The GreekAmerican - May 9, 1998

GOAL Stirs Controversy over Archbishop's Home


By Dino Stamidis


NEW YORK - A group calling itself Greek Orthodox American Leaders (GOAL), which has called for the resignation or removal of Archbishop Spyridon of America, hailed a decision blocking, at least temporarily, the purchase of a $1.4 million home for the Archbishop. GOAL alleges the deposit made on the home represents a violation of the Archdiocese's bylaws, and says the expenditure is illegal and part of a pattern of fiscal mismanagement of Church funds.

At a press conference on Friday, May 1, at the LaGuardia Marriot in Queens, GOAL called the decision to move forward with a financial commitment on the home in Rye, New York an "illegal execution." GOAL says John Mavroudis, legal counsel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Rev. Fr. George Passias, chancellor of the Archdiocese, acted improperly when they signed off on a $140,000 deposit on the house without the approval of the executive committee of the Archdiocesan council.

In a written statement, GOAL said that Rev. Fr. Passias and Mr. Mavroudis are signatories of the Archdiocesan accounts, but do not have the authority to write checks using their own discretion.

Approval on financial transactions requires the Archdiocesan executive committee's consent. Rev. Fr. Passias and Mr. Mavroudis did not have the committee's authorization, said GOAL.

Dean Popps, a spokesman for GOAL, told The GreekAmerican that Rev. Fr. Passias and Mr. Mavroudis are liable for $140,000 — the amount of the deposit, and added, "You can't use a not-for-profit checkbook as your own." They violated the Archdiocese's bylaws, and laws governing nonprofit organizations, alleged Mr. Popps.

In a telephone interview with The GreekAmerican, Rev. Fr. Passias described the events he says preceded his signing of the $140,000 check for the deposit on the home. He said currently Archbishop Spyridon is living in a rental home. "A small little nothing home," said Rev. Fr. Passias. Archbishop Iakovos continues to live in the home provided by the Archdiocese, therefore, Rev. Fr. Passias explained, a search began a search for a new residence for Archbishop Spyridon. According to Rev. Fr. Passias, the Archdiocesan Council meeting in March made it clear that it would make better financial sense to purchase a home for Archbishop Spyridon than to pay rent.

Rev. Fr. Passias said he signed the check, upon the advice of Mr. Mavroudis, because the home was being seriously considered by three other buyers. Technically, Rev. Passias said, he knew he "did not have the authority" to sign the check. But Rev. Fr. Passias said that there was no illegal intent when he signed the check. "In spirit," he said, he believed that the Archdiocesan Council had already given its approval, and Mr. Mavroudis assured him he would contact everyone after the transaction was completed.

Now, the $140,000 is being replaced with donations from anonymous donors, according to Rev. Fr. Passias. "If I have to mortgage my house I will, I don't care," said the reverend. He indicated that the money and one month's interest would be returned to the Archdiocesan accounts first thing Thursday morning. Archbishop Spyridon has reportedly written a letter to Alex G. Spanos, president of the executive committee, informing him of the deposit and indicating that he does not plan to pursue acquisition of the house.

A member of the Archdiocesan executive committee, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the decision to buy the new home for the Archbishop has been tabled. A subcommittee of the executive committee was formed to investigate, he said. GOAL representatives could not be reached to comment on Fr. Passias's remarks.

[ The Greek American - May 9, 1998 - p. _ ]