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8.29.07 From the Washington Post

Religion News in Brief

By The Associated Press
Thursday, August 30, 2007; 12:05 PM

NEW YORK -- A former chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, who has been accused of longtime financial wrongdoing, has been ousted from the priesthood.

The verdict by an OCA spiritual court against Robert Kondratick took effect July 31. Kondratick has said he's innocent. He held the second-highest job in the denomination.

Financial controls in the church had been "circumvented" at least since 1998, according to church leaders, and auditors uncovered a "pattern of personal use of church money" for years. No dollar amount has been given.

The issue became public last year after a former OCA treasurer alleged widespread financial misconduct involving millions of dollars. The treasurer had said Metropolitan Theodosius, the retired head of the church, was involved. But a church investigation concluded that Kondratick was solely responsible, said the Rev. Andrew Jarmus, an OCA spokesman.

Among the problems auditors discovered:

-"Hundreds of thousands of dollars" in charges were made to church and employee credit cards that had been submitted for reimbursement, but no original receipts or documentation had been provided for most of the expenses.

- The chancellor had taken nearly $10,000 in cash from church accounts, partly to pay unauthorized year-end employee bonuses. Auditors found no proof that the employees received the money.

-The church had loaned money to employees _ in some cases interest-free _ and some of the loans weren't repaid.

- Cash was being stored in unlocked drawers or cabinets.

- The church had used some money donated for a specific purpose to instead cover operating costs.

Jarmus said Tuesday that he didn't know whether a criminal investigation was under way. He said the IRS hasn't contacted the church about its nonprofit status.

The 400,000-member church, based in Syosset, N.Y., is now overhauling its accounting and hiring practices. The Holy Synod of Bishops recently decided that all candidates for the priesthood must undergo national legal and psychological background tests.


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