08.03.06 Latest News
BUT NO ANSWERS GIVEN
A series of e-mail exchanges between Metropolitan Council member Dr. Faith Skordinski and acting OCA Treasurer Fr. Paul Kucynda offers new information and insight into how the current administration in Syosset is failing to deal openly with current OCA finances as well as the scandal, despite promises to do so. As witnessed by Skordinski's emails, copied to all Metropolitan Council members, disinformation, misinformation and a withholding of information remain the rule of the day at Syosset. The emails reveal that little has really changed in Syosset as a small group, albeit a new one, of self-selected people continue to make financial and program decisions more properly made by the Metropolitan Council; and with results no different than before. The OCA is deeper in debt than has been previously acknowledged and those attempting to discover the truth are dismissed as just "getting in the way"....
New Information About The Loan Revealed
In an email dated May 18th, a few hours before the Metropolitan Council's telephone conference call to approve a $1.7 million loan from the Honesdale National Bank, Skordinski writes:
"Dear Metropolitan Council Members:
In advance of tonight's conference call, I feel compelled to share with you that the loan request is ill advised at this time. I have come to this conclusion based upon the responses to my questions and to other people's questions. I raised a number of straightforward questions and expected straightforward answers.
Instead, I received no answer, half answers and answers which increased my concern even more for the OCA and the members of the Metropolitan Council. In particular some of my concerns over the questions and answers as follows:
(Ed. Note: Here Skordinski cites references from letter sent out earlier by Acting OCA Treasurer, Fr. Paul Kucynda)
Items 2-G & 2-U: Outstanding Invoices and Closing expenses/Miscellaneous Expenses are listed as $287,000 and $47,490 respectively. Please provide an itemized listing for the $287,000 and $47,490.
The itemized listing provided totals of approximately $260,090 of the $334,490 ($287,000 + $47,490= $334,490) questioned. This is a difference of $174,400 ($334,490-$260,090); not an inconsequential amount of money.
In addition, because of questions posed by Dr. Alice Woog and Fr. Ted Boback, there are other outstanding debts totaling approximately $317,000 ($250,000 promissory note payable to the residents of 216 Martin Drive + $67,000 for Bibles for Russia). These funds have not been included in the $1.7 million loan request.
To add insult to injury, the amounts in the letter listed for repayment are not accurate. According to Father Kucynda: 'Only when the audit is completed for 2004 will balances independently arrived at offer the amounts due for various accounts.'
Item 3: Based upon the current interest rate listed, it appears the monthly payment amount will be approximately $14,187.76 or $170,253.12 annually. What funds are available to make these payments?
The response said: 'Whatever funds we have now as income would have to be used. Expenses would have to be reduced accordingly.'
It is clear that we do not have enough funds to pay this proposed loan. This loan request is reshaping the OCA's budget in 2006 and for years into the future. Specifically, what expenses will be reduced? The Metropolitan Council must be in a position to make an informed decision. By not disclosing anticipated budget cuts or having not yet dealt with the issue of budget cuts, the Syosset leadership of the OCA cannot expect the Metropolitan Council to vote for this loan request under any circumstances. We must understand how this proposed loan will be repaid to include all outstanding OCA debts if we are to make an informed decision!
Items 8-F& 8-G. To date, has the law firm or the CPA firm been contacted by any of the 'referenced entities' in the letter? Could this be certified as of today?
(Ed. note: Skordinski is asking if federal, state or local authorities have contacted Proskauer Rose or Lambrides, Lamos & Malthroup concerning the scandal.)
'They will not be issued until the closing day of this transaction.'
Again, another question not really answered - just a statement made to give the appearance of an answer. The 'referenced entities' are 'federal, state, or local agencies in connection with the Church's activities.' This question is important for two reasons: the first and obvious reason is that if this event has occurred the bank will not make the loan. The second and most important reason is that if this event has occurred, the Metropolitan Council must have this information to make an informed decision about the loan and any other OCA business.
And finally and most disappointingly, I requested that 'It is imperative the Metropolitan Council be provided cash flow statements for the current period and the two prior years in order to make an informed decision about the feasibility of obtaining the HNB loan.' This request was made because the restricted funds that were used, the $500,000 loan, and the unpaid bills have supplemented the OCA's cash flow by at least $1.6 million over some unspecified period of time. The OCA and especially the Metropolitan Council has never known the extent of our financial crisis and still does not!
This reasonable request for a cash flow statement was completely ignored.
As a result of the question discussed above and other questions not discussed that were answered with no answer, half answers and answers which increased my concern, the Metropolitan Council at this time must ignore this loan request and VOTE NO. Instead we must require a full disclosure of the OCA's financial situation. This must include not less than
1) a new proposed budget,
2) an income statement and
3) cash flows for current and previous periods to be determined.
These minimal financial documents must be supported by accurate and timely financial information. In addition, the OCA must consider all alternatives to ensure the financial viability of the OCA to include the sale of the real estate that was proposed to secure the $1.7 million loan, debt forgiveness, and even Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection so that the OCA can get its financial house in order. Although this may seem extreme, I encourage each of you to read what this is about by using the following link:
The OCA did not get into financial trouble overnight, and similarly it will take time, care and patience to resolve this crisis. We must explore all alternatives in an open and professional manner, not threatening people and never being afraid to ask for help. The OCA has a wealth of professional talent within its membership that should be drawn upon in this very critical time of need. I do not believe I have or anyone else in the OCA has the answer to our problems today.
I do believe this loan is not the answer today and collectively we will find the answer in the days, weeks, and months to come through honest and open collaboration.
In the best interest of the OCA in good conscience, we must vote an emphatic NO to the proposed loan at this time.
--Dr. Faith Skordinski"
The Metropolitan Council approved the Loan that evening; even though as Skordinski pointed out, it had no financial statements, no cash flow statements, nor projected budgets on hand; had no plan by which it expected to pay off the loan other than by reducing unnamed expenses; had no concrete idea how much was actually needed to repay the diverted funds; contained almost $175,00 in unnamed expenses; and in the best of circumstances was $70,000, and in the worst $330,000, short of what was need to pay the OCA's debts.
The vote, however, was later deemed invalid. According to the Minutes of the Metropolitan Council Meeting of June 13-14, 2006, the vote was retaken at that meeting a month later. The Minutes explain:
"Father Kucynda also reported that the legal representative of Honesdale Bank had requested that the vote be recast so that this decision cannot be called into question when reviewed by the competent civil authority. The matter was further complicated by the fact that the address of record is in New York City at the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection, not in Syosset."
The following day, June 14th, the $1.7 million loan was approved a second time, although none of Skordinski's concerns had been addressed in the meantime.
The Council Meeting Raises More Questions
Five days after the Council meeting, on June 20th, Skordinski sent the following email, with copies to all Metropolitan Council members:
"Dear Vladyka Herman and Father Paul ~~
The purpose of this e-mail is
(1) to express my concerns about the article posted on the OCA website on June 16, 2006 at 11:19 p.m., entitled 'OCA Metropolitan Council Members Issue Statement On Finances, Ongoing Investigation;'
(2) to explain specifically why I have these concerns; and
(3) to request specific actions be taken for ethical and legal reasons.
My immediate reaction in reading the purported MC statement 'concerning the status of audits and the ongoing investigation into the Church's finances' on the OCA web page was puzzlement. To the best of my recollection, the MC did not vote on this statement, and it was not circulated to the MC for comment before it was published. My only recollection of this statement is that it contains parts of the statement that Father Matthew Tate read to the MC immediately prior to the afternoon session I facilitated.
The statement appears to be a combination of portions of Father Matthew's long statement and some of the answers the two work groups submitted from the June 14th afternoon session. If that is indeed from where this statement was derived, it is misleading to issue such a statement on behalf of the MC. If, on the other hand, this is a statement by select members of the MC, then those members should be identified. Otherwise, this article has put words into the mouths of MC members - words I do not agree with! Therefore, I ask that this current statement be withdrawn because it is in error. I also ask that in the future, you do not issue MC statements that have not been voted on and officially authorized by the MC for release.
In addition, I have requested repeatedly that an attorney be available to the MC to answer questions on personal liability. That request has been refused repeatedly. I have been advised by my personal attorney that, as a member of the MC, I have fiduciary duties, and my breach of those duties can result in my personal liability. Therefore, it is incumbent upon me to bring to your attention and to the attention of the MC some of my more pressing concerns.
The MC statement claims the MC has taken the 'necessary and difficult steps to have a balanced budget.' This is misleading! How is this possible when basic cash-flow statements never have been provided to the MC for its most recent meeting or for the May 18th conference call regarding the loan? A $1.7 million loan requiring monthly payments of $14,300 and no repayment plan! We have taken an incredible risk to have voted on this loan approval without any substantive information to intelligently determine the best solution.
In addition, the statement claims that the $1.7 million loan will restore 'all monies borrowed from earmarked funds.' This is a misstatement! As I said during our May 18, 2006 conference call and last week before we re-voted on the loan, there are still questions surrounding at least two significant debts - the Bibles for Russia and the Promissory Note - that have not been included in the loan. The audits and the investigation have not been completed; how can anyone be assured that even more money is not owed?
Finally, the use of executive action to rule out-of-order ('void') motions by the MC and the attempt to delegate the financial and legal investigations to the Holy Synod is not in keeping with 'The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America', best business practices, parliamentary procedures, and the fiduciary duties of the MC. This behavior, given the ethical and legal sensitivities regarding all of these issues, does not build up the Body of Christ's Holy Church. Instead, it continues to divide the OCA, disappoint the faithful, and feed the controversy. We must not engage in these behaviors! Instead, we must respect each other's responsibilities and adhere to 'The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America' as a start to fix all the things that are broken in the administration of the OCA.
As a physician once said, if you don't take the medicine, you will not get well. We have the prescription for the medicine, which is 'The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America'. Let us use it to heal the OCA!
~~ Faith "
Clearly, the lack of information being provided to the Metropolitan Council as it votes on grave issues raises real questions of whether or not it is fulfilling its fiduciary duty.
In an attempt to answer Skordinski's concerns, Fr. Paul Kucynda replied the following day, June 21st:
"Dear MC Members,
If others of you have similar concerns, it would be helpful to know what they are.
As the Metropolitan clearly stated a number of times during our sessions, the investigation is active and ongoing. All of the concerns of Faith are being given much consideration. However, to explain every detail at this time would be self-defeating. We must let the investigation move forward without our getting in the way. I believe that all of us want to know whether the allegations are true or false.
Personal liability-not group liability-may be an issue for some of you. If this becomes a problem, it will not be a problem for the entire Metropolitan Council as one group. Personal liability is just that-personal liability. I have been informed that actual, conscious personal participation in wrong doing is the primary concern if personal liability becomes an issue.
Your concerns about balanced budgets will be addressed at our September Meeting. A proposal will come from the Best Practices team after they review the current income and expenditures and develop a document from which to work. In the past, it was always the chancellor who supervised the preparation of such documents together with our staff. In this case, it will be the Metropolitan and the treasurer and others working in finance, but with the added assistance from the Best Practices team. A description of their areas of competence are posted and made public on our OCA website. I'm confident that you will be pleased with the results. We will certainly do our best in dealing with any and all issues as we go forward.
Fr. Kucynda's reply encouraged another Metropolitan Council member to enter the discussion: as evidenced by this email from Dr. Alice Woog to the Council the same day:
"Dear MC Members -- my thanks to Faith for her efforts in trying to provide the faithful with accurate information and positive efforts to remedy the numerous problems with the OCA.
The intent of someone or some persons to provide information that is inaccurate continues to be a major problem for the OCA. Hopefully it will stop.
Kucynda's non-answer did not appease Woog nor Skordinski; nor did the press release on the Metropolitan Council meeting issued the same day on the OCA website. (Read that press release here).
The following day, June 22, Skordinski wrote:
"Dear Vladyka Herman and Father Paul ~~
Thank you for your timely reply. Unfortunately, the reply did not address all of the concerns raised in my original e-mail to you. As I noted previously, the MC never voted on adopting the MC statement currently on the OCA website, nor was the MC even consulted prior to its release. I am again requesting that you rescind the news release for the reasons stated in my original e-mail.
The MC is the executive body of the OCA charged with specific duties. The MC was prevented from performing its full duties because of executive action to 'void' motions in contravention of 'The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America'. As explained in greater detail below, the MC never authorized any of the things you now purport we did.
Your response to my e-mail concerning personal liability attempts to claim:
'Personal liability-not group liability-may be an issue for some of you. If this becomes a problem, it will not be a problem for the entire Metropolitan Council as one group. Personal liability is just that-personal liability. I have been informed that actual, conscious personal participation in wrong doing is the primary concern if personal liability becomes an issue.'
I am requesting by name your source for explaining the issue of liability because no attorney or attorney's opinion letter has been provided to the MC on this specific issue. I believe your information to be completely wrong. MC liability does not stem from personal participation in the alleged misdeeds, but in failing to carry out one's duties (prior to, during, after) once the misdeeds have been alleged.
How are you distinguishing between group liability versus personal liability, and how can you conclude that liability for 'the entire MC' will 'not be a problem'? Please explain what you mean when you say that 'personal liability . . . may be an issue for some of you.' Are there specific members who should be advised to seek private counsel? Have they been advised? Who are these individuals? What provisions are being made to counsel each of the MC members on the difference between group and personal liability?
Again I bring to your attention that I have requested repeatedly that an attorney be available to the MC to answer questions on personal liability. That request is still being refused and instead legal advice of unknown origin is being given which raises even more serious concerns!
In the area of the investigation, the response is equally as cryptic as the one concerning personal liability:
'As the Metropolitan clearly stated a number of times during our sessions, the investigation is active and ongoing. All of the concerns of Faith are being given much consideration. However, to explain every detail at this time would be self-defeating. We must let the investigation move forward without our getting in the way. I believe that all of us want to know whether the allegations are true or false.'
With all due respect, none of my concerns are being given consideration! If my concerns were being given consideration, this e-mail would be entirely different. While the Metropolitan may have stated a number of times during our sessions that 'the investigation is active and ongoing', the MC is hard pressed to explain what that means. The MC has not been informed about the 'ongoing investigation'. No level of detail has been provided to the MC although the MC has this fiduciary responsibility under 'The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America' and the Metropolitan's statement that the law firm is working for the OCA and not the Metropolitan. Actions speak louder than words, and all actions so far lead to the conclusion that this investigation seems to be on behalf of certain individuals rather than the OCA.
When a motion was made last week to hear directly from the investigators, the motion was 'voided' by the Metropolitan. Now the message is that meeting with the investigators is 'self-defeating'.
How could that be? If these investigators are working for the OCA, then they should tell the MC why meeting with the MC would be 'self-defeating' and allow the MC to come to its own conclusion. Instead we are told by Father Paul we are 'getting in the way'. What are we getting in the way of? Yet we were told we already spent $80,000 on legal services which never was authorized by the MC, and no explanation can be provided about what the law firm is doing and what they have left to do! The MC is entitled to know these things under 'The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America', best business practices, and just plain old common sense.
As far as best business practices, these are as dubious as the other answers. However, this is far more disturbing because the financial health of the OCA is clearly in jeopardy. My repeated calls for financial information since May 2006 have been consistently ignored, and they still are being ignored! Now the MC learns of a previously unknown 'Best Practices team' with equally unknown members:
'Your concerns about balanced budgets will be addressed at our September Meeting. A proposal will come from the Best Practices team after they review the current income and expenditures and develop a document from which to work. In the past, it was always the chancellor who supervised the preparation of such documents together with our staff. In this case, it will be the Metropolitan and the treasurer and others working in finance, but with the added assistance from the Best Practices team. A description of their areas of competence are posted and made public on our OCA website. I'm confident that you will be pleased with the results. We will certainly do our best in dealing with any and all issues as we go forward.'
Again, the OCA is being misinformed! Last week's news release claimed the MC took the necessary steps to have a balanced budget. This is doubly false and misleading because now you acknowledged that the MC did not take that step last week, but will begin to address the issue at the September MC meeting from the work of the 'Best Practices team'. The MC did not approve a 'Best Practices team'. Who is on the 'Best Practices team'? What are the duties of the 'Best Practices team'? Who decided what these duties are? Who are the 'others working in finance' that will be 'supervising the preparation of such documents'? What are the credentials of these team members? How were they selected and by whom?
In Article V, Section 4(k) of 'The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America. the MC is charged to oversee the finances of the OCA. The Statute expressly states that it is the MC that does the appointing, makes the decisions about how to proceed with finances, and determines any subcommittees. The Metropolitan does not have the authority to appoint any such committees on his own, and doing so is in direct violation of the OCA Statute. Thus, the 'Best Practices team' is a group of people working without the MC's authority.
In the press release issued on Wednesday, June 21, 2006 at 9:40 a.m., entitled 'Metropolitan Council Concludes Two-Day Meeting,' several other items were reported, on which I would like clarification:
'Father Kucynda went on to inform council members that he had received a legal opinion concerning personal liability of Metropolitan Council members with regard to financial mismanagement if such is found during the investigation and audits. Though personal liability of Metropolitan Council members might be a legitimate issue, generally it is considered as such when it is found that a member acted in a deliberately inappropriate way in regard to his or her duties. It was recommended that at this time, it would be preferable if Metropolitan Council members not attempt to answer any specific questions about the investigation until it is completed. This is also true concerning the reviews or audits performed by the accounting firm of Lambrides, Lamos, and Moulthrop. The attorneys added, however, that Metropolitan Council members can affirm that they have been made privy to information concerning the release of the former chancellor, as well as the oral interim audit reports, without sharing specific details at this time.'
I do not recall any legal opinion being provided by Father Paul on the issue of personal liability. Please provide a copy of this legal opinion to all MC members. Again, I believe your understanding of the law on liability to be completely wrong. What does it mean that 'personal liability of MC members might be a legitimate issue'? At what point in time did personal liability for a MC member become a legitimate issue? In addition, what information was the MC made privy to concerning the release of the former chancellor and oral interim audit reports that were not already made public in OCA press releases? Please share with the MC the names of the attorneys who provided all of this advice as well as a copy of all written materials the attorneys have provided you.
The same news release further states:
'She [Mary Buletza] emphasized that this does not supplant hierarchical authority, but rather establishes a baseline for operations.'
What does this mean? 'The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America' delegates financial duties to the MC not the hierarchical authority. What hierarchical authority is being raised by the above statement?
'Matushka Mary Buletza Breton spoke concerning the approved loan, the question of repayment, and the concerns that were raised by members of the Metropolitan Council. She noted that what is important is to create a strategy to repay the loan, since the Metropolitan Council is the responsible body in this matter. She expressed the thought that if we are going to be committed as members of the Church, and if we want the Church to move forward, we need to work together and to move on. She offered her services to assist with the strategy process; Metropolitan Herman gladly accepted her offer.'
With all due respect to Mary Buletza, she was there to present information about Best Practices. Her advice about the loan is meaningless, since she admitted that she did not review any cash-flow statements, nor did she have other information about the legal ramifications of using the chancery as collateral. Moreover, there was no proposed strategy provided to repay the loan.
'In order to convey to the faithful, as well as the broader public, the unity that had evolved as the meeting progressed, and to summarize the decisions made during the two-day meeting, Father Matthew Tate was authorized to draft a press release on behalf of the entire Metropolitan Council.'
The MC did not agree to the statement that was issued last week, and I do not agree with this statement explaining why the statement was released. The statement is Father Matthew's opinion. The MC did not vote on his statement. We were not offered the opportunity to read his draft and offer edits to the draft release before it was published. Therefore, I again ask that the news release be rescinded because it is not authorized by the MC, and it contains factual errors!
Please respond to my specific questions and concerns. Thank you.
No answers were given. Therefore, on Sunday, July 2nd, Skordinski sent the following email:
"Dear Vladyka Herman and Father Paul ~~
This e-mail is sent to ensure you received my June 22nd e-mail and, if you did, to confirm a date that you will reply to that e-mail. The MC was encouraged to communicate to you directly concerning current OCA issues. Although my June 22nd e-mail is lengthy, it still needs answering. I certainly do not want to assume because of the silence I am being ignored.
The questions from the June 22nd e-mail are summarized below to aid in providing the answers. The question summary is grouped by category: questions not yet answered from previous e-mails are in categories A through D; new questions are in category E; action items are in category F. As noted in my June 22nd e-mail, some of these items are repeat issues carried over from my June 20th e-mail.
A. Liability Questions
1. How are you distinguishing between group versus personal liability?
2. How can you conclude that liability for 'the entire MC' will 'not be a problem'?
3. What do you mean when you say that 'personal liability . . . may be an issue for some of you'?
4. Are there specific members who should be advised to seek private counsel, have they been advised, and who are these individuals?
5. What provisions are being made to counsel each of the MC members on the difference between group and personal liability?
6. What does it mean that 'personal liability of MC members might be a legitimate issue'?
7. At what point in time did personal liability for a MC member become a legitimate issue?
B. Investigative Questions
1. How would a meeting between the MC and the investigators be 'self-defeating'?
2. What would the MC members be 'getting in the way' of?
C. 'Best Practices Team' Questions
1. Who is on the team?
2. What are the duties of the team?
3. Who decided what these duties are?
4. Who are the 'others working in finance' that will be 'supervising the preparation of such documents'?
5. What are the credentials of the team members?
6. How were they selected and by whom?
7. What 'hierarchical authority' is being raised?
D. Budget Questions
1. How is it possible for the MC to take the necessary and difficult steps to have a balanced budget when basic cash-flow statements never have been provided to the MC?
2. Where will money come from for the Bibles for Russia and the Promissory Note not accounted for in the $1.7 million loan?
3. Since the audits and the investigation have not been completed, how can anyone be assured that even more money is not owed?
E. New Questions
1. Why is the law firm of Sahn Ward & Baker representing the OCA 'to the Honesdale National Bank in the matter of the loan'?
2. When did the MC approve retaining this firm? What is its cost?
3. Since the MC was informed the revote on the loan was due to the chancery being erroneously under the former New York City address, please explain why the OCA June 21st website article states the revote was on the advice of New York counsel that a telephone vote was not permitted?
4. What is the purpose of the Metropolitan's current trip to Russia and the Ukraine, who is in the entourage, and what is the duration of the trip?
5. What is the total cost of the Russia-Ukraine trip in American dollars, and what funds are financing it?
6. Why was the MC not informed about this Russia-Ukraine excursion?
F. Action Items
1. Due to factual errors, rescind the June 16, 2006, 11:19 p.m., OCA article posted on the OCA website entitled 'OCA Metropolitan Council Members Issue Statement on Finances, Ongoing Investigation.'
2. Referencing paragraph 2 of the e-mail you sent on June 21, 2006, provide to all MC members your source by name for explaining the issue of liability.
3. As stated in paragraph 15 of the June 21, 2006, 9:40 a.m. OCA webpage article, please provide a copy of the legal opinion to all MC members that is referenced in that paragraph.
4. Please provide the MC with the name(s) of the attorney(s) who provided all of the liability advice as well as a copy of all the written materials you referenced in the June 21st OCA webpage article.
I look forward to your earliest reply in the spirit of taking responsibility for the duties entrusted to each of us by the Statute so that we can do all that is necessary to make things right.
The OCA Responds Mainly By Answering Questions Not Asked
On July 5th, the OCA posted a short press release announcing a meeting of the "Best Practices" Committee that answered only the first of Skordinski's questions: i.e. who was on the team. It did not state how they were chosen and by whom; nor did it mention that they would be reviewing the finances of the OCA. On July 6th a memo was sent to all MC members updating them on the loan - a memo which was posted on the OCA website on July 7th. Once again, the memo answered none of the questions Skordinski raised; nor addressed any of her repeated concerns.
Skordinski waited ten more days, and on July 18th sent the following email:
"Dear Vladyka Herman and Father Paul ~~
This is my third request to rescind the June 16, 2006, 11:19 p.m., OCA article posted on the OCA website entitled 'OCA Metropolitan Council Members Issue Statement on Finances, Ongoing Investigation' due to the reasons stated below. In addition, it has come to my attention that Father Tate's work was a 'working draft' and not intended for publication. As you well know, none of us on the MC had the opportunity to review the published edition, and there are factual errors contained in that edition.
Additionally, I continue to look forward to receiving answers to all of my questions presented below dating back to June 20, 2006.
And again on July 20th this one:
"Dear Vladyka Herman and Father Paul ~~
I am writing to you about several issues relating to the $1.7 million loan and Proskauer Rose.
While I appreciate the memo dated July 6, 2006, informing the MC and Holy Synod of Honesdale Bank's request for an extension to close on the loan, it appears the memo left out important facts the MC should know about. It was with surprise that I first learned of these facts from www.OCANews.org and subsequently had the facts confirmed.
The first issue is concerning the court approval of the approved $1.7 million loan as outlined on www.OCANews.org. Why was the MC not informed of this procedure when we met as a body last month or during the teleconference in May? In the interest of full disclosure and best business practices, the MC must be provided with the details of the court approval process and the current status of that process. The MC should know such information about the process, such as are we planning to submit our proposed draft to the Attorney General's office first, or simply filing with the Supreme Court of Nassau County? In addition, the MC must be provided with a copy of the petition before it is filed; to do otherwise is not a best business practice given the lack of full disclosure at the time of the vote.
The second issue concerns the disclosure in the July 6, 2006 memo that the OCA has additional legal representation for the loan settlement. Why was the MC not informed of the need for additional legal representation when we met as a body last month or during the teleconference in May? Who retained this counsel and under what terms? How will this legal bill be paid, and what is the anticipated cost? In the interest of full disclosure and best business practices, the MC must be provided with all documents relating to the retention of this new law firm.
My third issue concerns our full disclosure(s) to the bank. If anything is later discovered, the bank could demand the note in full leaving the OCA in a difficult situation at best. Have we done everything possible to ensure the bank understands the OCA's current situation? One area in particular concerns me, which is the ability of the OCA to pledge the title to the chancery because of the Griswold estate. If this has been resolved, can the MC be provided a definitive legal opinion concerning any possible restrictions of mortgaging this property?
My final concern is the restructuring of debt and misappropriated funds using the $1.7 million loan. In addition to my continued concern about the lack of a repayment plan, it now appears the OCA has an additional debt of $250,000. The MC must be given a full disclosure concerning the $250,000 note as being legitimate or not and why! The MC and the OCA cannot continue to learn of these issues through third parties. In the interest of full disclosure and best business practices, this information must be released along with any other debts not fully disclosed to the MC!
My concern with the Proskauer Rose law firm is that the engagement letter states that Proskauer Rose is representing the CHURCH regarding an investigation of its finances. By the very nature of the subject matter and whom the law firm is representing, the lawyers should be reporting to the MC first. In addition, the MC expects to receive a written report on their investigation and an opportunity to meet with them in person to answer any questions from the MC.
In the interim, please provide the MC with a copy of all of the invoices Proskauer Rose has issued to date. Those invoices should provide details on the hours and tasks each attorney worked. Additionally, please provide the MC the name of the lender, terms, amounts, and copies of all loan documents made to the OCA - including the $50,000 loan given by Matushka Mary Buletza Breton - to cover the cost of the investigation.
No Answers, But Consequences
Skordinski's mounting number of questions concerning the finances, administration, practices and information management of the OCA remain unanswered by Syosset. Nor is she alone in this attempt to acquire information - several clergy members of the Council have also expressed their support for Skordinski and her questioning, but fear to do so publicly. Nor is this fear unfounded: there are consequences to asking too many questions in the OCA even today.
In May 2006, monk James (Silver) revealed that following a lengthy defense of Fr. Kondratick the Metropolitan had "...imposed several restrictions on me, informing me that you would not bless me to accept an invitation to make an extended visit to Athos, that I may not visit the Chancery without your blessing, that my assistance is no longer necessary in the Department of Archives, and that I must live my monastic life under your direct supervision, that I must take no action nor make any decision relative to my monastic life without your knowledge and blessing, and that I am to refrain from making any postings on the Internet."
Silver attracted attention last week when he called on Metropolitan Herman to resign. (Read the article here). This time the Metropolitan's response was swift, if confused. In a letter posted on the internet on August 1, Silver reveals:
"Now, you write to tell me that 'By virtue of your actions of recent date, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, you are released from your monastic obedience to the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, your attachment to St. Sergius Chapel in Syosset, and from the Orthodox Church in America.' You didn't specify those actions of mine, but it's reasonable to think that you have my previous letter to you in mind."
What is confusing about the Metropolitan's response is that even though he is a tonsured monk, Silver is canonically a layman and so not "attached" anywhere; therefore, he cannot be "released". Whatever the Metropolitan meant, many had hoped that we were beyond the point where publicly expressing opinions on common issues of import elicited retribution. Apparently not.
Unfortunately for Syosset Skordinski cannot be removed so easily. She was was elected to the Metropolitan Council by the entire 2005 All-American Council for a six year term - which means she will be asking questions, seeking answers, on the Metropolitan Council even beyond the next All American Council, now postponed until 2010.
- Mark Stokoe