsiders, to help out the Church,as used to be the case!" This is a clear reference to Metropolitan Theodosius' secret "discretionary" account, an account allegedly funded by diverted donations from the Archer Daniels Midland Foundation, donations originally intended for the OCA's St. Catherine's Representation Church in Moscow. It was the discovery of this account which first raised serious questions about the financial administration of the OCA, ultimately leading to the present investigation.

Questions Remain

It seems that the investigation by Proskauer Rose will answer the question: "Are the allegations true or false?" But before that point is reached, other important questions remain open.

On January 20, 2006 the Lesser Synod of Bishops of the OCA announced that the 2004 & 2005 audits would begin January 24th, and would be completed no later than March 31st. On March 1st, the full Synod of Bishops reaffirmed that Lambrides, Lamos Moulthrop LLP was conducting the audits of the 2004 and 2005 accounts, but offered no timeline, other than to say that the Bishops would review that report at their Spring Session, scheduled for May 23-25th, 2006. At that same meeting the Bishops announced a review by the same firm of the "disposition of all monies collected through all OCA appeals from 2001" by the same firm.

It is now April. Will the 2004 and 2005 audit(s) be released? Will they be released only to the Bishops, to the Metropolitan Council, or to the Church at large? Officials in Syosset confirm that the OCA is proceeding with attempts to secure a loan to consolidate its $2 million debt; and that once secured, the Metropolitan Council will be asked to vote on the issue. It is unclear how the Council could undertake such a vote without first having the results of the 2004-2005 audit; or if the Church at large would support such a vote without knowing the same. Indeed, the 2004-2005 audit would give critics and supporters alike factual insights into the management (or mismanagement) by the recent Kondratick administration, a first inkling of what Proskauer Rose is now investigating.

-Mark Stokoe







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